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Bojan Adamič – Between Photography and Film

Bojan Adamič is one of the most celebrated Slovenian composers of the 20th century popular music. He was also a keen amateur photographer and filmmaker. Preserved at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia are over 60 of his films; recently Adamič's daughter Alenka donated to us also 1559 of his slides which are very diverse in content. Taking into account the number and excellent quality of the donated slides, we decided to arrange them in a separate archival collection, and some examples of Adamič's photographic creativity are presented here as this month's archivalia.

People dancing in the street.

Slide by Bojan Adamič. SI AS 1467, Zbirka diapozitivov Bojana Adamiča. | Author Arhiv Republike Slovenije

Between Photography and Film

Bojan Adamič is one of the most celebrated Slovenian composers of the 20th century popular music. For all his achievements he was given the nickname the Master. He was a conductor of many orchestras, composer of music for numerous Slovenian popular songs, and his music compositions left a lasting impression on a number of Slovenian films as well. A man of many talents – an athlete, partisan, director, etc. -, Adamič was also a keen amateur photographer and filmmaker. This month's archivalia offers a quick look at his work in photography and film and explains how this valuable cultural heritage, which acquired the status of archival material, eventually came to be preserved at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, enriching our archival holdings.

In 2012, to mark the centenary of Adamič's birth, Slovenian Film Archives at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia collaborated with the Slovenian Cinematheque in preparing a comprehensive retrospective of the films that Adamič composed music for. He wrote music for more than 240 Slovenian and foreign films, which is impressive even in today's terms. Adamič was first drawn to composing film music upon the suggestion of two Slovenian filmmakers, Dušan Povh and France Štiglic. His first piece of film music was composed as early as 1946 for Povh's documentary titled Maščujmo in kaznujmo. That same year he received an award at the Venice Film Festival for his music composition in France Štiglic's documentary film Mladina gradi. He composed music for some of the Slovenian feature films as well, among whom particularly important are film classics such as Vesna, Kekčeve ukane, Samorastniki and Butnskala.    

The year 2012 was important also in terms of establishing connection between the family of the late composer and the Slovenian Film Archives. Namely, this was the year when the Museum of Slovenian Film Actors in Divača organized an event to pay tribute to the Slovenian actress Špela Rozin, which turned out to be an opportunity for the meeting between Alenka Adamič, daughter of Bojan Adamič, and the late Janez Meglič, a ballet dancer, film amateur and restorer, and a long term close friend and associate of the Slovenian Film Archives. During their conversation Alenka Adamič mentioned that her father also made films, which up until that point had not been a general knowledge. Meglič then examined the films and transferred and converted the films, shot mostly on 8mm film tape, into digital from. In April 2013, Alenka Adamič donated all 62 of her father's films into the custody of the Slovenian Film Archives at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia to be included in our Collection of films (SI AS 1086).

His films appear to be very diverse in content. Shot during his travels abroad, they bring documentary footage of Rio de Janeiro, Cannes, Guinea, Poland, Canada, the Netherlands, Venice, Berlin, Monte Carlo and Moscow. Films depicting his family are frequent as well. He also documented a tour of radio orchestra across Poland, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, ski jumping competition in Šiška and Planica, jazz festival and musical festival Slovenska popevka, skydiving festival, and world championships in table tennis, figure skating and ice hockey in Ljubljana. Also interesting are his film recordings of the carnival festival in Ptuj and folk festival in Zagreb. The scenes from Ptuj and Zagreb are featured also in some of his slides.

Apart from his film camera, a constant companion of Bojan Adamič was also his camera for photography, the infamous Hasselblad, a legendary camera of exceptional quality which due to its high price only few could afford. This was the camera Adamič used to create his unique photographic opus, a relationship explored in more detail in the film by Janez and Gregor Meglič titled Bojan Adamič and Hasselblad.

Last year Alenka Adamič decided to donate to the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia the collection of her fathers' slides as well, for which we are very grateful. The actual transfer and signing of the contact for the donation of 1559 slides, 519 small-size (24 x 36 mm) and 1040 large-size slides (60 x 60 mm), took place recently, on February 25, 2020.

Although the contents of the acquired slides have been roughly described, we still need to create a more detailed description of the collection to make it even more accessible to our users. Most of the slides show images from the folk festival in Zagreb, followed by images of Kurents and other carnival masks. Among the variety of images, we should point out those taken at the skydiving festival, jazz festival, ice hockey and gymnastics world championship, and those with elements taken from nature. Adamič was drawn to modern photographic methods and techniques, he used double exposure, »fish-eye« effects, and experimented with combination of different lenses, objectives and filters. Upon donation of the collection of slides it was agreed that the Archives of RS would digitize the donated slides and prepare an exhibition on Kurents and other carnival masks which is to be held in the Archive's park during Carnival in February 2021.

Based on the number and excellent quality of slides, we decided to arrange them in a separate archival collection. Eight items from this collection of Bojan Adamič's photographic creativity from 1970s and 1980s are presented here as this month's archivalia.

This acquisition was actually our second case of a large number of slides being transferred into archives. Namely, years ago a valuable collection of slides created by the Slovenian painter Božidar Jakac was also placed in our custody. Love of photography was something both artists had in common and we at the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia, one of Slovenia's central cultural institutions in charge of preserving the »genome of the nation«, consider it an honour that our vast archival holdings include also the valuable slides and films created by these two great artists.

In 2012, a special website was created to commemorate the centenary of the Master's birth. It is edited by Alenka Adamič and it contains a concise information about his films: “Bojan Adamič shot films exclusively for himself and for his family. There is not a single mentioning of his film/directorial creative work in any of his interviews. It is therefore safe to say that he was working purely to please his artistic soul. He shot films and directed them according to his own inspiration and for his own satisfaction, and his editing reveals his own particular and specific view of directing.”

Lojz Tršan