Stefania Gurdowa was born in Bochnia, Poland in 1888. Some of the oldest glass negatives of local portraits of anonymouse people of the 20s and 30s, were found eleven years ago in an old attic of a tenement house in Debica, Poland.
At first sight, we could guess hardly anything about the author of the plates, although her name appeared on them. But our deepening research shed light upon someone extraordinary for her time: an independent, gifted woman of consequence whose workshops existed far away from the grand cultural capitals, and whose art lay in taking orderly portraits of her neighbors: shopkeepers, craftsmen, peasants, priests and Jews.
Gurdowa, the distinguished artist, died in 1968. Her apartment was cleaned after she passed away, and her immense photographic archive was disposed of and lost. Only a fragment of her art endures, together with a question without an answer: who hid a collection of glass plates behind a wall in the attic of her workshop in Debica? Perhaps it was her own decision to preserve them this way. As a responsible professional, she must have been aware of the rule that “negatives are to be stored”.
It's a great addition to the history of photography, especially in a genre dominated by men in the early 20th century. Thanks to the wonderful Lens Culture for exposing the public to such a great and amazing find.
Photo-Eye is currently selling Stefania Gurdowa's monograph.
Klisze przechowuje sie
(Negatives are to be stored)
Photographs by Stefania Gurdowa
Text by Jerzy Lewczynski
and Dariusz Czaja
Hardcover: 218 pages
22 x 28.5 cm
Publisher: Fundacja Imago Mundi / Muzeum Etnograficzne w Krakowie
Available from photo-eye