Baruch Henner (1843–1926) was a leading Jewish photographer of the 19th Century, working in Przemysl, Poland. When young, he was a pupil at a religious school and later took an interest in photography, becoming a student of French photographer Louis Lumière, the inventor of the cinematograph.
His first photographic studio was founded in 1874 in Przemyśl and he won medals for his photos at exhibitions in Vienna (1873), London (1874) and Lviv (1877). His sons, Bernard and Jakób, established photographic studios in Lviv (1886), Jarosław (1890), and Cracow (1906). Jakób became Court Photographer at the Viennese court.
One of Baruch’s portrait cards features on the cover of the book, And I Still See Their Faces: Images of Polish Jews, published by Fundacja Shalom in 1996.
Baruch was my great, great uncle on my mother’s side and I recently discovered photographs from his and his sons’ portrait studios on Polish auction sites and on Polona.pl. As an artist working with photography, I’m fascinated by the photographic works of my ancestors and more importantly, by the potential to resurrect their 19th and early 20th century studios using 21st century methods. My initial experiments led me to colour and reanimate portraits taken by them using artificial intelligence (examples can be seen below and here).
However, I am also interested in photographing contemporary subjects using the aesthetic conventions of 19th century portraiture and converting them into animated digital portrait cards. Not only as a homage to the work of my ancestors, but to see how this kind of portraiture might exist in today’s digital, networked culture. Though the photographic tools and contexts in which photographs exist have changed dramatically in the past 150 years, the photographic portrait endures. In resurrecting Atelier Henner, there’s an opportunity to connect the earliest days of photographic portraiture to its most contemporary digital form, and to commune with the ghosts of an ancestral past.