Museum Fotoatelier Seidel Image of the portrait studio in the Fotoatelier Seidel Museum in Cesky Krumlov

Museum Fotoatelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov

Museum Fotoatelier Seidel is a photography museum unlike any other that we’ve visited. This wonderful Cesky Krumlov Museum is part photography museum, part early 20th century time capsule, showing a snapshot of the history of photography, and also the history of Cesky Krumlov and Central Europe in these fascinating yet tumultuous times.

We returned to beautiful Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic nearly thirty years after my first visit, long before the Museum was established. It was a joy to revisit Cesky Krumlov Castle after all that time, but we all agreed that the Fotoatelier was up there with the best things to do in Cesky Krumlov, even worth the day trip from Prague by itself.

‘Fotoatelier’ translates as ‘photo workshop’, and the house in which the Museum stands was his home, office and workspace. A large part of one of the upper floors was used as a portraiture studio, and large areas elsewhere were used for archival storage (the contents of an entire attic would easily fit onto a 4 TB hard drive!) and equipment.

What Is So Special About The Museum Fotoatelier Seidel?

Image of photo slot machine at Fotoatelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov
Photography technology early 20th century style
Image of Agfa photo boxes in the Foto Atelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov
Agfa photo boxes – oh for a hard drive….

It boils down to its unique state of preservation. This long-running business was suddenly, forcibly closed in 1949, and all its trappings were put away in storage until František Seidel died in 1997.

Image of unused glass plates at Fotoatelier Seidel
Before the days of Instagram – glass photographic plates

Eventually the house was cleared and the vast treasure trove discovered.  It’s a unique collection, almost entirely intact, and it’s a wondrous experience for vintage photography lovers and anyone with an interest in 20th century European history.

Who Was Josef Seidel?

Image of the Josef Seidel sign outside the Fotoatelier Seidel
Josef Seidel – a savvy photographer and businessman

Josef Seidel was a renowned and successful Czechoslovak photographer who was based in Česky Krumlov for most of his career. He trained as a photographer and assistant, learning the trade with many photographers before striking out alone, taking over an established business in Česky Krumlov in 1888. He lived and worked there until his death in 1935.

The business was then taken over by Josef’s son František, who continued to operate it until 1949 when it was closed down by Klement Gottwald’s Communist regime.


What Sort Of Photography Was Produced At The Fotoatelier?

Image of the portrait studio at Fotoatelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov
Portraiture was one of Josef Seidel’s two main earner
Image of clothes used in the portrait studio at Foptoatelier Seidel
You would normally dress up for your portrait session

Seidel’s two big money makers were portraiture and postcards, the latter primarily of Cesky Krumlov. The portraiture was largely of families, with some individual shots for special occasions such as birthdays. This would have taken place in the upstairs studio.

Image of a photo viewing machine at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel
Classic Cesky Krumlov postcard views

The postcards of Cesky Krumlov are fascinating, partly as much has not changed in almost a century. In one of the first rooms on the guided tour route you can also see the machinery used to reproduce these cards.

Is It A Photo Gallery?

Image of a Leitz camera at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel
Not a photo gallery, rather what went into it behind the scenes

Not as such. You see plenty of examples of photography by both Josef and František Seidel, but the Museum isn’t set out as a gallery. Instead, you get to see all the vintage old equipment they used to produce their work, and to explore their home/workplace surrounded by an astonishing collection of photographic kit.

What Is there To See At Museum Fotoatelier Seidel?

Image of the bedroom at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel
The master bedroom, as it would have looked in the 1930s
Image of a patterned ceiling at Fotoatelier Seidel
Even the ceilings were meant to impress the customers

There are two aspects to the exhibition at the Museum – the photography business and the family and social history. We haven’t encountered another place like it, and rate it one of the best Cesky Krumlov things to do.

Image of old boxes of negatives in the Fotoatelier Seidel Cesky Krumlov
Ninety-year-old negative and photo boxes in the attic
Image of the 1939 Agfa price list at Fotoatelier Seidel
And while we prepare to invade Czechoslavakia, here’s this year’s Agfa price ist

Firstly, there’s an enormous collection of photographic equipment and paraphernalia. This ranges from cumbersome bellows cameras to indexed boxes of photos going back over a century to film boxes to an Agfa price list for 1939.

Image of box files at the Fotoatelier Seidel
More box files frrom the early analogue era – a joy for vintage photography lovers

Many Seidel photography customers visited the house to have their portraits shot in the light, airy upstairs studio, complete with interchangeable props and backdrops. There’s a large selection of costumes in the changing room next door, and the waiting room is intriguing, decorated Art Nouveau style to distinctly impress.

How Long Do You Need At Fotoateliér Seidel?

Image of the sitting room at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel Cresky Krumlov
It was also the family home – the sitting room at Fotoatelier Seidel

Cesky Krumlov State Chateau and its compulsory guided tours aside, the Museum Fotoateliér Seidel is the most absorbing of the Cesky Krumlov attractions. We opted for the self-guided audio tour, and ended up spending over 90 minutes at the Museum. We could easily have stayed longer.

The standard guided tour lasts 50 minutes.

Getting There

Image of the house exterior of Fotoatelier Seidel
The Seidel house and garden

The Museum can be found at Linecká 272, a five-minute walk across the river from Cesky Krumlov Old Town and a ten-minute stroll down the hill from Cesky Krumlov Castle.

Fotoatelier Seidel Opening Hours

Image of an old postcard at Museum Fotoatelier Seidel
A 1930s postcard at the Fotoatelier

0900-1200 and 1300-1700 Tuesdays to Sundays – it’s closed on Mondays.

Tickets

Image of the office at Fotoatelier Seidel
The Office, 1930s style

A single adult ticket costs 120 CZK (roughly €4.80), and a child’s ticket costs 50 CZK. Students and seniors can visit for 80 CZK (€3.20).

The Foto Atelier Seidel is also included on the Cesky Krumlov Card. This Card allows admission to tfour other places to visit in Cesky Krumlov besides the Fotoatelier Seidel – the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, Cesky Krumlov Regional Museum, Cesky Krumlov Castle Museum for 400 CZK per adult. We bought a family ticket for 800 CZK which also included our son’s admission to these Cesky Krumlov attractions.

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David Angel
David Angel is a British writer and photographer who has been travelling and photographing Europe for over 25 years.  His work is regularly featured in worldwide media including the BBC, the Guardian, the Times and the Sunday Times.