Negatives are to be Stored: Photographs by Stefania Gurdowa

Photographs by Stefania Gurdowa

Eleven years ago, at the attic of a tenement-house in the town of Dębica, there were discovered over a thousand of damaged glass negative plates. Most of them depicted expressive portraits of anonymous individuals living in the neighborhood in the ’20s and ’30s.

One could tell hardly anything about an author of the plates at the first look, although there was her name on them. Yet deepened research of the group of photographers gathered in and Imago Mundi Foundation shed more light upon the person which appeared to be unusual: an independent, consequent, gifted woman whose workshop remained far away from grand cultural capitols and who performed her art while taking ordered portraits of her neighbors: shopkeepers, craftsmen, peasants, priests and Jews.

Gurdowa, the distinguished artist, died in 1968. The flat was cleaned after she had passed. The immense photographic archive was disposed and wasted. Only a fracture of her art lasted, together with a question without an answer: who hid a collection of glass plates behind a wall in the attic of her workshop in Dębica? Perhaps was it her own decision to preserve them this way. As a responsible professional she must have obviously been aware of the rule that “negatives are to be stored”.

The “Stefania Gurdowa: Negatives are to be stored” project website:

The book is available for purchase at