The third and fourth decades of the 20th century
After the First World War a few photographs worked in Kaunas: Adomas Kliučinskis, Boleslovas Savsenavičius and Simonas Bajeras. Each year the number of photographs in Kaunas increased, photo studios appeared not only in the downtown, but also in other parts of the city, in Šančiai, Vilijampolė, Žaliakalnis districts. Information sheet Visa Lietuva specifies that there were 16 active photo studios in Kaunas in 1922. One year later publication indicated 28 photographers: S. Bajeras, V. Domeika, I. Besarabija, A. Kliučinskis, L. Judsonas, J. Matušaitis, K. Mingaila, V. Murnykas, B. and M. Rubinai, P. Rutkauskas, B. Savsenavičius, P. Šeras, S., Ch. and H. Vinokurai and others. Quite a few photographers, who could not survive a severe competition, stopped their activities in a few years. The most productive studios: Ekonominės karių bendrovės fotostudija (1922-1940, Laisvės al. 48), photo studios Modern, Renaissance, Progress, Zinaida. Portraits were created by acknowledged master of photojournalism Mejeris Smečechauskas, S. Bajeras, A. Naruševičius and others. At the end of the 4th decade of the 20th century there were about 50 workshops in Kaunas and amateur photographers were competing with them. Photographers, who wanted a memorable advertisement, named their workshops by grand titles.
One of the most famous photo studios in Kaunas during the 3rd decade of the 20th century was owned by J. Tallat-Kelpšienė, who worked as State Theatre Photographer. In 1928 photographer’s workshop won a competition to make a portrait of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Antanas Smetona. Another famous Kaunas photographer was Zina Bliumentalienė. At the beginning of 1933 she participated in Berlin International Photography Competition. Five works of Z. Bliumentalienė received awards at that competition. Encouraged by international recognition, photographer opened an exhibition of her works at Kaunas Art Gallery on 26 February 1933, where she exhibited 130 photo portraits of famous people. Exhibition, which was visited by many people, was open until 17 March. Exhibition’s visitors noticed significant differences from the previously presented exhibition of the works by Petras Babickas.
“Zinaida is more distinguished for a photo-artistic technique, regulating composition and light-shadows of the paintings with the help of footlights according to her taste. Majority of the persons, portrayed by her, appear in natural poses, which are specially prepared for the object lens”, – wrote Naujoji Romuva. Photo portraits of Juozas Herbačiauskas, Mečislovas Bulaka, Neemija Arbitblatas, Juozas Vaičkus, Ignas Šlapelis, Vincas Čepinskis, Konstantinas Glinskis, Veronika Podėnaitė and other persons are considered most interesting and most successful works by Zinaida.
Karlas Baulas (1893 –1964) was the most creative photographer at Kaunas photo studios during inter-war period. He was born and grew up in Venspils. K. Baulas collected his theoretical and practical knowledge of photography in Moscow from the photographer Čižovas. K. Baulas moved to Kaunas around 1926 and established a workshop in Šančiai district. Later he moved to Laisvės avenue, worked at photo studio of “Ekonominė karių bendrovė” and his own photo studio. K. Baulas quickly became famous. He never advertised in any publication, but he never lacked clients. A stylish photographer was as important to the intelligentsia of that period as a tailor or a hairdresser.
K. Baulas perfected a genre of chamber photo portrait. He rejected the brightness, which had become a cliché and enriched a range of light and shadows. K. Baulas did not think that photographic means of expression were enough; he used to create a certain synthesis of two kinds of art – fine art and photography. Portraits of famous people by K. Baulas are distinguished by harmony of lighting, background and model characteristics. Often, if the model’s physical features were suitable, photographer exhibited a profile.
During the inter-war period photography in Kaunas was mostly developed by amateur photographers, the centre of fine-art photography moved to Kaunas from Vilnius. The following famous masters worked there: Petras Babickas, Balys Buračas, Vytautas Augustinas, Kazys Laucius, Steponas Kolupaila, Ignas Končius, Povilas Karpavičius and others. Development of photography in Kaunas was greatly influenced by the activities of organizations – Photography Section at Society of Craftsmen and Culture Techniques (1918) and Lithuanian Society of Amateur Photographers (1933). The first textbooks of photography appeared during that period: Fotografijos mėgėjas (Photographer Amateur) by Juozas Kaminskas (1925), Fotografuoti gali kiekvienas Everyone can be a Photographer) by K. Lausius (1933, 1938), Fotografijos vadovėlis (Photography Manual) by E. Fogelis (1938). During the discussed period exhibition photography in Kaunas matured and reached a global level. Photography exhibitions became integral part of cultural life. Amateur photographers surpassed professionals and were more active in these processes. It should be noted that professional photographers developed quite a few apprentices, teaching them most important principles of work and creative activities. They also left a large archive of photo portraits, which still remains inexhaustible source of iconography.