Shimon Bajer

Shimon Bajer was born in 1893 in Ukmerge, to a Jewish family of six children. He married Feiga Rashel (Raja) Zalk, also from Ukmerge, in 1922, and the couple settled in Kaunas, where Raja worked as midwife and nurse at the Kaunas Jewish Hospital.

It is not known where Bajer trained as photographer, but he opened a photography studio – “Š. Bajer Fotografija” – on the prestigious Laisvės Alėja [avenue] around 1918. The studio, at no. 58, had previously housed several photographers since 1883, so was a well-known ‘go to’ place for Kaunas’s residents seeking a portrait. Bajer remained in the same studio until 1940, when the address of the studio changed to no. 57 Laisvės Alėja. He was creative and innovative, offering a wide range of services beyond the traditional studio portrait. He took portraits outdoors, in nature, on trips away, as well as working in customers’ homes or workplaces. He also created large-format commemorative vignettes and engaged in theatre photography.[1]  In the 1930s he was commissioned to take several photos of ORT activities in the organisation’s Kaunas schools and at the ORT Kalinava [Kalinovo] farm near Kaunas.[2]

Bajer’s photos were published in Lithuania’s Jewish press and the New York Yiddish newspaper 'The Forward'. He was also active in the Kaunas professional photography scene and was one of the initiators of the Lithuanian Professional Association of Photographers, established  in March 1926. It was formally registered in May that year and Bajer was one of the seven founders listed in the statutes. The Association was run from his studio for many years and official meetings were usually held there. Interestingly, the majority of photography studio owners at the time were Jewish – many of whom did not have Lithuanian citizenship. Consequently, the Association was open not only to Lithuanian citizens but to persons of other nationalities. In 1939 for instance, the Association had 65 members, 49 of whom were Jews who were not Lithuanian nationals.[3]

Shimon Bajer and his wife Raja were murdered in the Kaunas ghetto in 1942.

With thanks to Faina Borovsky, grandniece of Shimon Bajer.

See also:

M Levi and S Bayer Exhibition Prewar Lithuanian Photographers legacy -

[1] Kaminskas, Mindaugas, Kauno komercinė fotografija 1918-1940 [Commercial photography of Kaunas 1918-1940], pp. 55-56. In Zita Pikelytė (ed.), Iš Panevėžio praeities: fotografijos kontekstas ir paveldas: konferencijos pranešimai, Panevėžys 2006 12 14 [From the Past of Panevėžys: Context and Heritage of Photography: Conference Papers, Panevėžys 2006 12 14]. Panevėžys: Panevėžio kraštotyros muziejus, 2006, pp. 42-76.

[2] WO Archive Refs: psa0022; psa0022_back; psa0985; psa1718; psa1732-1733; psa1907

[3] Kaminskas, Mindaugas, Kauno komercinė fotografija 1918-1940 [Commercial photography of Kaunas 1918-1940], pp. 68-69.