Engineering photography: Eduards Kraucs and the construction of the Ķegums hydroelectric power plant in Latvia

black and white photograph of a large concrete building, a hydroelectric power plant, by water

The construction of the Ķegums Hydropower Plant was one of the greatest achievements of the Latvian state during the interwar period. This blog introduces the photography of Eduards Kraucs whose collection of photographs documenting the construction reflects a unique industrial heritage and Latvian engineering achievements.

The Ķegums Hydropower Plant, launched on 15 October 1939, was one of the most advanced hydro-electric power plants in Europe at that time. On 22 December 1939, a state-owned enterprise Ķegums was established, intended to promote the development of the energy sector and lay the foundations for a unified national electricity supply.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of power plants and other ways we have generated power across Europe

Between August 1936 and July 1940, Latvian cinematographer and photographer Eduards Kraucs (1898-1977) documented the construction of the power plant. His photographs demonstrate his contemporary thinking, professionalism and documentary precision.

Kraucs’ photographs give us a unique opportunity to see and experience the construction process of the hydropower plant. The photographs pay attention to specific details, as well as the huge and impressive overall view of the building.

Kraucs’ collection of photographs has a dual value. It is a chronological representation of a unique historical event and an outstanding example of his professional photography. His photographs are historically and artistically significant. They give the viewer a sense of being at the very heart of the power plant, its engine room and control panel.

Kraucs’ collection of photo negatives on glass plate equally document an unforgettable story in the collective memory of Latvia, attesting to Latvia’s understanding of sustainable development, the professionalism and competence of Latvian engineering and technical specialists, as well as the ability to develop international cooperation.

A second power plant was built between 1976 and 1979, while the plant was totally renovated between 1998 to 2001.

RELATED: Explore more early photography from Latvia

In 2009, Eduards Kraucs’ collection of 1,736 photo negatives on glass plate about the construction of the Ķegums Hydropower Plant (1936-1940) was included in the Latvian National Register of UNESCO Memory of the World Programme, attesting that the collection belongs to the cultural heritage. The collection is stored at the Latvenergo Group Museum of Energy in Latvia.

RELATED: Explore more of Kraucs’ photographs of the building of the Ķegums power plant

By Latvian Museum of Energy


Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or your family work in hydroelectric dams in Latvia or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

photograph of man working in a factory surrounded by machines, the words 'Share your story' and a logo saying 'Europe at Work' are above

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Ķegums power plant dam and valves on the reservoir side, July 27, 1939, Eduards Kraucs, Latvian Museum of Energy / National Library of Latvia, CC BY

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