Exploring possible human knowledge


Paul Vjecsner


Beside liking to draw and such in early childhood, I soon had a chance to try photography, having been given a present of a little Kodak Retina camera. The first two pictures here are results, somehow salvaged after World War II. So was the third picture, for which I was able to use an old-fashioned studio camera.

As explained in more detail below, depicted are my mother and older brother, both of whom perished in the Holocaust, as did my father. Thanks to computer facilities, I could scan and strengthen the photographs and use color, with aesthetics in mind.

30 December 2002



PHOTOGRAPHY, continued1, 2, 3, 4

PORTRAITURE, continued1, 2, 3

COMMERCIAL ART, continued1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25


AUTOBIOGRAPHY, continued1, 2, 3, 4


Taken in the Slovakian town of Kremnica when visiting my mother's family. They had a house there with a backyard, in which mother is pictured feeding the chickens. This occurred no later than in 1938, since we could never visit again.





In 1940 we fled from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia to Hungary, to live in Gyöngyös, the hometown of a sister of my father. It is the town where I photographed my brother, an athletic teenager.

The portrait was the only one I was allowed by my boss with her studio camera when I was apprenticed at a small portrait studio. The boss, by the way, was a lovely Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust and moved to Israel.

12 April 2004

This is one other picture remaining that I took in that town with my Kodak camera. I dabbled also with sculpting, and this result looks better in the picture than it did in reality. It was about 6" high and merely of dried clay. I didn't have the facilities for firing it.


After the war I did not have a chance to make photographs until in Prague, where I bought a Czech variation of the famous Rolleiflex, a double-lens reflex camera, with one lens for the picture, and the other for the viewfinder. Among my first uses of the device was taking black&white pictures of my movie posters before they were printed.

Thereafter, I tried to record with it events in my emigration in 1948 to the United States, and am including here mainly some pictures I chose by considering their look.

23 April 2004


In this case the look may not be special but for the juxtaposition of different elements. All of us emigrants, we traveled through Germany here in a Czechoslovak bus to the Swedish seaport of Goteborg, which destination is named on the top front of the bus.


This picture signifies my first acquaintance with the sea, having previously lived only in landlocked countries. The scene may have occurred in Denmark, through which we passed on the way to Sweden.


The wonderful white steamer (though its whiteness may not be apparent in the backlit picture), Gripsholm, which was going to take us to America. I only recently learned that it was the first transatlantic motor ship. As I also learned and had an indication at the time, the ship was during war years chartered to the US State department as a "mercy ship", and therefore our facilities weren't the usual ones of passenger liners, as in our having common washrooms.


On board, we had the opportunity to look around at the seaport. Here the view seems to be of what is both a monument and watchtower.


I am not sure whether this is a scene in Goteborg or New York harbor on arrival. The weather was hazy at the latter, and the shore may be that of New Jersey, which can be why the absence of the skyline. (It turned out on later examination that this is Goteborg.)


There is little doubt that this is Goteborg (although appearing a bit hazy, too), even if the ship at right says "NEW YORK" on it.


A similar background, with the Swedish flag hoisted.


Viewing the harbor from windows on a lower deck.


Another view from the ship, before departure. It seems that various national flags are hoisted, with the Swedish crown on the gangway. On the dock, people evidently are seeing off passengers.


23 July 2004

Rummaging through my old negatives recently, I found some more that could be used here. In this porthole picture the lens is focused on the ocean, signifying the long voyage we embarked on.



Apparently a night scene (unless I underexposed the film), with passengers that I recognize as from our bus resting on deckchairs.


23 July 2004

The four close-ups here, too, are from negatives I recently located beside the above porthole one. They are of people in the preceding picture, and I took them at the same night scene, which offered intriguing lighting. The first two are of a beautiful, I think Jewish, blonde among us (seated second from right in the preceding image). The third is of a Czech girl with a rather sweet face (the leftmost in that group picture, on the seat shown its back). And the fourth is of cutie Olga, pictured also in the next image and at far right in the above group scene, and at the just linked-to top of the next page.

Some of the people are also in the earlier bus picture—the blonde is second from left, the Czech girl is under the rearview mirror of the bus, and the couple there at far right can be recognized as near the middle of the above group picture.


6 May 2004

In view of a later picture, I am inserting these two. I took on the ship also photos of individuals, and the first snapshot here, which doesn't do her justice, is of the girl in the other picture and whom I courted. For the second photo, of me, I handed the camera to someone else again. As noticeable, the deck was breezy and, unlike in following pictures, the sky was overcast.


27 July 2004

I found two more similar pictures which I thought appealing enough to include. The second is, of course, of Olga again, and the first one of her older sister, Irene, mentioned before, and also included in the above night group picture, third from the right. Still more of them in the next photo. (It seems they are also in the above mentioned bus picture, to the Czech girl's left.)


29 July 2004

No, this is not the crew of the ship, although the cheerful threesome is on that ladder. I decided to sandwich this picture between those above and below it, because it fits in and shows both, the people to advantage and another interesting view of the ship.

The people are obviously the same as in the next photo, and the lady in the middle, too, is evidently in other pictures, with her husband—in the above night scene of a group, and again in the bus scene near the start of this page.

As indicated elsewhere, I like to ask people to be themselves before the camera, and my favorite person here on top of the ladder, shown in a number of pictures on this site, is here just as coquettish as I knew her to be.



27 July 2004

This picture may convey the atmosphere of rest in deck chairs on a small liner.

The two sisters may by now be recognized, and between them is another lady who had been with us from the beginning of our trip.


Sunshine at sea, passengers seen playing shuffleboard.


Also at sea, on another sunny day with obviously a clear blue sky, set off by the whiteness and shadows of the ship.


Brilliant reflections of the sun through the far horizon seem to foretell the distant destination.


The destination was instead shrouded in a haze, but it took nothing away from the excitement we felt seeing the New York skyline, with evidently the Empire State building toward the center.



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