Sofia Yablonska – photography exhibition

Exhibition of photographs by Sofia Yablonska (1907-1971) – journalist, photojournalist, feminist, and the first Ukrainian female photographer. Yablonska traveled around the world with a camera and a video camera, documenting her journeys in her diaries. She captured landscapes, architecture, and people in Morocco, Egypt, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia (including Java and Bali), and Tahiti. Yablonska’s archive is held by her family in Paris, where the artist spent most of her life. The collection contains a wealth of visual and textual materials that are still waiting to be discovered. The exhibition will showcase photographs taken by Jabłońska during her travels to Asia, North Africa, New Zealand, and Tahiti. The exhibition is made possible thanks to the generosity of Yabłonska’s descendant – her granddaughter Natalie Oudin, who will be present in Lublin for the festival.

Sofia Yablonska was born on May 15, 1907, in a village near Lviv, into a family of a Greek Catholic priest. She moved frequently during her childhood, living in various places such as Kyiv, Novorossiysk, the Sea of Azov, Rostov, and Taganrog. From 1924 to 1925, she studied at the Drama School in Lviv while successfully managing two cinemas in Ternopol. This allowed her to save enough money for a trip to Paris, where she tried her luck in several films. In France, she met Stepan Levynsky, a traveller and writer who inspired her passion for „exotic lands”. Paris did not hold her for long, and by the end of 1928, she decided to travel to Morocco on her own. During this journey, she wrote her first book. After returning from Morocco and a brief stop in Paris, she settled in Krynica-Zdrój, where she started a small business. Despite her entrepreneurial duties, she found time to pursue her hobby – photography.

In December 1931, she began her dream journey around the world. Destiny brought her to Indochina, where she crossed paths with her future husband – Jean Oudin, a French engineer. Continuing her global expedition, Yablonska travelled to Siam (now Thailand), Malaysia, Java, Bali, Australia, New Zealand, and Tahiti. In October 1934, she arrived in New York, marking the end of her journey. Afterwards, Sofia was welcomed in her community as a true star and was invited to many public meetings and presentations. As a woman who independently circumnavigated the globe and immortalised her experiences in her books, she became a sensation in the still largely patriarchal Galicia of the 1930s. Thus, she became an idol of the Galician feminist community that formed around the magazines Nowa Chata and Kobiecy los (Woman’s lot). Despite an overwhelming number of household duties, Yablonska started another project: from 1936 to 1937, she ran a beauty column in the magazine „Nowa Chata”, first titled „It’s Never Too Late” and later „A Few Tips from Klyodina”, where she introduced women to various beauty practices and provided cosmetic advice.

Little is known about Sofia Yablonska’s life during World War II. However, after her return to France, she suffered heart-wrenching losses. Stepan Levynsky died in 1946, followed by her sister Olga and mother Modesta. In 1955, her husband Jean Oudin also died. Sofia then moved to Noirmoutier, an island they had both wanted to live on. She worked hard to make this dream a reality by designing and building a beautiful house. During this time, she worked on her greatest work, the psychoanalytical novel “A Book about My Father” which recounted her childhood and how her relationship with her father influenced her formation. This novel was published after Sofia’s death, thanks to the efforts of Yuriy Stefanyk and Marta Kalitowska. At the age of 64, Yablonska died in a car accident while en route to Paris with her manuscripts.



When: 6-9 July 2023, outdoor exhibition available all day
Where: The Hartwig Alley