Alexander Wienerberger

It seems that the camera my grandfather gave to me only a few month ago is about to mean more to me than a camera ever should.

It is a second model Leica and it used to belong to my great grandfather, Alexander Wienerberger.  The photographs he took on this camera were not only published but are said to be the only verified images to come out of Ukraine during the man-made famine of 1932-33, named Holodomor and reported as killing up to 10 million people.

Now this is of great interest to me as I am about to go into my final year of my Fine Art Photography Degree.  Normally this is not my area, I lean more towards the experimental and scientific but I cannot let this amazing opportunity pass me by.  This means starting my research from scratch, so I will apologise in advance for my initial naivety on the sensitive yet personal subject I am about to embark on.

Something I already know:

1. There was talk on wiki about the copy right to my great grandfathers images, I believe if the author dies before 1955 then the copyright would no longer exist however in true style my great grandfather died 5th Jan 1955, meaning (I think as the law is so hard to decipher) that the copy right is still in place for all of his work.

2. Alexander spent some years as a political prisoner of war and in total spent 19 years in Ukraine, the reason he was not killed was due to his knowledge of explosives but to what extent he helped is unknown at the moment.

3. He published Hart auf Hart in Germany 1939 and had work published in other books around the same period (all work in German unless translated and released later)

This is interesting due to his connection to Germany at this time.

What next?

I am in the process of receiving some of his unpublished work that will need translating from German.  I am in the process of planning a trip to Austria (where he was born and his images are archived in the main library) Germany (where his books and images are archived in the main library.  I will look at getting the camera serviced at by the main Leica office but I imagine this is just a dream that could never happen) and Ukraine (to use his camera once again to document the change over the past 79 years.) This will not be done till the end of the year and has many financial hurdles to overcome.

The final aim is to publish a piece of work that not only highlights Holodomor but expresses who my great grandfather was and how important he was in proving Holodomor actually happened.


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About Samara Pearce

Ukraine 1933 & 2013

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