Tartu Ülikooli esimene koosseisuline fotograaf Elmar Kald. Elmar Kald, the First Photographer in Ordinary at the University of Tartu


  • Tullio Ilomets
  • Kaire-Lea Pihlap




Elmar Kald was the first professional photographer in ordinary at the University of Tartu in 27.09.1944–30.04.1948. After he left, the University’s film and photography laboratory was created in 1949.

The overview of Kald’s life is based on the materials in the University of Tartu archive, the Estonian Literary Museum and the University of Tartu Museum. Kald’s negatives and archive were donated to the University of Tartu Museum by Toomas Kraus (1968–2013) via Indrek Ilomets in 2007.

Elmar Kald was born on 22 January 1898 in Mehikoorma into the family of primary school teacher Daniel Kaldt (1871–1953). He studied in the Võõpsu primary school and the Russian-language Alexander’s Gymnasium in Tartu (1910–1915). He went to the University of Tartu as an auditor to complement his education in 1920 but did not follow through with this.

In 1921 Kald married a piano teacher Ida Wilhelmine Schwalbe (1901–1980) in Tartu. They had a son, Taevo (1926–2003). Kald’s home and studio were in Tartu, at Kloostri 9. Elmar Kald died on 29 September 1969 in Tartu and was buried at the Raadi cemetery on 4 October the same year.

Kald started out as a photographer in 1913 (at 15 years old), and he was probably self-taught, but also practiced with Johannes Pääsuke, founder of the Estonian National Museum’s photography archive and the first Estonian filmmaker, and was an apprentice of Heinrich Riedel, a well-known Tartu photographer in 1918.

Kald achieved a contemporary speed record with photographs taken at the opening of a monument to Ernst von Bergmann on 30 August 1913 (O. S.) on Toome Hill during the XXIII meeting of the Livonian Doctors’ Association—the photographs were on sale in Tartu’s bookshops in just three hours. The photographs from this event and the ceremony of consecrating Alexander I’s concrete bridge dedicated to the 300th jubilee of the Romanov dynasty on 1 September 1913 (O. S.) are the only known surviving photographs of these events (13 negative plates in the UT Museum).

Kald was a draftee of the Imperial Russian Army in 1916–1917. He joined the Estonian volunteer army in the War of Independence on 14 March 1919 and was assigned to reserve on 1 September 1920. In 1921 he opened a photo studio that was left untouched by the extensive war destruction both in 1941 and 1944. In 1922 Kald founded the publishing house Sõnavara that published many worthy works of non-fiction and the writings of young authors but went bankrupt in 1929. After that, Kald worked as a photographer for many magazines. During the German occupation (1941–1944) he photographed for the university’s Faculty of Medicine, and in 1944 he became the official photographer of the Soviet University of Tartu.

Elmar Kald’s photographic heritage was organised in 2007–2014. There are 329 negative plates and 11,656 negative films in the collection. The content was identified in part or in full in 71% of the film frames.

An exhibition of Elmar Kald’s photographs compiled by the UT Multimedia Service (84 photographs, design by Maarja Roosi) was opened at the Lossi 3 academic building on 15 November 2012 and UT Museum in December 2013.


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