»The Pommer 1856« Project by Croatian photographer Robert Gojevic shows us different approaches, collaboration and impact of contemporary photographers, heritage researchers, curators and museum institutions on our photographic heritage. In Gojevic’s case, Croatian and European 19th-century studio portraits could become a subject that raises questions of homage and passion for our photographic history. It is about museums and archival research, which goes beyond Croatian 19th-century heritage and photographic history. Also, it is about personal development of who we are and the way we live today. The first part of the exhibition presents Franjo Pommer’s chronologically selected work within the basic technical, formal, thematic and stylistic features. His opus is divided by the early period from 1854 to 1860, the middle period from 1861 to 1874, and the late period from 1875 to 1879. The second part of the exhibition presents Robert Gojevic’s »The Pommer 1856« Project.
In 2016 Robert Gojevic developed »The Pommer 1856« Project as a photo album of the 15 most distinguished Croatian writers selected by editor Kruno Lokotar. His photo album of the Croatian writers is unique in Croatian contemporary portrait art, for more than one reason. First of all, as a photographer, Gojevic’s inspiration lies in the historic wet plate collodion process and the first 19th-century photographic studios in Zagreb. Secondly, he has chosen homage as an artistic expression to historical processes and old photographic masters of Zagreb. The thought being that homage, as a dedication, is the biggest thing one artist can give another. Franjo Daniel Pommer (1818 – 1879) was Robert Gojevic’s inspiration. Pommer was the first Zagreb-based resident studio photographer of the 1850s and 1860s. He was also the author of the first Croatian photographic project. Franjo Daniel Pommer was a Danish immigrant. Through his legacy of photographic portraits of Croatian writers and romanticism, he is the most important photographer of the 19th century in Croatia, not just because of his portraying Croatian writers. It is important to emphasize Pommer’s originality. His album »Photographic Portraits of Our National Writers« published in 1856 was created a few years before the Galleries of the famous Frenchman Felix Nadar of the same era. Gojević recognized their personal photographic mission and process as an invisible bond that connected their work.
Fifteen portraits »Pommer 1856« by Robert Gojevic is a testament to photographic history, but above all exhibits respect to the first pioneers and roots. It is about the reviewing the past and personal values. The thing is that Gojevic is the only Croatian wet plate photographer active today, and the photo album of Croatian writers is unique in Croatian contemporary art. At first, his alternative process and anachronistic wet plate portraits belong to extremely classic and irresistible but contemporary art photography. Gojevic, just like Pommer before him, gave a photographic tribute to both Croatian language and literature. Contemporary Croatian writers, captured by the old photographic process in the intimacy of a photographic studio, depict a certain postromantic compassion between intellectual knowledge and emotional experience, thus making apparent the question of context and multiple levels of reading. The poetic issue of Gojevic’s portraits is to celebrate the past, knowledge and language as an indivisible whole that determines us. The power of images is about our collective visual memories. The power of language is a weapon of identity. The thing today is that languages are dying out on daily basis. Pictures are not. In the worst case, they fade and gradually disappeared. Here within lies the fundamental power of the anachronistic approach of Robert Gojevic’s wet plate processes. His images portray the sophisticated social and cultural contest. Photographic neo-romanticism of Roberto Gojević is an artistic, cultural and social tale colored with a sentimental fluid of wet plate images. Croatian writers (Kristian Novak, Miljenko Jergović, Marinko Koščec, Marko Pogačar, Olja Savičević Ivančević, Dorta Jagić, Slavenka Drakulić, Zoran Ferić, Robert Perišić, Roman Simić, Emir Imamović Pirke, Tanja Mravak, Vlado Bulić, Nenad Stipanić and Ivica Prtenjača all recognized the meta-language of Gojević’s portraits. In this context, Gojević’s project »Pommer 1856« receives a whole new articulation. In addition to art photography, there is a multifaceted non-controversial context, first of all social, in part even commercial, in which the re-examination of emotional and literary frameworks entails questions of reading, promoting and selling books. Through his photography of the Croatian writers, Gojevic sends us a message about the importance of our past and future.
If you visit Croatia, stop by Zagreb City Museum on Thursday, December, 21 between 19:00 and 21:00 to meet this intrepid photographer, the writers and curators who brought them together. Be inspired by the images of Franjo Daniel Pommer as well as Robert Gojevic.
The museum publication of the exhibition is about Pommer and photographic media of the 19th century and the links between the two photographers distanced by 150 years. »Photographic Portraits of Our National Writers« is the original title of the first Croatian photo album by Franjo Daniel Pommer published in 1856.
Draženka Jalšić Ernečić, Senior Curator