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« Tuna 2 / 2016

One Story of Many. Andres Saal as a Photographer

Andres Saal (1861–1931) is known first and foremost as a writer but has also made his mark in Estonian cultural history as a journalist, photographer, cartographer and ethnologist who has lived and worked in different countries and continents. Andres Saal’s personal archive is deposited in the Estonian Literary Museum’s Cultural History Archive. Correspondence, rough drafts for historical stories, a manuscript on photographic technique in German, numerous writ- ings on literature and language, politics and religion, geography and natural science, diary-style notes on life in Holland, travelogues, official letters, contracts, cer- tificates, biographical data gathered concerning him, and other such material are found in the manuscript collection if his personal archive. Since A. Saal worked for quite some time in Indonesia in the photography department of a printing house there and later in the photography department of the Topography Bureau, his photographic archive correspondingly contains pictures from the exotic island of Java, including stereo photographs supplied with his own very expressive explanatory notes written in German.

Andres Saal was born on 21 May 1861 in the village of Kaseküla in Tori Rural Municipality in Pärnu County. He graduated from Selja township school and Tori parish school, supplemented his education through independent study and passed the examination for township school teachers at the Tartu Teachers’ Seminar. He worked in his home neighbourhood as an assistant teacher, and starting in 1884 at the editorial office of the Olevik (Present Time) newspaper. Upon the recommendation of Ado Grenzstein, the newspa- per’s founder and editor-in-chief, and with the support of Karl Eduard Sööt, the publisher and owner of the printing house, Saal travelled to Germany in 1893 to study the profession of photography and zincography in order to make Olevik the first illustrated Estonian newspaper. This plan succeeded and Andres Saal worked in the zincography workshop established at the newspaper’s editorial office until 1897, preparing nearly 800 zincograph printing blocks in total over that period of time. Even though more drawings and reproductions from the foreign press and fewer original photographs were published, the printing quality of the pictures had improved from year to year and he received orders from the editorial offices of other newspapers, publishers and printing houses as well. At the end of that year, Saal left Estonia since as a trained specialist, he was invited to take up the position of manager of the reproduction photography, zincography and carbon printing (phototype) department at the E. Fuhri & Co. printing house located in Surabaya, Indonesia. From 1902 onward, he was the manager of the photography department at the Topography Bureau located in Batavia in the service of Holland’s colonial army, and worked there until 1916. When he officially retired, he went to live in California in 1920, where he died on 23 June 1931.