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“Colored” Odessa


Do you want to see Odessa of the 30s? In 1931, American photographer Branson DeCou visited Odessa and took a series of amazing pictures.


Branson DeCou was an American photographer and travelogue lecturer. He journeyed the world for thirty years before his death in 1941 at the relatively young age of 49. He was born October 20, 1892, in Philadelphia, a city with a long history of photographic invention, from the pioneer Langenheim brothers to the work of Thomas Eakins. He was a renowned traveller and photographer whose hand-painted glass slides, shot by him all over the world, captivated the public.

In 1931, Branson DeCou began his long journey across the Soviet Union, during which the photographer took many pictures for his lectures. These pictures were glass slides. Branson DeCou loved to paint them by hand with aniline paints. His lectures had incredible success.

In August of 1971 the University Library gratefully received the photographic holdings of Branson DeCou. The gift had been referred to then UCSC Chancellor Dean McHenry by photographer Ansel Adams, who had earlier documented the wooded campus and was a Carmel neighbour of Elsie DeCou. The gift included 10,000 hand-tinted 3-1/4″ x 4-1/4″ glass lantern slides used in years of travel lecture tours covering all countries of the world, from ca. 1920-1941; there were also accompanying negatives, albums of prints, lecture notes, slide storage boxes, and two slide projectors.

Today we want to introduce you to some of the author’s works. The selection will include photographs of Odessa during the 30s of the XX century. Property rights for this collection reside with the University of California.

Two young women, tour guides.
City view, looking down a major street crowded with pedestrians.
Londonskaya Hotel on Primorsky Boulevard: entrance
Bread wagon delivering food in the Old Town.
Portrait of a group of young Ukrainians.
Man with wine barrels on a horse-drawn wagon.
Men and women at Langeron (also called Lanzheron) Beach.
Portrait of a group of Ukrainian children.
A middle-aged woman with four children.
City view, Renaissance Revival building.
Primorsky (Potemkin) Stairs: view from near the top, towards harbor.
Communist monument with hammer and sickle.
Primorsky (Potemkin) Stairs: partial view, with a group of children
Torgsin shop (“trade with foreigners”) in Odessa, display.
Odessa: Torgsin shop (“trade with foreigners”) in Odessa, icon for sale View in tinted lantern slide, ca. 1931.
City view near the harbor, with propaganda on the buildings.
Odessa. City Hall (formerly a stock exchange): partial view of facade
Torgsin shop (“trade with foreigners”) in Odessa.
Tourists on the dock, with buses.
Odessa. Odessa National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet: front facade
Monument in Shevchenko Park, with a portrait of Stalin in fowers.
Odessa: store window display of portraits of Lenin and Stalin View in tinted lantern slide, ca. 1931.