The first half of the 20th century in the field of photography in Croatia was marked by a relatively few women, but additional research is needed to draw relevant conclusions about this time period. The situation changed after World War II, primarily thanks to the establishment of the Department of Photography at the School of Applied Arts in Zagreb, but also the intense club atmosphere wherein a number of artists acquired basic knowledge and an incentive for work. Thus, judging by the records related to the activities of the Photo Club Zagreb, often at the forefront as one of the most active promoters of photography in Croatia, from the 1950s onwards creative continuity will be re-established and exhibition activity encouraged.
Experiments were not unusual either, so from the 1950s onwards, we see multiple exposures and solarisations, but also the so-called subjective photography in which an affinity for modernism prevailed. Influences came from various directions, through selected professional journals, but also in photographic studios the owners of which often represented manufacturers of cameras and other photographic equipment. The domination of amateur photography marked several post-war decades but was not accompanied by adequate institutional support, while photographic criticism was extremely rare. Still, photography did not only “happen” in photo clubs, it was also explored by female artists who worked in other media. In addition to them, recent research has revealed that certain self-taught female artists experimented with the medium, by creating collages in which they used photographs from the print media, but also photographs that they may have taken and/or developed themselves.
The works for this exhibition are selected in order to encourage discussion on the manners and ways in which women worked as photographers, having in mind the fact that, when it comes to the field of photography, women were late to enter and had to overcome many obstacles. Print media was an important place of penetration of photography into different social strata. Despite a number of specialized photographic magazines, which have been published in Yugoslavia since 1911, the majority of them were mostly devoted to technical issues, advice to amateur photographers and advertising new products. This situation will continue for a long time, while the theme of women photographers will not begin to be considered until after World War II, and even then, only sporadically and unsystematically.
Five artists who were connected, in different ways, to the Photo Club Zagreb, are selected for this exhibition. Specifically, it was precisely photo clubs that were the generators of change that marked the period between the 1950s and 1980s, which is the focus of this exhibition. Most of them, like Slavka Pavić, Erika Šmider, Danijela Lušin and Ivančica Privora Kurtela, participated in the club activities and the founding of the Women’s Section in 1973, which was followed by a series of group exhibitions where they presented their works. In the same club, the painter Jadranka Fatur acquired basic knowledge about photography, and her photographic oeuvre can be attributed to the conceptual tendencies characteristic of the 1970s. In addition to them, the self-taught artists Inka Švertasek and Nada Vrkljan-Križić created several photo-collages between 1960 and the early 1970s. This selection will help shed light on the position of women in contemporary Croatian art and on the experiments in the field of photography, and will hopefully encourage research into what others have said about women who held a camera in their hands. Is the way they took photos specific to the “female gaze”, or are there no gender differences behind the lens after all?