Latvian Photography (1830-1996)
Soon after the official introduction of photography in Paris in 1839 it was also introduced in Latvia. The year 1850 is considered the beginning of photography in Latvia, since the earliest daguerrotype in our possession dates to 1850.
The history of photography in Latvia may be divided into five periods: the 2nd half of the 19th century/ the first two decades of the 20th century until independence from Czarist Russia in 1919/ the period of Latvia’s independence from 1919 until World War II/ the 50 years of Soviet occupation/ the time from achieving independence in 1991 to the present.
The Latvians, who speak a language related to Sanskrit, are proud of their ethnic heritage and cultural traditions which go back several millenia. During innumerable occupations – German, Polish, Danish, Swedish and – most destructive – Russian, a core of Latvian ethnic uniqueness survived and expressed itself in whatever way possible. One of these possibilities has been photography.
Period 1 is represented by daguerrotypes, ambrotypes and ferrotypes in the possession of the museum. They were made by travelling photographers, most of them of German nationality, some of whom established permanent studios in Riga. These photographs are excellent records and credible sources of information on the lifestyle of the middle class at the time. As anywhere else in the world, the possession of photographs was a matter of prestige and a luxury which the middle class could afford. An analysis of these pictures shows that the choice of subject matter, the composition, the technical possibilities and the marketing aspect was comparable to that of other European countries.
Period 2: The turn of the century marked the beginning of the genuinely Latvian” photography when numerous Latvian photographers founded their own companies. About twenty photographers of the time left us a large number of pictures: a heritage which documents both local history and the progress of the medium of photography. One important personality is the photographer Martins Buclers”