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The first Russian photojournalist was recalled in Petersburg, Dresden and Leipzig

12 October 2018

On Friday, October 12, 2018 the Presidential Library, as well as German cities of Dresden and Leipzig, hosted the grand opening of the exhibition “The German Karl Bulla, the first Russian photojournalist” via video-conferencing mode.

The exposition of the photographic legacy of the famous Bulla dynasty is presented in the German-Russian Institute of Culture in Dresden. This is a joint project of the Karl Bulla Foundation of Historical Photography and the Presidential Library. On the Senate Square, 3 the exhibition was considered by Valentin Sidorin, acting Director General of the Presidential Library, Valentin Elbek, President of the Karl Bulla Foundation of Historical Photography, Oksana Morozan, Director of the Central State Archive of Cinema and Photo Documents of St. Petersburg, journalist and collector Artyom Klassen, film critic and director Alexander Pozdnyakov, via video-conferencing mode from Germany the discussion involved Dr. Wolfgang Schelike, Chairman of the Board of the German-Russian Institute of Culture in Dresden, Andrei Dronov, Consul General of the Russian Federation in Leipzig, Zhu Radialist and author of the photomonography of Karl Bulla Yuri Svetov and others.

“One year ago, on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair (the 70th fair starts on October 13, 2018, where the Presidential Library presents the Bulla dynasty exposition), we opened an exhibition dedicated to the oeuvre of another photographer, S. M. Prokudin-Gorsky, - noted acting Director General of the Presidential Library Valentin Sidorin. - Thus we decided that the next project is important to make the history of the family of Karl Bulla, because the drama itself of this name reveals important milestones in relations between Russia and Germany”.  

Karl Karlovich Bulla (1855–1929) was German by birth, but Russian by vocation. Born in Prussia, he moved to St. Petersburg at the age of 11, and eventually became the first and most famous Russian photojournalist. He captured many landmark events in our country at the turn of the XIX – XX centuries, such as the 200th anniversary of St. Petersburg and the 300th anniversary of the Romanov dynasty, created portrait photographs of prominent contemporaries: writers, artists, composers. Karl Bulla also became the founder of a whole dynasty of photographers, his work was inherited by his sons Alexander (1881–1943), Victor (1883–1938) and grandson Yuri (1919–1941). 

“Karl Karlovich also worked during the First World War, when there were very difficult relations between our countries”, - stressed Valentin Sidorin. “But this did not prevent him from working for the good of Russia, while showing the best German qualities”.

Looking back, analyzing the experience including the Bulla family, the head of the Presidential Library called on to continue to find common ground between Russia and Germany, that was supported by all the participants of the Friday meeting.

Then the Consul General of Russia in Leipzig, Andrei Dronov, took the floor. He called the “photographic” Russian-German family Bulla a phenomenon that should bring the two countries together, and readily supported the initiative of the Presidential Library to participate in the Leipzig Book Fair in the future. 

Valentin Elbek, President of the Karl Bulla Foundation of Historical Photography, said that interest in the creative heritage of the dynasty began in Russia, but was then continued by projects in Estonia, where Karl Karlovich lived on the island of Saaremaa and spent the last years of his life and next is Germany where the founder of the dynasty was born.

The Chairman of the Board of the German-Russian Institute of Culture, Wolfgang Schelike, via video-conferencing from Dresden, announced the following projects that were proposed to be implemented jointly with the Presidential Library. In 2021, the 200th anniversary of Fyodor M. Dostoevsky will be widely celebrated.

Director of the Central State Archive of Cinema and Photo Documents of St. Petersburg, Oksana Morozan noted that the heritage of the Bulla family at one time entered the cinema and photo documents storage one of the first. The specialists have done a great job of preserving and regulating it.

The major point that has been voiced today is that almost every one of us has already seen photographs of Karl Bulla or his sons, even if not knowing the authorship of these frames. The oeuvre of the family has been carefully preserved. However, there are still many documents and photographs relating to this famous family name, which are becoming known only now and are likely to appear unexpectedly in the future.

Thus, the collector Artyom Klassen showed a previously unknown photograph of the Bull family from the 20s of the last century.

“There are plenty of photos that were lost, which are now on the mezzanine, attics”, - said the famous film critic Alexander Pozdnyakov. “There is no other such dynasty that can be called chroniclers of Russian history ...”

Undoubtedly, the oeuvre of Bulla can conceal many more discoveries, - those present agreed.

The Dresden exhibition in a "digital" form will go to Frankfurt and other German cities. At the same time, negotiations are underway on its demonstration in several more European countries.