Elin Bornemann

In 1879 General Pitt-Rivers and his friend George Rolleston went on a trip to Germany, Denmark and Sweden. On their way north they stopped in Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, where Pitt-Rivers visited a photographer’s studio and acquired a small collection of pictures. These are black and white prints in carte de visite format, 60 mm by 91 mm. A few of them are larger cabinet prints. These are portraits which citizens of Kiel, and probably also from the surrounding villages, had taken. They show men and women of a variety of ages, couples posing in their Sunday best, and a number of sailors in the uniform of the German Imperial Navy. A couple of photos show more relaxed domestic scenes: an old woman is pictured with her knitting, and one man appears in his slippers, leaning languidly on a side table, with a dog on his lap, and smoking a long pipe.

In those days Kiel was one of the two major bases for the Imperial Navy (the other was Wilhelmshaven), hence the pictures of sailors. It also had the Navy’s munitions depot and workshops and the Imperial Shipyard. Since the 1860s it had been growing rapidly. Between 1864 and 1880 the population grew from 18,770 to 43,594. It was well-connected by rail and by the Eider Canal, although the Kiel Canal was not opened until 1895.

Since I was born in Kiel and grew up nearby, I was particularly intrigued by this small collection, and during a recent holiday in Germany I took the opportunity to find out more. The cartes de visite have the photographer’s name and address printed onto them: Waldemar Renard, Sophienblatt 18. This street is one of the main streets in the centre of Kiel, close to the railway station. Since Pitt-Rivers bought the photos in 1879, I could take the name, the address and that year as the starting point for some more research.

The city archive in Kiel holds the papers of a number of businesses, but unfortunately none connected with Waldemar Renard. The archive also has a large collection of photographs of the town, arranged by street name. Visitors to the archive can view folders with copies of the photos of the street they are interested in. They can then request to see the originals of those they need to examine in detail. I viewed two folders of photos of Sophienblatt, the street where Waldemar Renard’s shop was located, but again I drew a blank. While there were a number photographs of that street, some from the right period, none of the photos showed house No. 18. In the twentieth century the street underwent a lot of changes. After the Second World War a number of houses were pulled down and replaced with new buildings. No. 18 might have survived that period of building work, but in the 1980s a whole group of houses, including No. 18, were demolished to make way for a shopping centre.

A search on the internet brought up little information about Waldemar Renard. He was born in 1850 and died in 1904. The name is given on the photos as Waldemar Renard junior, but I have not been able to discover a Waldemar Renard senior. From 1885 to 1889 Renard had an assistant, Ferdinand Urbahns, who went on to open his own studio in Kiel. Another photographer with the same family name, Arthur Renard, was active in Kiel at about the same time as Waldemar Renard, but I have not been able to discover if there was any relationship between them. However, there is another intriguing detail to be found in the Kiel city archive. A search on their website for the name Renard brings up a reference to a document from 1861 mentioning a Gregor Renard. The document relates to public building works undertaken near his house and not to Gregor Renard’s own activities, but it does mention his profession: photographer. Was there perhaps a whole family of photographers? They could have been an uncle with two nephews, or perhaps Arthur was Gregor’s son, and Waldemar his cousin. The current phonebook for Kiel does not list anyone by the name of Renard, and I do not know how common that name would have been at any one period. Perhaps in the future further research will reveal more about the Renards and their photography businesses.

Website with information about Waldemar Renard, Arthur Renard and Ferdinand Urbahns, searchable by photographer’s name:


Homepage of City Archive Kiel:


City Archive Kiel online catalogue:


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