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The Atelier of J. C. Schaarwachter in Berlin
Originally published in Photographic Archives, (1889)
(Paraphrased translation from German into English)
Suggested reading: "A Popular Treatise on Photography," Desire van Monckhoven translated by W. H. Thornthwaite, London, 1863
For those acquainted with historic photography in Europe the name J. C. Schaarwachter is already familiar. His reputation for making dazzling portraits using the newest technologies was well-known beyond the borders of Germany; and attracted celebrated names from the world of art, diplomats, scholars, and dignitaries of all nations to come to his Berlin atelier.
As early photographic atelier became established, Schaarwachter opened his first business in 1872 at 190 Friedrichstrasse, and three years later shifted his atelier and residence to 130 Liepzigstrasse - Berlin. His atelier was one of the first on the continent that was well designed offering an elegantly furnished reception room and had astonishing refinement throughout.
The purpose of this article is to describe the refinement of the working atelier to reflect upon the workers and owner, J. C. Schaarwachter in order to form opinions as to the merit of the photographic achievements and appreciation of his craft.
First I want to offer details of the premises under the direction of J. C. Schaarwachter.
As one enters the house at 130 Leipzigstrasse, at the entrance are rooms on the left and right which hold displays of famous artists and contemporary celebrities. Six to eight large displays of similar content show us persons who probably are known to us if we read newspapers and magazines. We can feast upon well-placed portraits of masterful execution. There are J. Joachim and P. Sarasate, the famous violinists, Robert Hausmann (cello), Emile Sauret (violin) and Alfred Grunfeld (piano), Theresina Tua (violin) and Sophie Menter (piano), Stocker ( ? ), the theologians, Emil Frommel and Paulus Cassel, then professors Heinrich Bardeleben (surgeon), Heinrich Gneist (Roman Law), Rudolf Virchow (antropology), Robert Koch (Hygiene), Ernest Curtius (Chemistry), Carl Gerhardt (Medicine), etc., and in a special display the whole Imperial Family; highlighted by portrait photographs of emperor Wilhelm II revealed in numerous poses.
On the second floor in the rear of the building is the office, and a hallway with four windows which is tastefully decorated. Three ladies are kept busy waiting on customers and guiding them through the business. An accountant and a lady bookkeeper oversee the commercial part of the establishment. Adjacent to this area, is located J. C. Schaarwachter's nicely equipped office, which also serves as meeting or consulting room. Close by it is the telephone room, which switchboard appears busy accepting appointments and conducting business affairs of the enterprise. In order to describe completely this floor, then it is here that we also find the print retouching area, a bookbinding room, and storage area for outgoing parcels and city deliveries. Also one finds a lounge for the housemaid to the left of the office.
From the reception desk a spiral stair leads into the actual receiving room on the third floor. Here too the room is splendidly equipped speaking to the high success of the business. Therefore a closer description of the area is warranted. The establishment permits the owners and workers grand comforts throughout the day and the same is provided to scheduled clients who are entertained here from 4 to 5 p.m. Adjoining the reception area, toilet rooms for ladies and dressing rooms for gentlemen are provided. Once more stairs ascend to the fourth floor level studios.
On the fourth level of the building there are two atelier, each measuring 12 meters in length with a width of 10 meters and ceiling height of 3 1/2 meters at the low end and 4 1/2 meters at the higher north end. The two atelier run the length of the house over the reception area below on the north side of the building. Each atelier has furniture and decorations for use in the photographs, as well as an enlargement area. The darkroom adjoins the atelier at the low ceiling end.
Each darkroom has electric appliance as well as gas lights, and are spacious and well heated. The water sinks are divided and offer rinsing basin and print developing area to accommodate the largest sizes. One does not work in the darkroom using ruby red light, but uses combinations of green and orange light with frosted glass disks, which use I already recommended years ago, since it not only preserves ones eyes, but also is easy to monitor better control over the production processes.
The enlargement chamber is on the right of the convenient atelier with north glass walls. It is practically furnished with a camera whose sole purpose is for enlarging photographs. The framework provides a mounted camera with bellowed lens and gauged rails which allow the plate attachment to be positioned with exactness by the operator. So exact are the movements that one cannot fail in the enlargement process. Pure free north light by daytime. Magnesium lights at evening are used for producing contact positives beyond the darkroom and provide more favorable opportunities for using the enlargement area.
The atelier provides niches equipped with livable furnishings for those who come for their appointments. Mirrors are provided for repeated personal appearance adjustments in the toilets. Expert attention has been given to the painted garden backdrops which I intend to address in detail in a later article. One works with Dallmeyer objectivism (John Henry Dallmeyer lenses) and only exclusive Monckhoven (Desire van Monchhoven albumin process) glass plates.
The atelier on the right side of the establishment is the guest haven where Mr. J. C. Schaarwachter works. Schaarwachter's with his assistants operate like a surgeons if artists photographs are to be made. He is seldom present in the other atelier.
To allow the artists who come for sittings to be separated from the public the right side atelier is equipped with its own darkroom and an attractive cabinet furnished with costumes, make-up, etc., which can be made available immediately for the posing. This private atelier for artists and celebrities allows multiple day-long shootings without disturbing other clients and workers at the business.
Mr. Schaarwachter has developed a significant art business which up to this time Mr. Lander had always held leadership, largely due to his imagination and design of the separate atelier spaces. Schaarwachter has become the model for his photography comrades through his vision of creating an ideal photography establishment. In the old business location on Friedrichstrasse there were obstacles which could not allow for the ease of accomplishing the business tasks of a growing number of clients and appropriate use of equipment, and this situation forced rethinking and redesign of the photography business.
Powerful wood shutters allow adjustment of the atelier lighting and facilitate shutting off the uncomfortable sunlight for operating during high summer. During this season dim lighting is present in the two atelier. If one climbs to study the construction of these shutters, then one is on the fifth floor of the house, and in these areas the negatives are manipulated and retouched. The enlargers are kept here with the necessary daily needed photographic papers. Also here is the watery clay/tone and fixing room of the business with side windows opening to an adjacent square.
The negative retouching room is divided into five workplaces, and the whole room is dark, with the appropriate size plates, and cutouts and sufficient low light for execution of the work. In the evenings electric lights are used.
The clay/tone and fixing area contain appliances both gas and electric. Water must be provided at moderate temperature to prepare the print paper and in the winter the gas is used for heating. and to prevent damage to the sheets of albumin paper.
The preparation room for the silver coating is sizeable. An uninterrupted process of preparing the white paper with silver coating results to produce the minimum of 100 sheets of albumin paper on average each day. Often a greater amount but seldom less. The readers of this newspaper article may doubt the use of 100 sheets of albumin paper needed daily for the business of Mr. Schaarwachter, but let me restate that this demonstrates the considerable success and achievement of the business, and makes dizzy the heads of those familiar with photography establishments.
From the preparation area for the albumin paper one arrives on the stairs to the front of the house into a glass attic area of the Schaarwachter institute. The glass roof is built over the whole front of the house with a length of about 40 meters and provides plenty of room for the business conducted in the area.
Five to six print producing mechanisms are arranged on tables side by side for copying the prints . Each table is equipped with a conveyor designed to permit easy movement of the plates and finished prints in the attic area.
Throughout the business electric lighting is provided to assist the enterprises, even in the stairways. Telephone, and telegraph are also readily available.
From relatively small beginnings, the talents, knowledge and vision come together after a decade of experience in a well-designed location under the leadership of focused personality. This is the case for J. C. Schaarwachter as I have witnessed.
Source: "Photographic Archives" - 1889
Web source: http://www.fotoplatz.stereographie.de/Schaar/schaar.htm
Translated by: T. Max Hochstetler