„Autochromes” by Tadeusz Rząca

During the exhibition, we will present a collection of autochromes made between 1910—1920 by Tadeusz Rząca — a photographer and a businessman from Cracow, Poland.

Autochrome is the name of the oldest color photography technique. These extraordinarily precious glass diapositives are an absolute scarcity in the Polish repertory. They depict, among others, Kraków and Tarnów monuments, street scenes, piedmont areas and the Tatra Mountains.

Tadeusz Rząca is one of the more interesting Polish photographers from the beginning of the 20th century, but his works until recently were actually unknown. His artistic approach to the image, breaking from the pictorial stream of contemporary photography reminds in its color scheme and topics the paintings of the Young Poland period. Just as Kazimierz Tetmajer he was fascinated by contrasty colors of the Kraków countryside. He even managed to convince some women to pose for him in folk attire. Whereas in his mountain photographs the sage green tonality of the Tatras walls and lakes reminds a bit Leon Wyczółkowski paintings.

Out of a couple of series dedicated to places chosen by the photographer exceptional in their meaning are those of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska. Alongside their implicit documentary value, we can tell there a subtly beaming mood of contemplation. The author made sure that nothing in his pictures disturbs the religious mood and pilgrim’s solitude.

The other very characteristic feature of Rząca’s photography is an omnipresence of nature. To begin with his fascination with its vitality in spring pictures of blooming trees. These images, probably lined with an Art Nouveau taste, bring to one’s mind an organic potential of vegetation, especially the spring one and blooming. There are also other shots related stylistically to Art Nouveau—this time more Japanese in their expression and mood—images of frail, lonely rowan or evening cityscapes.

But that’s not all there. Greenness, greenness, greenness. Virtually everything he’s taking pictures of sinks in the greenness. Tadeusz Rząca was doing lots of photographs documenting monuments. Not officially placed commissions but his own attempts that were supposed to make him a better photographer. Despite that even here he moved from the traditional architectural photography compositions which especially in his times were mostly stiff and lacking dynamism. The very nature was luring him too much. Enough to look at his shot of the Wawel Hill or monastery on Skałka. In the Tenczyn castle series from Rudno near Kraków a yellow meadow and a green hill dominate in most of the images so much that one might ask if nature here is a minister for the castle or the other way round.