Pitchers drying on a fence


Title: Pitchers drying on a fence
Author:  Wojciech Buyko (1882 – 1942)
Year taken: sometime between 1918 and 1939
Kept at: Walery Rzewuski Museum of History of Photography in Krakow

The photograph is a horizontal rectangle, sized 14.8 cm high by 18.5 cm wide. The reverse is blank, its edges slightly worn. The entire image is composed of cross-faded shades of grey.

In the foreground, the centre of the composition features a fragment of a wooden fence. The background for the still life over the entire area of the photo is grassy ground. The depth of the image can be clearly seen at the bottom. Above, the terrain seems slightly elevated, which may just be an illusion caused the interplay of light and shadow.

The fence is made of ten irregular, wooden pickets with pointed tips, placed in the ground one next to another. There is open space between them. The photograph was taken at a slight angle, so the pickets appear longer on the left and shorter on the right side of the image. The pickets are linked by a horizontal staff, more or less at the height of one third of the length of a picket from the top of the fence.

A bulbous pitcher made of clay is hanging on the third picket from the left, with its bottom up. The fourth picket is vacant. The fifth and seventh pickets each have a pitcher placed on them, both with their narrow handles turned to the left. The fourth pitcher is hanging on the ninth picket with its mouth facing the viewer. The pitchers are identical, with bulbous bellies and plain walls.

The photograph was taken on a sunny summer day. The interplay of light and shadow as well as tonal variations highlight its idyllic nature.

The photographer captured the homestead fence from the road. Housewives often used fences to dry pots and laundry or air bed linen and clothes. The state of the fence was an indication of the wellbeing of the household and thriftiness of its owner, as well as his attitude toward cleanliness.
There are various types of fences and their construction, named accordingly. The fence shown in the photograph resembles the type most frequently found in the region of Polesie, known as the palisade.

The image is an example of pictorial photography, popular in post-1900 Europe, and popular in Poland during the interwar period. Pictorialists were inspired by Impressionist paintings. One of those pictorial photographers was Wojciech Buyko, who worked in the noble techniques and was a member of the Polish and Vilnius Photo Clubs as well as president of the Vilnius Society of Photography Enthusiasts.