Questions, comments or suggestions? email me at:
Don't miss out a chance to win in our monthly "Croatianicity" t-shirt draw!
As well as our monthly Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic fridge magnet give away!

petak, 17. veljače 2012.

Tošo Dabac & Photos Of 1930's Zagreb

This is not a Tošo Dabac photograph, but a photograph from the depression era in one of the American southern states which looked amusing. 

These old photographs from the streets of Zagreb during the 1930's immediately caught my attention when the link was passed on to me. I originally planned to just include a few photos, but ended up putting a little more info here than I had planned. I spent a couple of days checking out different sites that included photos of Tošo Dabac, from the 20's right up to his death in 1970. Lots of cool photos, in a variey of different styles, even portraits. Anyway, it was cool to find out that Croatia had it's own Robert Doisneau all along, taking photographs of Zagreb in the depression era 1920's and during the 30's. Some very interesting images of Zagreb from that time. I have some amateur photography in my background, and some of his photos I came across is the effect I usually was going for.  I was a big admirer of the works of Steichen, Steiglitz, Cariter-Bresson, Robert Doisneau and a bunch of others that used similar techniques. (This may partly explain why I'm not a mall food court, coffee shawp, sporto-bar n grill and especially downtown fucko-crowd hanger-a-rounder and such)

After dropping out of the Zagreb Faculty of Law during his sophomore year he was employed as a head of propaganda and movie translator in the "Fanamet", later obtaining the same position at “Metro Goldwyn Mayer”. His first exhibition was held in 1932, and since then he became completely dedicated to photography with exhibitions in Prague, Philadelphia, Lucerne, Antwerp, Vienna, Ljubljana, Frankfurt, Munich, New York and, of course, Zagreb, following one after the other. He won numerous awards and his status among the world’s colleagues was esteemed and cult. His greatest love was the city of Zagreb, whose sights were seen by no other before or after him in such beautiful way.

"Stockings" by Toso Dabac. Zagreb 1936.

Some of the images (If you disregard the different language billboards et all) look like they could have been photographed in parts of Boston, London, Paris or Chicago even. Some of the building even from Austro-Hungarian empire times pictured are still there today. Tošo Dabac also took a lot  of cool photographs from other parts of Croatia as well, all through his life. Like all the great European photographers from that era that used this realistic style, images can be of good times, and bad times, sometimes in the very same photo. (It was still the depression era) Also, there was an underlying  tense political situation that had been going on since 1918, however he concentrated on his vision, the everday person, and in this series of photographs, the daily activities of the 1930's "Zagrepčani".

He wasn't the only Croatian photographer doing similar projects either I found out. Đuro Janeković is another photographer who's work I liked. (As a sidenote, check out  my previous post about a famous French photographer/artist and her Croatian connection HERE.) All the basic info is below about who Tošo Dabac was, along with some more links and some of his photos I decided to add from this 1930's Zagreb series. I think Croatians, especially the city of Zagreb, owe a debt of gratitude to the work of Tošo Dabac. If it weren't for him and artists like him, all we would have these days are those typical, postcard, news story and touristy type photographs. Here we get to see scenes and the people from that time up close, doing their everyday real life things.

Although his favorite locations and subjects were in and around Zagreb, and he captured many moments from the brighter side of daily life, he also photographed the realism of the less happier times. The below images which consist mainly of 1930's moments in time, it must be remembered, were photographed in an era when there was plenty of persecution, intimidation and killings by the Belgrade political dictatorship against numerous Non-Serbs, especially against Croats found within this new hastily made up state. (See for more information) If he would have photographed everything he wanted, the heavy hand of dictatorship would not be far behind. Not all is what it seems, as was the case for it's whole existence.

Even still, his archive comprises almost 200.000 negatives and some 2000 vintage master prints. To view all the photos from this particular 1930's in Zagreb series, visit the Tošo Dabac website at

If by chance you plan on being in Zagreb anytime soon, then you can see more of the Tošo Dabac archive at the  Museum of Contemporary Art

Tošo Dabac


Related sources/images:


Official Tošo Dabac website:

Zagreb Photo Club/ Tošo Dabac award:

Similar photos to Tošo Dabac and Dora Maar:

In 1975, the Zagreb Photographic Club (Croatian: Fotoklub Zagreb) established an annual award given to Croatian photographers for highest achievements in the field. The Tošo Dabac Award has become a coveted prized of many Croatian photographers.

Tošo Dabac was a Croatian photographer, whose work largely focused on the streets of Zagreb between 1920 and his death in 1970. A contemporary of other famous European photographers of the time such as Robert Doisneau and Henri Cartier-Bresson, his photographs have been exhibited widely throughout the world.

Dabac’s work portrays the moments of daily life on the streets of Zagreb – people having conversations, commuting to work, walking their dogs, or shoveling snow. Photographing the same locations for decades, his work covers an array of human experiences within one city.

You can find more of his work here. Or, if you’re visiting Zagreb, stop by the Zagreb Museum of Contemporary Art to visit his archives in person.

Tošo Dabac: Dancers from the School of Nevenka Perko, Zagreb, 1934
Archive Tošo Dabac, Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb. More photos HERE.

Tošo Dabac, Life & Photographs, 1907 – 1970

Text Source:

Tošo Dabac, one of the most important and versatile Croatian photographers, winner of many awards and member of prestigious Croatian and international photographic associations, has had a huge influence on the development of Croatian photography. He spent most of his life in Zagreb, in an environment acknowledging the importance of the photographic image at a very early stage, in a city that organised the first international exhibition of art photography in 1910*.

His first achievements were recorded in the early 1930s, when Tošo Dabac started exhibiting intensively in Croatia and abroad. Thus, in 1933, he appeared in a jurored selection at the anthological exhibition Second Philadelphia International Salon of Photography, where he exhibited in the company of great photographers such as Margaret Bourke - White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Laszlo Moholy - Nagy and Paul Outerbridge. At that time, he was also a foreign correspondent for the Berlin, Paris and London news agencies, and attracted attention with his cycle of photographs, later called People on the Street, which brought him fame and remembrance.

In 1940 Dabac moved his studio to the historic place in 17 Ilica Street, which was soon to become a favourite venue among the artists and intellectuals of Zagreb in the 1950s and 1960s. This was the time of the Music Biennial, artistic group EXAT ‘51, the Zagreb Fair, and similar events, which made Zagreb an innovative and dynamic cultural spot in Europe.

Dabac continued to work here until his death in 1970, where the complete legacy of this great artist
is still kept today. What is characteristic of the work of Dabac, and what makes him different from most photographers of the same generation, is that in his work he was very much attached to his country, and apart from taking photos on his first big journey along the Mediterranean in 1932, he did not take photographs abroad. Love towards his country was reflected in all his work.

The Tošo Dabac Archive is currently an in situ art collection with almost 200 000 negatives, some 2000 vintage masterprints, valuable photographic equipment, library and hemerotecha. It represents one of the most complete collections of that kind in the world because it contains the complete works of Tošo Dabac. In addition to its artistic importance, the photographic collection of Tošo Dabac also has a huge documentary value because it bears witness to the history of Zagreb and Croatia. It includes various motifs, from portraits, art works and monuments, images of urban life to landscapes and folklore.

After Tošo’s death in 1970, the studio was renamed the Tošo Dabac Archive, and was maintained by his nephew and heir, Petar Dabac, a renowned photographer himself, who in 1980 established a gallery where he organised exhibitions and workshops of famous international artists. The collection has been open to experts both domestic and international, in different fields, who have often used the photographs of Tošo Dabac, recognising their artistic and historical value.

Note - I should make it clear that being a photographer during 2 dictatorial regimes, Tošo Dabac was of course forbidden under threat to his safety and profession from photographing events, people or subjects that was deemed counter revolutionary or that would put the central government in power in a bad light and/or increase world attention to the many human rights abuses against Croats in the Croatian lands and elsewhere. For instance as just one example, (seen above), one of the most blatant terrorist acts of the Belgrade regime against Croats took place in Senj on May 9, 1937. Serb gendarmes acting on behalf of the Serb dictator king, killed and wounded several young people just for simply displaying the Croatian flag and singing folk songs. (Extremist beastial actions like this increased from the very start of the newly put together country and then declared dictatorship in 1929, extremist scenes like this were actually not even seen during the centuries that the Croatian realms were a part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, on the contrary historic Croatian flags and symbolism of the Croatian lands, history and people was officially used and promoted in government, officially sanctioned and prescribed by law) The above picture was taken during the funeral mass of the killed at St. John’s Church in Gospic. More information HERE. (The Serbian Orthodox Church after 1918 took on the role and acted as a de facto national church of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, attempting to usurp and then impose it's policies in collusion through their dictator king and the central government as the only allowable church organization, this in a new and hastily made political entity that not even 1 person voted for nor was asked for their opinion) Many similar atrocities were committed against Croatian civilians, women, children and other Non-Serbs but then always hushed down, unreported and forbidden to discuss with repercussions being prison or death. A situation not much different from Czarist Russia or Stalin's Soviet Union in many ways. (video) Just some supplementary information from the era for the benefit of the reader.

All following images of Zagreb in the 1930's from:

In March 2006 the Archive was acquired by the City of Zagreb and passed on to the Museum of Contemporary Art for management. Since then an expertise has been taking place of this huge comprehensive collection, which yet needs to be given its rightful place in the history of world photography.

* “The 1st International Photographic Exhibition of the Croatian Art Society, opened February 10th 1910 in the Art Pavilion”, Marija Tonkovic, Outline of the History of Photography in Croatia, in The History of Photography in Croatia 1848-1951, MUO (Museum of Arts and Crafts), Zagreb, 1994.

1907 born on 18th May in Nova Raca, near Bjelovar, Croatia;

1917 moves with his family to Samobor,a small town near Zagreb; enroles in the Royal Classical Gymnasium in Zagreb;

1924 his first encounter with photography in the home of his schoolmate Ivica Sudnik in Samobor;

1925 Tošo’s oldest surviving photograph: a panorama of Samobor; starts reading law at Zagreb University;

1927 leaves the University; starts working at the Fanamet film distribution company in Zagreb as press agent and translator;

1928 when Fanamet closes down he transfers to the Zagreb Metro Goldwyn Mayer office on May 8. He works there until 1937; Edits the magazine Metro-Megafon;

1932 first participation at amateur photographic show in Ivanec, a small town in Croatian Zagorje; in 1933 and 1934 the Ivanec Photo gallery publishes a Croatian edition of Die Galerie, an international art photography review which at that time has editions in German, English, Danish and Italian;

1933 Exhibitions: Prague, Second International Photography Salon (also participating were Frantisek Drtikol and László Moholy-Nagy); Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Museum of Art, Second International Salon of Photography (also participating were Margaret Bourke-White, Henri Cartier-Bresson, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Outerbridge etc.); Beaumont Newhall wrote the foreword for the catalogue; Leicester, The Tenth Midland Salon of Photography; Lucerne, II internationale Kunstphotographische Ausstellung;

During the 1930's Tošo Dabac also did a introduced a series of photographs entitled "Bijeda" (Misery), which captured some of the contrasting lesser seen sides of depression era Zagreb.

1934-1936 exhibitions in Vienna, Ljubljana, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Boston, Zagreb; publishes photographic articles in newspapers;

1937 passes the practical and the theoretical part of his matriculation; the municipal authorities issue Dabac the permit to open his own studio; AFI (Assoziazione Fotografica Italiana), Turin, invites Tošo to become their member; marries Julia Grill, an operetta singer; Exhibitions: New York, Fourth International Salon, diploma for the photograph Road to the Guillotine (also participating Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White etc.); San Francisco, San Francisco Museum of Art, San Francisco Invitational Salon of International Photography (also participating Edward Steichen, Brassaï, Man Ray, Alexandar M. Rodchenko and Ansel Adams); Boston, Sixth International Salon, award for Life Philosopher;

The below 2 photos are of Zagreb in 1950, but decided to add them here anyway.

1938 recipient of two awards given by Camera Craft / Monthly Photographic Competition; travels in Italy; takes part in international exhibitions in Zagreb, Vienna, Antwerp, Lisbon etc.; reportage for the newspaper Vecer on People in the Street;

1939 Camera Craft award; Exhibitions: New York, American Museum of Natural History, Sixth International Salon of Photography, Centennial Exhibition (also participating Berenice Abbott, Dorothea Lange, Man Ray, Edward Weston etc.);

1940 Dr Van de Wyer proposes Dabac for corresponding member of CREPSA (Cercle Royal d’Etudes Photographique et Scientifique d’Anvers); rents studio premises in Ilica 17, where his archives are now kept;

1941 his photograph published on the cover of Die Fotografische Rundschau, Berlin, which also includes a series of photographs from Croatia;

1943 becomes member of the People’s Liberation Front and sends photographic material to the Partisans;

1946 CREPSA invites him to renew his honorary membership; spends one month working in Istria writing an interesting diary;

1947 becomes a member of ULUH (Association of Croatian Artists);

1948 Boston, First Prize, American Photography;

1950 takes part in international exhibitions (Bern, Rio de Janeiro, etc.); gives lectures for amateurs at Fotoklub Zagreb;

1951 recipient of four Popular Photography awards in New York; Camera magazine diploma, Lucerne; Yugoslav Photo-Union elects him Master of Photography; phototographic trip throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina;

1952 Exhibitions: Lucerne, Welt-Ausstellung der Photographie (also participating were Magnum Photographers, Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Bill Brandt, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, André Kertész etc.); takes part in international exhibitions in Luxembourg, London, Amsterdam, Belgrade etc.;

1953 Exhibitions: Zagreb, Architect’s Society, one-man show to celebrate 25 years of professional activity; Pula, one-man show; First prize in Popular Photography competition, New York; elected active member of Photographic Society of America;

1954-1955 Photographs the sights of Zagreb, Dubrovnik Summer Festival, Montenegro, Macedonia;

1956 nominated member of artistic commission of FIAP (Commission Artistique);

1959 works for Albert Müller Verlag, Zürich and Hanns Reich Verlag, Munich;

1960 works for Encyclopaedia Britannica, New York/London; Exhibitions: Munich, International Salon of Photography Das menschliche Antlitz Europas (also participating Edward Steichen, Robert Capa, Werner Bischof, Brassaï, Edouard Boubat, Ernst Haas, David Seymour etc.);

1961 recipient of the City of Zagreb Award; nominated by FIAP for Honoraire Excellence FIAP;

1962 Belgrade, one-man show;

1963 Karel Pawek invites Dabac to contribute photographs to the World Exhibition of Photography organized by Stern magazine in 1964;

1964 Sofia, one- man show;

1967 receives the annual Vladimir Nazor Award given by the Republic of Croatia for his photographs of Bogumil Tombstones; Annual photography award and Life Achievement Diploma given by Yugoslav Photography Union; photographs of recent post-war architecture;

1968 Zagreb, Arts and Crafts Museum, Retrospective Exhibition (over 300 exhibits); works for Thames & Hudson, Atlantis Verlag etc.;

1969 one-man shows in: Zagreb, Art Pavilion, Umjetnost stecaka (The Art of Bogumil Thombstones), Split, Trogir and Ingelheim;

1970 dies, May 9 in Zagreb.

I decided to throw in this more recent photo of downtown Zagreb at Ban Jelačić Square (Trg bana Josipa Jelačića/Viceroy Josip Jelačić Square) to show the difference in the downtown core from the 1930's.  These days you won't find any vehicles at this central meeting point in Zagreb at all, except for the trams that will connect you to other parts of the city. (The statue of Ban Josip Jelačić in the below photo is just right of center)

 © Nikola Marušić. Tošo Dabac, 1962

Featured post

And The Croatian City To Be A European Capital of Culture In 2020 Will Be...(Drum Roll).....Rijeka

Yep, I know it's still 2 years away and I already covered this topic last year when it was announced, but I added a few extra ima...