“Grandfather Lantern” and a Photographic Pioneer

I recently came across an article from the Uzbek Academy of the Arts magazine about the first Uzbek photographer and his Mennonite mentor. There are some great photos in the article, and it discusses a bit about Divanov’s relationship with Wilhelm Penner, the Mennonite teacher at Ak Metchet. Check out Through the Desert Goes Our Journey to see some of his motion picture work (the only images of a Silk Road kingdom before the Soviet era). Here is an excerpt and a link from the article:

Khudaibergen Divanov, the founder of the national art of photography and documentary cinema, was born in Khorezm in 1879 in the family of a court secretary Nurmuhammad Divani who was close to the Khan of Khiva Seyeed Muhammad Rahim II, an enlightened man who wrote euphonious poetry under the pen-name Firuz and set up the first national lithography in the territory of modern Uzbekistan.

It is not surprising that many 19th century technological innovations were embraced in his milieu. It so happened that Divanov, an inquisitive boy, participated in a photo session conducted by someone called Wilhelm Penner, a German from the settlement of Mennonite migrants located near Khiva.

This enthusiast of a then innovative art of photography was named Panor-buva (The Lantern Grandpa) by local people for his bulky camera. Penner excited young Khudaibergen’s interest in the very process of taking photographs, developing glass negatives and printing pictures. The boy quickly mastered all these complex technological operations and learned to make photographs with a German ZOT camera he received as a gift.

Read the rest here: Sa’nat Magazine