Olexandr Pejanskii's light and shadow

Special Project of the Library of Ukrainian Art

Text by Kateryna Lebedieva

Black & white photos of 1930s

The name of Olexandr Pejanskii is not widely known: a) the history of the Ukrainian Photography Art has not been written yet, b) the major part of his life was in emigration.

Nowadays, when we are discovering the names of the Ukrainian artists of the XXth century, we should mention Pejanskii’s name because of his photos of bright talent. He was also involved in architecture, painting, music…His only daughter, Daria Yaroshevich, made it possible for us to appreciate his photos. She initiated the publication of the album dedicated to her father’s creative heritage. (The book was published in Lviv in 1992).

Olexandr was born on November, 2 in 1892 in Lviv to the family of the architect Grygorii Pejanskii. He studied architecture at Lviv Polytechnic. During his years in the university he was a member of the student’s chorus ”Bandurist” and was on tours with his mates around Galichina. At the beginning of the WWI he was mobilized to the Austrian Army. In 1919 he joined the Ukrainian Army of Galichina. After the war Pejanskii mostly lived in Poland and Austria. In 1927-1939 he worked in Lviv and its suburbs, designing all types of buildings in Modern style. He also took part in the activities of the Ukrainian Photo Union (1930-1939). When the WWII started, he left his native town forever. First he lived in Poland and in 1966 moved to the USA.

The photos presented in our project were created in the 1930th in Galichina. They demonstrate the rhythm of life which had disappeared.The photos are professional and innovatory. A good example of it is the photo of the street taken from the upper floor of the house. It reminds the works of O. Rodchenko.

Pejanskii’s daughter recollects: “After the war, we lived in Poland. The technology for color photography in the 1950’s and 1960’s was very primitive, so my father chose to process these photographs in black and white. He set up his own darkroom. He constructed his own enlarger, which consisted of a wooden box, a light bulb and a collection of lenses — how primitive in comparison to present “wonders of technology”! It was very difficult to focus; he tacked photographic paper to the wall. Despite these primitive conditions, the photographs were of remarkable quality”.

Photography was only one of the passions of O. Pejanskii so he did not become really famous. Anyway,we hope that the connoisseurs of Photo Art will add him to the list of the masters of visual arts of Ukraine after reading this article.

Black & white photos by Olexandr  Pejanskii