Eduards Kraucs and Kegums
The construction of Kegums Hydropower Plant was one of the most vivid events in Latvia in the 1930s, which was enthusiastically welcomed by the entire society, reasonably recognising it as a possibility of rapid economic growth, electrification of Latvian regions and improvement of the population’s living standards. The construction of Kegums Power Plant was an excellent opportunity for Eduards Kraucs to assert his national self-awareness and the essence of a documentarist. E. Kraucs realised the importance of documenting the construction of the power plant. On 19 August 1936, he wrote the following to Ludvigs Ēķis, Minister for Finance of the Republic of Latvia:
19 August 1936
"The time when our government is launching a grandiose building project – the construction of Kegums Power Plant – is the period that must be made unforgettable also for our future generations. I want to capture the process of this grand construction in a film where the progress of this big job should be followed from the first strokes of shovels to its completion (..) how the source of energy and power grows and rises on the rocky banks of the Daugava River."
Latvian State Historical Archives, fund 7317, description 1, case 68, page 424
E. Kraucs decided to immortalise the construction of Kegums Hydropower Plant not only on the cinema film, but also in photographs. The construction inspectorate of Kegums Power Plant supported Kraucs’ proposal and in August 1936 the photographer started work, going to the power plant construction site on the bank of the Daugava River every week and carrying out the monographic documentation of the events witnessed. The construction inspectorate of Kegums Power Plant selected and purchased the best photographs by Kraucs and a wide range of his glass plate negatives for creating the archive of the power plant.
Glass photo plates
In the 1930s, narrow-gauge film cameras were also available, and they were used by building engineers at Kegums Hydropower Plant to photograph the construction of the power plant. However, Eduards Kraucs took photos of Kegums Power Plant on glass photo plates, using a special camera. Although it seemed like a common thing at that time, it was definitely not easy to operate such a camera on a building site. But E. Kraucs did not go the easiest way. As a professional, he was well aware of the quality of glass plate photo negatives. Even today, photographers and photography historians consider glass plate negatives as a quality benchmark for photography. With a camera on a stand, E. Kraucs walked around the power plant construction site and created a truly amazing photo story with a multi-layered message and with the form and composition appropriate to the content, demonstrating superb professional performance. Both when photographing and filming the construction of Kegums Power Plant, E. Kraucs created the opportunity to look at the construction process from his own – special perspective, focusing on a single object or its part, highlighting significant technological elements and allowing the viewer to admire the extensive general views of the structure.
11 000 photographs
Thanks to Kraucs’ enthusiasm, the inhabitants of Latvia were kept informed about the construction of Kegums Power Plant from August 1936 to the Soviet occupation in 1940 through both newsreels and photographs, which were regularly published in newspapers and magazines issued in Latvia. The overall Kegums Power Plant’s documentary heritage created by Kraucs is quite impressive: the Museum of Energy of Latvenergo stores 1,736 glass plate photo negatives and 53 photo albums containing a total of almost 11,000 photographs. By creating a unique documentary message about the evolvement of the ambitious construction project, Eduards Kraucs has provided today’s viewers with an excellent opportunity to see the moments captured on photos and get insight into how Kegums Hydropower Plant, the 20th century’s most significant industrial facility in the Baltics, came into being.