Marija Braut

Photograph of M. Braut by Ratko Mavar

7.8.1929 – 1.7.2015

Photography used to take me to the most extraordinary places and states of mind.

Arguably the most famous Croatian woman photographer, Marija Braut was born in Celje in 1929. In 1941, following the breakout of the War, the circumstances had brought her to Zagreb, a city she immediately fell in love with. She started her family there, and later her professional career. After graduating from high school, she enrolled at the Faculty of Architecture. As a student, she was very athletic: she practiced long jump and running, gymnastics, and handball. For several years, she was a member of the folklore ensemble Lado. This would precipitate two big events in her life: she fell in love with her first husband there, the journalist Sead Saračević, and met the renowned photographer Tošo Dabac, who would later become not only the best man at her wedding, but also a mentor.

After several semesters, Braut quit her academic education in order to devote her time to raising her children, Ranka and Bojan. However, she noted: “I was never just a woman who cooked and changed diapers. I have always had this hunger inside of me, a hunger for something more.” Eventually, this turned out to be photography, which she took up after a tumultuous divorce in 1967. Braut’s financial situation forced her to take up a profession, and Tošo Dabac welcomed her into his atelier where she could learn about photography first-hand. 

Just two years later, Braut had her first exhibition at Gallery SC, together with Dabac’s nephew Petar. Soon after, she joined the Croatian Association of Artists of the Applied Arts (ULUPUH), and in 1972 she became a freelance artist. During her career, she had over 100 solo exhibitions, both local and international (all across Europe, in New York, Abu Dhabi, Australia, etc.), and she participated in numerous group exhibitions. During her lifetime she received several awards, including ULUPUH’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Braut’s camera captured many different motifs. Over the course of her career, she worked as a photographer for a publishing firm and collaborated with theatres and cultural manifestations (Zagreb Youth Theatre, Gavella, Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, Jazavac, &TD, Kerempuh, Dubrovnik Summer Festival, etc). Her work was published in newspapers, magazines, art catalogues, calendars, and so on. Art historian Ive Šimat Banov fondly called her “Mare the Vagabond” and “Zagreb’s heart and soul.”

It is important to note that Braut also documented the Croatian War of Independence and recorded images of war, destroyed monuments, towns and villages. Today, her photographs are part of the collections of the Zagreb City Museum (which holds several thousand negatives donated by the artist herself), the Museum of Arts and Crafts, the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb, the Croatian State Archives, and other institutions. 

For a number of years, especially after the passing of her son, Braut struggled with alcoholism and loneliness, which she openly discussed in several interviews and the 2009 film Marija Walks in Silence (dir. Marko Stanić).

In 2014, a large exhibition entitled The Unknown Zagreb of Marija Braut was organized in the Zagreb Art Pavilion, which featured about a hundred lesser-known photographs. After Braut’s death in 2015, an in memoriam exhibition was organized by her friends and colleagues at a place she loved to frequent, the famous Upper Town café Cinkuš.

Marija Braut was one of the first women in Zagreb who were wearing jeans in the mid-1960s.

Location photo: Sei F, Flickr

Kamenita vrata (Stone Gate), Zagreb

A well-known tourist attraction in Zagreb, the Stone Gate was built in the 13th century as part of the defensive structure of Gradec, and it is the only preserved fraction of the Upper Town fortification. During the Inquisition, the women who had been accused of witchcraft were imprisoned and tortured in the tower above the Gate. There is a mace at the top of the tower, which served to protect the city, but also as a warning to all other “witches”. On numerous occasions, Braut had passed through the Stone Gate and took photographs on her way to the Upper Town.