Walery Rzewuski’s atelier — photo laboratories in the 2nd half of the 19th century

Walery Rzewuski’s atelier was one of the most famous photo laboratories in the 2nd half of the 19th century in Kraków. The atelier was fully equipped and the owner’s fame, resulting in financial success, allowed him to build a house which was a part of a photographic entourage, and which was arranged with great care. The residence with a garden at Kolejowa Street in Kraków (today’s Westerplatte Street) was designed according to the latest architectural trends.
Even the tiniest details emphasised the functions of the object — cupids playing with a camera and photographic equipment at the top of the building, a front door handle decorated with a bass relief of a stand and a camera.
The main atelier occupied an area of more than 100 m2 with a height of 10 m and a glazed ceiling, thanks to which it was possible to take pictures even with no sunlight and during adverse weather conditions.
A visit in the laboratory was a kind of a ritual — while waiting for his or her turn one could admire photographs depicting famous persons and exceptionally beautiful women shown in the hall.
In the atelier itself, there was a sitting room as well as a fairytale garden with a grotto, a fountain with water from a spring, flowers, ferns, oleanders and lemon trees. Landscapes and views of Kraków completed this picturesque scenery.
In the 2nd half of the 19th century, photographic ateliers, similarly to promenades and theatre foyers, constituted places for meetings, exchanging of thoughts but also for fashion creation (if a lady from the elite was photographed wearing a stunning outfit, other ladies immediately wanted to present similarly beautiful gowns).
The photography of those days presented in the showcases and halls of photo laboratories played a role similar to the importance of today’s colour magazines.
Although in the 21st century the sources of the creation of needs are different (the media, thanks to which photographs circulate around the world at a dizzying speed), the mechanisms associated with the need for identification are universal (let us just remind you of the reactions to Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s Wedding Day). Live coverage from the ceremony gave millions of people the opportunity to take part in the celebration of the event. The image of the wedding dress, kept secret until the very last moment, evoked an avalanche — thousands of brides around the world wanted to look just like the girl chosen by the Duke of Cambridge. A few moments after the end of the ceremony thousands of tailors became immersed in work in order to satisfy their clients with a replica of the duchess’ gown.

Elaborated by Anna Berestecka (Editorial team of Małopolska’s Virtual Museums),
Licencja Creative Commons

 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Poland License.

See the photographs from Walery Rzewuski’s atelier:
Photograph The main gate to Dr. Henryk Jordan’s Park
Photograph Dr Henryk Jordan’s Park