Greetings from…a standard text printed on postcards around the world might seem just as archaic as the medium it stand on, looking from a perspective of today’s digital society with instant communication at your fingertips. But postcards in the 18th century were all the rage, they were the instagrams of the day, a way of telling short visually enhanced stories of where we were, what we did and who we’ve met. It was not a time of massive use of photography, and often, everyday people would use photographs they could get their hands on as custom postcards. When looking at those fragmented visual bits from a historical distance, they start to form a story, a mosaic of life in that time we can piece together.
That’s the idea behind Greetings from Zagreb, an exhibition held at Zagreb Art Pavilion during their summer season. Gathering different postcards, photographs and film, a surging new technology at the time, they’ve tried to make a visual representation of life in Zagreb in the olden days.
First known photographs of Zagreb were taken back in 1840, and the city got its first permanent photographer in 1856, when Franjo Pommer moved here from Danmark, marking the start of photography in the city. Different amateur societies were established after that, but the new technology took its time infiltrating the high culture and everyday lives of citizens. It took almost 50 years for Zagreb to have its first exhibition of art photography and it was held in Art Pavilion in 1910.
Film came to Zagreb only one year after the brothers Lumiere had their projections in Paris, in 1899, and was instantly embraced by local enthusiasts, more familiar with the new technology due to photography. There is plenty of filmed material depicting everyday life on the street, quiet moments of rest and leisure, moments of work, people on the streets and in bars, giving a pretty good feel of the era they were shot in.
The postcards, films and photographs depict the city at the turn of the 20th century, when downtown Zagreb was being build and Kaptol, church estates around the cathedral, were undergoing a massive reconstruction. It was a period of history when Zagreb underwent its dramatic transformation into a modern city. Transportation was also seeing big advances, allowing people to travel more easily to and from Zagreb, making the postcard a popular way of communicating with distant friends and relatives.
Combining those three analog visual mediums and short message written on their backs (not film of course), Art Pavilion has set up a recreation of life in Zagreb spanning thirty years (1890 – 1920), giving context and showing us the zeitgeist in which the monuments, buildings, parks and vistas we pass by every day were made in.
The exhibition Greetings from Zagreb is opened until August 21st. 2016, at Art Pavilion, King Tomislav square 22.