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"The Unknown Photographer" Georg Wolz

Photo: ©Georg Wolz

The Sofia-based Synthesis Gallery continues its tradition of showcasing old and little-known masters of photography in Bulgaria from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The first in-depth study of Georg Wolz's work, The Unknown Photographer, was officially presented on June 17th. The exhibition will be open until August 11, as its curators are Nadezhda Pavlova and Bilyana Karastoyanova.

"Georg Wolz was an extremely interesting person whom we perceive as a Bulgarian photographer and that's how it should be, in my opinion," says Ms. Angelova. “Although he was born in Lorraine, today's France, his family lived in the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, and he himself lived in Greece, he was married to a Frenchwoman, his mother was Italian, he was of German origin, a very interesting multicultural family. He settled in Bulgaria in the last years of the 19th century when he arrived from France to prepare photographs and topographic maps for the railway lines that were being built in our country at that time. He opened his own photography studio in Sofia, which he called a Museum of Photography and began to work professionally in this field. He took some emblematic photos that transformed the idea of photography in Bulgaria at that time."

We owe to Georg Wolz the first aerial panoramic photos of Bulgaria taken from an airplane. He documented the construction of the Bulgarian railways, captured important events for this country from the period of the 3rd Bulgarian Kingdom – the declaration of Bulgaria’s Independence, the visit of Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich, the unveiling of the monument to Tsar Liberator in Sofia, the construction of the St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, the big 1913 earthquake in Gorna Oryahovitsa.

The unveiling of the monument to Tsar Liberator in Sofia

Biliana Karastoyanova is the person who digitizes Wolz’s archive, describes and collects information about thousands of photographic plates and paper copies. Something no one has done in the last 100 years.

Biliana Karastoyanova

It all started in 2017 when after the death of the granddaughter of Georg Wolz, Francoise Marie Woltz, her husband contacted Bilyana with a request to make a photographic album with the photos that the family owns. It turned out they possessed very interesting photos from the Balkan War, which unfortunately had almost no description. There was also no information about Georg Wolz. His personality seemed to be shrouded in mystery.

"Through relatives who helped a lot, I got in touch with another of his grandchildren, engineer Ivan Terziev, who was so kind to provide me with over 1,000 glass plates, which he has kept for many years without having them processed and described. I was given the honour to process the images and find that they contain extremely valuable historical material that has been kept locked in chests for so many years without anyone being interested in it,” Bilyana explains.

The lack of information and historical memory of Georg Wolz is strongly linked to the political situation in Bulgaria after 1944, when he fell into oblivion due to the fact that he was a palace photographer after 1905 and he was connected with Germany and France, which was extremely undesirable during the Communist period.

Nadezhda Pavlova

"The exhibition is organized in several themes”, Nadezhda Pavlova explains. “The most well represented is the "Balkan War", during which Georg Wolz accompanied Tsar Ferdinand I, photographed scenes on the battlefield from different points of view and I would say that the photographs give very detailed information about the events of that period. The other topic is "Old Sofia" – between 1900 -1910. The third theme is "The Royal Family" – very intimate photographs of the ordinary daily activities such as a walk in the park, the botanical gardens or the forest.

The Royal family in the park, 1904-1905

Apparently the photographer was very close to Tsar Ferdinand I and his family and managed to capture many personal moments away from the public eye. The fourth theme we have chosen is "Landscapes from Bulgaria". I should note that many photos from all of these topics remain outside the exhibition and that is why Bilyana has prepared a photo album which will contain many more images that we were not able to include in the current exhibition," says Nadezhda Pavlova from Synthesis Gallery

The exhibition is dedicated to Françoise Marie Woltz (1948-2017), the granddaughter of the great photographer, a guardian of Bulgarian-French friendship and cooperation until her last day.

English version: Rositsa Petkova

Photos: © Georg Wolz and Synthesis Gallery

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