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Exhibition Estonia in Picture. Photographer Carl Sarap (1893 – 1942)

Song Festival MuseumNäitus
Time of occurrence: 02.03.2023-28.10.2023
Place of occurrence: Song Celebration Museum, Jaama 14

Images that take us back to the Estonia, Tartu and people before World War II.

On 2nd March, an exhibition of historic photographs, Estonia in Picture. Photographer Carl Sarap will be opened at the Song Celebration Museum. The exhibition allows us to see Tartu, South Estonia and Estonian song celebrations through the lens of Carl Sarap’s camera, and also gives a brief overview of the photographer’s life.

Carl Sarap (4 March 1893 – 5 November 1942) was a publisher and one of the best-known photographers in Estonia in the late 1930s. He came to Tartu to study at Hugo Treffner Gymnasium, his studies at the University of Tartu were disrupted by World War I. During his time in Tartu, Sarap belonged to Estonia’s cultural elite – he was the head of the bookshop and publishing house Odamees – Carl Sarap, which was founded in 1918 and published, among other literature, the works of the writers who had belonged to the Siuru literary movement, and the illustrated cultural magazine Odamees. In 1929, after personal bankruptcy and his family having fallen apart, he moved to Virumaa and in a very short time worked his way up to become a renowned and prolific photographer, despite being self-taught.

From 1929, Carl Sarap worked in Rakvere, in his partner Johanna Triefeldt’s book business, where the photography department was Carl’s responsibility. Until 1940, in the summers, he and Johanna went on photo tours around Estonia, which also took Sarap to his former home town of Tartu several times. During these trips, they photographed views of fields, villages and towns, industries and new buildings, people, natural and historical sights. The photos were turned into postcards and also appeared in print elsewhere.

Sarap’s photographic legacy lies in one of the most voluminous photo collections depicting Estonia in the 1930s. The photos have extensive coverage and are at the same time at a very high aesthetical and technical level. Carl Sarap’s photographs and negatives are preserved in several Estonian museums, memory institutions and private collections, the biggest collections being those of the Museums of Virumaa Foundation and Tallinn City Museum.

The exhibition was put together in cooperation with the Museum of Photography and is dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Carl Sarap.

Carl Sarap’s works shown at the exhibition are part of the collections of the Tallinn City Museum and the Museums of Virumaa Foundation, as well as the private collection of Tiit Pruuli.

Curators: Kristiina Tael-Annuk (Song Celebration Museum / Tartu City Museum), Merilis Roosalu (Museum of Photography / Tallinn City Museum) and Marje Eelma (Tuumik Stuudio)

Design and graphic design: Marje Eelma (Tuumik Stuudio)

Special thanks to: Museum of Photography / Tallinn City Museum, Tartu Art Museum, University of Tartu Museum, Eevi Kärdla and Tiit Pruuli

At the Song Celebration Museum, you can purchase the book Estonia in Picture. Photographer Carl Sarap, which was compiled by Merilis Roosalu, Senior Collection Manager at the Museum of Photography and designed by Marje Eelma at Tuumik Stuudio.

The book, which has recently made the list of 25 most beautiful Estonian books of 2022, presents a selection of Carl Sarap’s photographs taken in all Estonian counties in the summers of the 1930s.

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