The Fotokemika Project

Fotokemika, a Croatian producer of one of the last classic silver-rich black & white films in the world.

Saving our cultural heritage!

Phase 1: saving the factory, the interior and all the archive

We are two young woman who have decided to make it our quest to save Fotokemika’s heritage. Sanja Harris is a photographer living in The Netherlands and Ana Cvetković is a journalist and pr marketer living in Croatia. In the past both our families have put heart and soul into their work at the Fotokemika factory in the Croatoan town of Samobor. This probably formed the root of our passion to save it.

Fotokemika was once one of the region’s most successful photochemical companies, producing among other things photographic, cinematographic and X-ray films. When Fotokemika was privatized in the '90s, they decided to continue with only a small part of the company. From 2003 this remaining part, operating under the name Fotokemika–Nova, managed to survive modernization, as well as competition from companies such as Kodak and Ilford. But in summer 2012 the company finally stopped production.

We firmly believe that Fotokemika is part of our common history. It has played a part in many lives. The company’s Efke film was exported worldwide, allowing us to capture everything that we hold dear or value as important. It gave photojournalists a voice and commerce a new tool to help companies flourish. In medical applications the film helped many people, and eFKe film offered artists new ways to enrich our culture.

And as such we are committed to saving as much of the Fotokemika heritage as possible – to keeping it alive in order to inform future generations about the role the company and its film products have played in enriching our society and our culture.

Aspects of the Fotokemika heritage:

Photo technical value
Once there were many similar factories in Europe. Fotokemika, as one of the last producers of the classic silver-rich films in the world, survived for a long time in the face of competition from bigger companies and the arrival of the digital age.

They hold the well-kept secret of classical analog silver rich filmmaking. Valuable knowledge that now could be lost forever.

The Adox legacy
Fotokemika also kept the film legacy of Dr. C. Schleussner GmbH of Frankfurt am Main, the world's first photographic materials manufacturer, alive. The famous Adox film emulsions were in the ‘50s in close quality competition with Kodak. In the '70s Fotokemika was able to buy the recipes and kept them from then on as the basis of their films, making Fotokemika a deeply rooted European heritage.

Some professionals even today believe Fotokemika’s eFKe classic silver rich black & white analog films, hold the sharpest and most beautiful tone range ever produced!

Anthropological value
Fotokemika was much more then merely the place where the employees worked, it also played a big part in their private lives; the company provided housing, education, recreation (vacation house on one of Croatian’s islands, a swimming pool for the employees and their children to enjoy, a hiking club) and sport events. The factory, as the basis of the employees’ lives, reflects the ideals of previous generations and holds a location-bound anthropological value.

Modern times
The history of Fotokemika also illustrates the social and economical changes that are related to conversion of a political climate and modern times.

What progress have we made so far?

When we started our project, we realized that the two of us weren’t able to save Fotokemika’s heritage on our own and that the responsibility to save it lies in the hands of several different people and organizations. So we contacted the Croatian Minister of Culture and received the support of her minister concerned with the cultural heritage of the Zagreb County, in which the factory is sited. We also succeeded in obtaining the support of two of Croatia’s influential museums: The Museum of Arts and Crafts and the Technical Museum, both situated in Zagreb.

But we also realized that we need the business world to sit round the table with us too; emphasizing the importance for businesses to invest in cultural heritage and the win-win situation that will result.

Consequently we have recently approached a big and influential businessman who invests regularly in culture and are hoping for his support in our quest.

When we visited the vintage Fotokemika factory in December, it was fascinating to realise how it seemed as though time had stopped here quite a few years ago. Unfortunately in spite of our efforts, quite a few machines had already been moved out of the factory. We were of cause saddened by this fact, but this hasn’t discouraged us from working to meet our goals! Mind you, the factory isn’t empty; there are still some machines left!

The rich history of filmmaking is here very tangible, as the building itself was constructed as part of the production line. For example, the drying system for the films, is a built-in construction. The irreplaceable and unique information held by the Fotokemika building and the whole interior reveals and teaches us the craft of eFKe filmmaking and the ingenious solutions the people working there devised. It holds the secrets of creating one of the last classic silver rich films in the world!
Within these walls a part of European historical filmmaking has been preserved.

How your support can help

You can help us in our effort to save the Fotokemika heritage by liking our Facebook page, following us on Twitter, and by posting, blogging, writing and tweeting about The Fotokemika Project, thus helping raise awareness about Fotokemika's cultural heritage. The more supporters we have the stronger we will become in our practical negotiations!

We feel it is society’s duty to preserve it, as history is part of the present and the future and should be able to be enjoyed and learned from for generations to come.

We are passionate about Fotokemika’s cultural heritage. It is one we cherish, honor and would like to return to the people.

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