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Konstantin Shapiro (1840-1900)
Illustrations pour les mémoires d'un fou de N. V. Gogol. Photographies sans retouches d'aprÞs l'acteur de Moscou, M. Andréef-Bourlak dans le rôle de Popritschine, (St. Petersberg, 1883)
Albumen prints, from glass negative, on original mount
12.4 x 85 cm
CEROS - Jean-Mathieu Martini / Serge Plantureux
Binoche et Giquello, épreuves choisies, 18 november 2010, lot no: 98
From an album of 30 albumen prints from glass negatives in original mounts.
Oversized octavo album, bound in dark-brown embossed leather binding with brass closure, text in Russian and French.
Konstantin (Osher) Aleksandrovich Shapiro was born in Grodno, Russia (now Hrodna, Belarus) in 1840, to a Jewish Orthodox family. As a teenager his family disapproved of his attraction to the ideas of haskalah (enlightening) and his interest in writing poetry. Shapiro left his hometown for Vienna, where he studied under a leader of maskilim (Jewish free thinkers) - Smolenskin. At the same time he learned about photography and later moved to the Russian capital, St.Peterburg. Even though Jews were generally forbidden to live there, he was allowed to stay because his craft was not widely known at that time.
He was very poor from the beginning and struggled to make a living. He got ill but survived and fell in love with a Russian Christian girl who looked after him. He converted to Russian Orthodoxy so they could get married. Gradually he became a popular photographer. His love of literature and art made him close to leading Russian writers, artists and musicians. In 1880 his work appeared in the St.Peterburg Portrait Gallery of Russian Writers, Scientists and Actors. Critics wrote about too much retouching, which was true but also was common practice at the time. Depicted celebrities, however, made positive comments. Shapiro was officially listed in the business directory as Academy of the Fine Arts Photographer.
"Un des derniers ouvrages illustré de photographies montées dans le texte était en même temps comme par ironie un des premiers ouvrages littéraires. "En 1883 parut l'ouvrage du poÞte et photographe russe d'origine juive Abba Constantin Chapiro avec 30 photographies. Le texte est adapté pour la photographie, mis en séquences..." (Hubertus von Ameluxen. Quand la photographie se fit lectrice, in: Romantisme, 1985, XV, n¦47, page 89).