Black warriors, Mediterranean children, streets of little Southern French towns, half-timbered houses, excursionists in the German mountains, costumed characters in rooms furnished in Dutch style. In the observatory tower of the Baroque university of Wrocław, on the exhibition Zatrzymane w szkladnym kadrze – A world saved on glass plates.
None of the photos has any caption. A few locations are recognizable: Ethiopia, the Cathedral of Ferrara, Lake Como. The rest is unknown: do you recognize any of them? The glass plates come from the educational aids collection of the university of Breslau, five thousand of them were digitized by the university of Wrocław, only a small proportion of the complete material. Once they were perhaps organized as lists written by hand or kept in mind, like the slide collections of our high school professors. These, however, have long vanished, just like the former professors, the university, and Breslau itself. Their single remaining organizing principle, place of origin and homeland are those hundreds of cardboard boxes in which they have survived the vicissitudes of a century, and whose exotic labels were put on show, with good historical sense, at the entrance.
However, without captions, and merging into one multicolored world, the photos let you feel much better, how they might have lived on in the minds of the students, to whom they were projected in the various lectures, and to whom they represented the big world in a small world, short of images.
Nevertheless, these photos are also excellent documents of such exotic lands, which were not visited by many photographers at that time. Who was the one who photographed Abyssinia in such detail, the rural world of the Mediterranean, the German villages? Whoever he was, he has his place among the pioneers of the photographic discovery of the world.
And the vanished worlds preserved for us by these images also include the one which preserved them, while itself vanished: the city carrying the promise of great development, Breslau at the turn of the century.
Breslau, the bank of Oder and the bridge leading over to the islands