If you happen to be passing through the Polish city of Bydgoszcz and find yourself wondering which local museums or galleries to add to your must-see lists, you could do much worse than a visit to the Bydgoszcz Museum of Photography, the only one it its kind in northern Poland.
The museum, founded in 2004 and operated by the Economics University in Bydgoszcz, has quickly grown to include a collection of some 4000 pieces, mostly gifts passed on by private donors and enthusiasts from the region. Originally housed in the local pre-World War II Alfa camera factory, its holdings outgrew the space in just two years, forcing a move to its current location on Queen Jadwiga street.
With high ceilings and a cozy warehouse feel, the space, located in a renovated carriage house along the Brda River, is casual flea market flare –in case you were wondering, that’s a good thing– with its elegant but relaxed melding of glass shelf-lined exhibit cases and a cluttered multi-period work space. Cameras dating back more than a century take center stage, but share it generously other equipment — enlargers, coloring supplies, magazines, manuals and books.
But it’s the selection of several dozen cameras on display that will be of most interest to photo enthusiasts. They were to me anyway, beginning with the sublime Leica III that dates back to 1933 and the wooden studio camera from the late 19th century, seemingly set up for an afternoon portrait sitting. I’d also never seen an Alfa viewfinder before, a locally made 35mm alloy cast compact from the early 1960s.
While they’re commonly found in Europe, the Russian-made Zorki rangefinder models –the Soviet Union’s answer to Leica– will be of particular interest to non-Europeans. I have a Zorki 5 and enjoy finding its forebears.
Another favorite? The aptly-named Traveller, a plastic Rolleiflex imitation –a toy in comparison– manufactured in Hong Kong from 1955 to 1965.
A virtual tour of the space is here; seven more photos below. Please note that all these photos were snapped with my Samsung Galaxy 4, whose performance is generally abysmal under low light conditions without a flash. My apologies in advance to these historical marvels.
The museum also boasts a growing collection of photographs by local photographers, and regularly hosts exhibits by Polish and international artists.
Museum of Photography in Bydgoszcz
Królowej Jadwigi 14
85-231 Bydgoszcz, Poland
+48 52 567 00 07
+48 52 567 00 57
Hours: 11:00-17:00 Tues-Fri, 11:00-15:00 Sat
Admission: 5 PLN
Marginally related: Warsaw Photo-optical Works – a history of Polish photographic cameras on Lenstip.com. A detailed history of the Warsaw Photo-optical Works (WZFO), a post-World War II manufacturer of professional and consumer cameras.