Stefan Arczyński: A master of photography spanning two cultures

Wrocław, 1983
Wrocław, 1983
His time in Germany
 

Stefan Arczyński was born in Essen on 31 July 1916 as the third child of Wiktor Arczyński (1879-1940) and Helena (1889-1918), née Adamska. The family hailed from what was at the time the German province of Poznań and shared the same fate as thousands of Poles who, around the turn of the 20th century, emigrated from the rural part of the region annexed by Prussia to the industrial areas of West Germany, to the Rhineland and to Westphalia to look for work. 

Stefan’s father was originally from Solec Kujawski. Around 1900, he found a job in the  administration department of the Krupp steelworks in Essen. His mother came from Mogilno in Greater Poland. In a photo taken in Gniezno in 1907, we can see a young woman in a fashionable white dress with a boa around her shoulders. Her pretty, round face is animated by a slight smile. Wiktor and Helena are married in 1908. Their children Tadeusz and Helena are born shortly afterwards. The Arczyńskis held firm to their Polish heritage, Polish traditions and Polish language and kept in touch with their family that had remained in the East. Wiktor was involved in various Polish organisations and after the First World War was also active in the Union of Poles in Germany

Following the premature death of the mother, who passed away only two years after the birth of her youngest son Stefan, the father was left to bring up the children. A photo from this time, taken in Essen in 1919, shows him with his children. The family is in festive dress and gathered around a small round table. The father in a dark suit has his arm around the small, long-haired Stefan whose two older siblings are standing on the other side of the little table. They all seem relaxed as they look into the lens, the children are smiling a little. To maintain their ties with their home country, the father regularly sends the young Arczyńskis to their family in Poland during the holidays. Stefan’s brother did his A-levels in Poland although he went through the school system in Germany. He then studied at the Politechnika Gdańska (Gdansk Technical University), took on Polish citizenship and moved to Upper Silesia to work as a chemist.

Stefan Arczyński discovers his love for photography in his youth. His first photographs were taken in the 1930s and he was predominantly interested in urban architecture and sport. When he attended sporting competitions and games, his camera was always with him. In 1934, after finishing secondary school, he trained in a photographic studio in his home town of Essen, where, over the next three years, he learnt the basics of the trade. During this time, he worked as a wedding photographer taking portraits and group pictures. But because he wasn’t interested in using his camera to just capture the life stages of middle-class families, he worked on refining his own style. 

At this time, photography in Germany was already very popular and as such was also well developed, although the influence of modern art movements in 1933 had been significantly restricted. However, the young Arczyński was certainly influenced by role models, such as Erich Salomon, Karl Blossfeld and August Sander. But the young man was trying to find his own language in photography by combining the aesthetic of the “new reality” (influenced by Bauhaus, by the Deutscher Werkbund (German Association of Craftsmen) and others) with a certain amount of admiration for the gigantism of many themes. 

He was soon able to put his abilities to good use when he photographed the eleventh summer Olympic Games in Berlin in August 1936. One of these pictures shows Helen Stephens, who, at that time, was the fastest runner in the world. From this moment on, portraits become a favourite means of expression for him.

Mediathek
  • Świdnicka Street in Wrocław, 1953.

    Świdnicka Street in Wrocław, 1953

    Świdnicka Street in Wrocław, 1953.
  • The Great Armory and Straw Tower at the Coal Market in Gdańsk, 1953.

    The Great Armory and Straw Tower at the Coal Market in Gdańsk, 1953

    The Great Armory and Straw Tower at the Coal Market in Gdańsk, 1953.
  • Fragments of rubble in front of the west tower of Wroclaw Cathedral, 1953

    Fragments of rubble in front of the west tower of Wroclaw Cathedral, 1953

    Fragments of rubble in front of the west tower of Wroclaw Cathedral, 1953.
  • Market Square in Wrocław, 1954.

    Market Square in Wrocław, 1954

    Market Square in Wrocław, 1954.
  • Choir concert in Annaberg, 1954.

    Choir concert in Annaberg, 1954

    Choir concert in Annaberg, 1954.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310133

     

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    St. Matthew's Church in Wrocław, 1954.

    St. Matthew's Church in Wrocław, 1954

    St. Matthew's Church in Wrocław, 1954.
  • Wrocław Cathedral, 1955.

    Wrocław Cathedral, 1955

    Wrocław Cathedral, 1955.
  • Excavator in a construction site in front of the city hall of Wrocław, 1955.

    Excavator in a construction site in front of the city hall of Wrocław, 1955

    Excavator in a construction site in front of the city hall of Wrocław, 1955.
  • Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, 1955.

    Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, 1955.

    Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw, 1955.
  • Destroyed area in the old city centre of Wrocław, undated (after 1945).

    Destroyed area in the old city centre of Wrocław, undated (after 1945)

    Destroyed area in the old city centre of Wrocław, undated (after 1945).
  • City hall at the Market Square in Wrocław with war ruins, 1955.

    City hall at the Market Square in Wrocław with war ruins, 1955

    City hall at the Market Square in Wrocław with war ruins, 1955.
  • War ruins on the Oławska-Street in Wrocław, 1955.

    War ruins on the Oławska-Street in Wrocław, 1955

    War ruins on the Oławska-Street in Wrocław, 1955.
  • The area of Świdnicka-Street and Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego-Street in Wrocław, 1955.

    The area of Świdnicka-Street and Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego-Street in Wrocław, 1955

    The area of Świdnicka-Street and Marszałka Józefa Piłsudskiego-Street in Wrocław, 1955.
  • Girl with geese in Zduny with a windmill in the background, 1956.

    Girl with geese in Zduny with a windmill in the background, 1956

    Girl with geese in Zduny with a windmill in the background, 1956.
  • The Marketplace Nowy Targ in Wrocław, 1957.

    The Marketplace Nowy Targ in Wrocław, 1957

    The Marketplace Nowy Targ in Wrocław, 1957.
  • Street view of Wroclaw with town houses in the former Krullstraße, 1958.

    Street view of Wroclaw with town houses in the former Krullstraße, 1958

    Street view of Wroclaw with town houses in the former Krullstraße, 1958.
  • Former St. Anna Hospital in Wrocław, 1958.

    Former St. Anna Hospital in Wrocław, 1958

    Former St. Anna Hospital in Wrocław, 1958.
  • Ruins of the Church of St. Catherine in Wrocław, 1958

    Ruins of the Church of St. Catherine in Wrocław, 1958

    Ruins of the Church of St. Catherine in Wrocław, 1958.
  • Row of houses with war damage on Białoskórnicza Street in Wrocław, 1958.

    Row of houses with war damage on Białoskórnicza Street in Wrocław, 1958

    Row of houses with war damage on Białoskórnicza Street in Wrocław, 1958.
  • Square Tadeusz Kościuszko in Wrocław, 1953.

    Square Tadeusz Kościuszko in Wrocław, 1953

    Square Tadeusz Kościuszko in Wrocław, 1953.
  • Wrocław Cathedral Bridge, 1961

    Wrocław Cathedral Bridge, 1961

    Wrocław Cathedral Bridge, 1961.
  • Tenement house "Jaś" on the Wrocław Market Square, 1961.

    Tenement house "Jaś" on the Wrocław Market Square, 1961

    Tenement house "Jaś" on the Wrocław Market Square, 1961.
  • Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" at the Wrocław Market Square, 1961.

    Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" at the Wrocław Market Square, 1961

    Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" at the Wrocław Market Square, 1961.
  • Square Nowy Targ in Wrocław with war ruins, 1961.

    Square Nowy Targ in Wrocław with war ruins, 1961

    Square Nowy Targ in Wrocław with war ruins, 1961.
  • Scaffolder at the Turów lignite-fired power station in Turoszów, 1962.

    Scaffolder at the Turów lignite-fired power station in Turoszów, 1962

    Scaffolder at the Turów lignite-fired power station in Turoszów, 1962.
  • Scaffolder at the Turów lignite-fired power station in Turoszów, 1962.

    Scaffolder at the Turów lignite-fired power station in Turoszów, 1962

    Scaffolder at the Turów lignite-fired power station in Turoszów, 1962.
  • Wawel Kraków, 1963.

    Wawel Kraków, 1963

    Wawel Kraków, 1963.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310077

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    View of Kraków, 1963

    View of Kraków, 1963

    View of Kraków, 1963
  • Field workers during the potato harvest at Piwniczna, 1963.

    Field workers during the potato harvest at Piwniczna, 1963

    Field workers during the potato harvest at Piwniczna, 1963.
  • Women working in the field during potato harvesting near Piwniczna, 1963.

    Women working in the field during potato harvesting near Piwniczna, 1963

    Women working in the field during potato harvesting near Piwniczna, 1963.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310080

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    St. Mary's Basilica at Main Market Square in Kraków, 1963.

    St. Mary's Basilica at Main Market Square in Kraków, 1963

    St. Mary's Basilica at Main Market Square in Kraków, 1963.
  • Residential and commercial building on Piłsudski Street in Wrocław, 1965.

    Residential and commercial building on Piłsudski Street in Wrocław, 1965

    Residential and commercial building on Piłsudski Street in Wrocław, 1965.
  • Wrocław Exhibition Grounds, 1966

    Wrocław Exhibition Grounds, 1966

    Wrocław Exhibition Grounds, 1966.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310084

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    The Barasch Brothers' Department Store at the market square in Wrocław, 1966.

    The Barasch Brothers' Department Store at the market square in Wrocław, 1966.

    The Barasch Brothers' Department Store at the market square in Wrocław, 1966.
  • Wrocław Gate in Oleśnice, 1966.

    Wrocław Gate in Oleśnice, 1966

    Wrocław Gate in Oleśnice, 1966.
  • Highway near Wrocław, 1967.

    Highway near Wrocław, 1967

    Highway near Wrocław, 1967.
  • High-rise buildings of a housing estate in Gajowice (Wrocław), 1967.

    High-rise buildings of a housing estate in Gajowice (Wrocław), 1967

    High-rise buildings of a housing estate in Gajowice (Wrocław), 1967.
  • Wroclaw City Hall, undated (after 1953)

    Wroclaw City Hall, undated (after 1953)

    Wroclaw City Hall, undated (after 1953)
  • The Oder at the Grunwald Bridge in Wrocław, undated (after 1945).

    The Oder at the Grunwald Bridge in Wrocław, undated (after 1945)

    The Oder at the Grunwald Bridge in Wrocław, undated (after 1945).
  • Plac Solny in Wrocław, right - high-rise building of the Sparkasse, undated (after 1945).

    Plac Solny in Wrocław, right - high-rise building of the Sparkasse, undated (after 1945)

    Plac Solny in Wrocław, right - high-rise building of the Sparkasse, undated (after 1945).
  • Inner courtyard of the old city prison in Wrocław, 1981.

    Inner courtyard of the old city prison in Wrocław, 1981

    Inner courtyard of the old city prison in Wrocław, 1981.
  • Wrocław Market Square with the City Hall, undated (after 1945).

    Wrocław Market Square with the City Hall, undated (after 1945)

    Wrocław Market Square with the City Hall, undated (after 1945).
  • North side of the Wrocław Market Square, undated (after 1945).

    North side of the Wrocław Market Square, undated (after 1945)

    North side of the Wrocław Market Square, undated (after 1945).
  • University of Wrocław, undated (after 1945).

    University of Wrocław, undated (after 1945)

    University of Wrocław, undated (after 1945).
  • Świdnicka-Street in Wrocław, undated (after 1945).

    Świdnicka-Street in Wrocław, undated (after 1945)

    Świdnicka-Street in Wrocław, undated (after 1945).
  • Housing estate in Wrocław, 1969.

    Housing estate in Wrocław, 1969

    Housing estate in Wrocław, 1969.
  • Ossolineum Breslau, 1969

    Ossolineum Breslau, 1969

    Ossolineum Breslau, 1969.
  • Exhibition room in the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław, 1969.

    Exhibition room in the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław, 1969

    Exhibition room in the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław, 1969.
  • The Oder at the seat building of the Lower-Silesia Voivodship authorities in Wrocław, 1970.

    The Oder at the seat building of the Lower-Silesia Voivodship authorities in Wrocław, 1970

    The Oder at the seat building of the Lower-Silesia Voivodship authorities in Wrocław, 1970.
  • The Pagoda of the Japanese Garden in the Szczytnicki Park in Wroclaw, 1971.

    The Pagoda of the Japanese Garden in the Szczytnicki Park in Wroclaw, 1971

    The Pagoda of the Japanese Garden in the Szczytnicki Park in Wroclaw, 1971.
  • Fencer Fountain of Wrocław, 1972.

    Fencer Fountain of Wrocław, 1972

    Fencer Fountain of Wrocław, 1972.
  • Square Nowy Targ in Wrocław, 1972.

    Square Nowy Targ in Wrocław, 1972

    Square Nowy Targ in Wrocław, 1972.
  • The Wrocław Market Hall at the Plac Nankiera, 1972.

    The Wrocław Market Hall at the Plac Nankiera, 1972

    The Wrocław Market Hall at the Plac Nankiera, 1972.
  • The Lutosławski Philharmonie in Wrocław, 1972.

    The Philharmonie in Wrocław, 1972

    The Philharmonie in Wrocław, 1972.
  • City view Wrocław, 1972.

    City view Wrocław, 1972.

    City view Wrocław, 1972.
  • Wrocław University, 1972.

    Wrocław University, 1972

    Wrocław University, 1972.
  • Kameleon Department Store in Wrocław, 1972

    Kameleon Department Store in Wrocław, 1972

    Kameleon Department Store in Wrocław, 1972.
  • Cathedral Island Wrocław, 1972

    Cathedral Island Wrocław, 1972

    Cathedral Island Wrocław, 1972.
  • City view Wrocław, 1973.

    City view Wrocław, 1973

    City view Wrocław, 1973.
  • Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" on the Wrocław Market Square, 1973.

    Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" on the Wrocław Market Square, 1973

    Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" on the Wrocław Market Square, 1973.
  • St. Adalbert Church, 1973

    St. Adalbert Church, 1973

    St. Adalbert Church, 1973.
  • Facade of the Dolnośląskie Centrum Medyczne DOLMED (Medical Center), 1977.

    Facade of the Dolnośląskie Centrum Medyczne DOLMED (Medical Center), 1977

    Facade of the Dolnośląskie Centrum Medyczne DOLMED (Medical Center), 1977.
  • Inner courtyard of the old city prison in Wrocław, 1981.

    Inner courtyard of the old city prison in Wrocław, 1981

    Inner courtyard of the old city prison in Wrocław, 1981.
  • High-rise building in Wroclaw, 1983.

    High-rise building in Wroclaw, 1983.

    High-rise building in Wroclaw, 1983.
  • Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" at the Wrocław Market Square, 1983.

    Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" at the Wrocław Market Square, 1983

    Tenement houses "Jaś i Małgosia" at the Wrocław Market Square, 1983.
  • The Ursuline convent in Wrocław, 1985

    The Ursuline convent in Wrocław, 1985

    The Ursuline convent in Wrocław, 1985.
  • High-rise building at Plac Grunwaldzki in Wrocław, 1986.

    High-rise building at Plac Grunwaldzki in Wrocław, 1986

    High-rise building at Plac Grunwaldzki in Wrocław, 1986.
  • Workers in front of a coke oven battery of the Victoria coal mine in Hermsdorf, 1986.

    Workers in front of a coke oven battery of the Victoria coal mine in Hermsdorf, 1986

    Workers in front of a coke oven battery of the Victoria coal mine in Hermsdorf, 1986.
  • A worker in front of a coke oven battery of the Victoria coal mine in Hermsdorf, 1986.

    A worker in front of a coke oven battery of the Victoria coal mine in Hermsdorf, 1986

    A worker in front of a coke oven battery of the Victoria coal mine in Hermsdorf, 1986.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310111

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    Archbishop's Palace in Wrocław, 1986.

    Archbishop's Palace in Wrocław, 1986.

    Archbishop's Palace in Wrocław, 1986.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310116

     

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    St. Martin's Church and Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew in Wrocław, 1986.

    St. Martin's Church and Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew in Wrocław, 1986

    St. Martin's Church and Collegiate Church of the Holy Cross and St. Bartholomew in Wrocław, 1986.
  • Gravestones in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Wrocław, 1986.

    Gravestones in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Wrocław, 1986

    Gravestones in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Wrocław, 1986.
  • Skyscrapers at Plac Grunwaldzki in Wrocław, 1987.

    Skyscrapers at Plac Grunwaldzki in Wrocław, 1987.

    Skyscrapers at Plac Grunwaldzki in Wrocław, 1987.
  • Street view Katowice with old and new buildings, 1987.

    Street view Katowice with old and new buildings, 1987

    Street view Katowice with old and new buildings, 1987.
  • Oriel window at Wroclaw City Hall, 1987.

    Oriel window at Wroclaw City Hall, 1987

    Oriel window at Wroclaw City Hall, 1987.
  • High-rise building of the Sparkasse on the Market Square in Wrocław, 1988.

    High-rise building of the Sparkasse on the Market Square in Wrocław, 1988

    High-rise building of the Sparkasse on the Market Square in Wrocław, 1988.
  • https://www.herder-institut.de/bildkatalog/iv/310115

     

    Copyright: Photograph: Stefan Arczyński. Source: Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung – Institut der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft'>
    Scaffolded tower of the St. Elizabeth's Church in Wrocław, 1988.

    Scaffolded tower of the St. Elizabeth's Church in Wrocław, 1988

    Scaffolded tower of the St. Elizabeth's Church in Wrocław, 1988.
  • Hotel "Panorama" in Grabiszyn (Wrocław), 1989

    Hotel "Panorama" in Grabiszyn (Wrocław), 1989

    Hotel "Panorama" in Grabiszyn (Wrocław), 1989.
  • Hotel "Orbis" in Wrocław, 1989.

    Hotel "Orbis" in Wrocław, 1989

    Hotel "Orbis" in Wrocław, 1989.
  • City view Wrocław, 1987.

    City view Wrocław, 1987

    City view Wrocław, 1987.
  • Snowy road near Wrocław, undated (after 1945).

    Snowy road near Wrocław, undated (after 1945)

    Snowy road near Wrocław, undated (after 1945).
  • Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow. Photographer unknown, 1956.

    Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow, 1956

    Stefan Arczyński (right) with a friend in Moscow. Photographer unknown, 1956.