Adolfo Biener

The earliest known postmark on a postcard published by Adolfo Biener is 1915. Apart from the marking, Biener's early cards are almost indistinguishable in subject matter and printing style from those of Alberto Valdeveallano. Archaeological sites, earthquake ruins, and portraits predominate.

IdoloQuirigua.jpg (36883 bytes)
MonolitoQuirigua.jpg (44685 bytes)

HijaCacique.jpg (40528 bytes)

VendedorasPalin.jpg (38938 bytes)
Idolo Indigena
en Quiriguá
de Quiriguá
La hija
del cacique
Vendedora de
Frutas "Palin"

MonolitosQuirigua.jpg (33536 bytes)

QuiriguaHoriz.jpg (47080 bytes)

Vendedoras.jpg (44102 bytes)

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de Quiriguá

de Quiriguá


Mercado Central

ClaustroAntigua.jpg (40972 bytes)

StaRosaAntigua.jpg (50223 bytes)

SnFranciscoAntigua.jpg (36914 bytes)
Claustro Escuela
de Cristo, Antigua
Ruina Santa Rosa

Ruinas del Templo de
San Francisco, Antigua


Unlike Valdeavellano, whose only use of color was in solid or rainbow tones, Biener in the 1920s began publishing a line of postcards printed by a full color lithographic process. The differences can be noted in the middle example above, as well as in the examples below. These color cards have white borders, and later ones have deckle, or uneven, edges to their white borders. 

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Rio Motagua
Lago Atitlán

(al fondo Volcán Atitlán)

InteriorChiChi.jpg (41446 bytes)

MercadoElAlto.jpg (37550 bytes)

MercadoPalin.jpg (41197 bytes)

Iglesia, Chichicastenango

En el mercado
"San Francisco El Alto"

en Palin

MercadoChichi.jpg (42312 bytes)

CarretaTipica.jpg (38049 bytes)

tejiendo.jpg (44727 bytes)

MercadoAtitlan.jpg (40711 bytes)

Mercado en


Indias de Atitlán

en Atitlán


Biener's Real Photos

Kodak began operating in Guatemala in August 1927 as Biener & Compañía Ltda.

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Like his counterpart in Mexico, German-born Hugo Brehme, Adolfo Biener offered photo processing and photographic equipment and supplies from the United States and Germany. For some 35 years Biener also published tourist postcards, along with booklets containing 12 postcards that could be detached and mailed individually.

Biener's real photo postcards generally have numbers and titles that were written on the negatives, which then were printed with white borders on Agfa, Gevaert, Azo or Kodak papers, and signed either by backstamps or blind-embossing.

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294StaMaria.jpg (32275 bytes)

ErupcionStaMaria.jpg (28346 bytes)

298StaMaria.jpg (38931 bytes)
Volcán de Fuego
Erupción de 1929
Volcán "Santa Maria"
Erupción del
Volcán "Santa Maria"
Volcán "Santa Maria"

MercedAntigua.jpg (31179 bytes)

495MercedAntigua.jpg (32235 bytes)

305PalacioAntigua.jpg (30709 bytes)

493HotelManchen.jpg (30077 bytes)
La Merced
Pila en patio
La Merced, Antigua
Entrada al Hotel
Manchen, Antigua

65AguaAntigua.jpg (24946 bytes)

522RecoleccionAntigua.jpg (34714 bytes)

496MercedAntigua.jpg (33395 bytes)

337EscuelaAntigua.jpg (33174 bytes)
Mt. Agua
Frente La Merced
Escuela de Cristo

102PalinStation.jpg (31721 bytes)

271MercadoAtitlan.jpg (44652 bytes)

47solola.jpg (31853 bytes)

RioBlanco.jpg (37033 bytes)
de Sololá
Rio Blanco

MuseoNacional.jpg (32665 bytes)

241IglesiaCalvario.jpg (26888 bytes)

FacultadIngenieria.jpg (37488 bytes)

VistaGuatCity.jpg (38824 bytes)
Museo Nacional
Guatemala, C.A.
Iglesia el "Calvario"
Guatemala, C.A.
Facultad de Ingeniería
Guatemala, C.A.
Guatemala, C.A.


In the 1930s, a series of over 200 photo postcards published by Adolfo Biener & Cia promoted Guatemala's coffee industry. Some of the cards are marked with the initials A.R.W., implying that someone other than Biener took the photographs, with Biener having the rights to publish them. The titles on the front are in Spanish, while the promotional line on the back, "Guatemala produces the best coffee in the world," is printed in Spanish, English and German.

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CerroDelCarmen.jpg (37118 bytes)

38IxtiaZutujil.jpg (43642 bytes)

El Templo Cerro del Carmen
Guatemala C.A.
Cargadores.jpg (46954 bytes)
Indígenas de Chiquimula
en su traje regional
Cargadores de petates
en el camino a Atitlán


Ixtia de


Biener's Hand-Tinted Images

Adolfo Biener colorized his photographs into postcards that lie between two major periods in postcard making: black and white real photos and color chromes. Before color film was readily available in Guatemala, Biener's technique, exactly like that of Luis Márquez in Mexico, made his postcard images appear as if they had been shot in color. (Although KODACHROME slide film was introduced in 1935, AGFACOLOR print film in 1936, and KODACOLOR in 1942, Guatemalan and Mexican postcards do not reflect the common use of color film until the 1950s.)  

The real photo postcard at top right was individually printed in a darkroom. The negative has been titled and numbered "Fabricando Tinajas. Guatemala. 40." Embossed in the lower right corner of the face of the postcard is "Adolfo Biener / Guatemala." The paper on which the negative was printed was manufactured by Azo from the mid-1920s until the 1940s.

To create the postcard at bottom right, an original black and white photo was colored by hand. The resulting "master" copy was then mass-produced mechanically by a chromo-lithographic process. The new title is "Indígena de Chinautla, quemando ollas." It is numbered "Foto-Biener Nr. 1162" and "Propiedad del Editor" is printed vertically down the center of the back. This example wasn't mailed, but others in the series were postmarked in the 1940s.

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VendedorasFeria.jpg (46949 bytes)

MolandoTinajas.jpg (43301 bytes)

OrillasLagoAtitlan.jpg (45964 bytes)

de Atitlán

en la Feria

India de Chinautla,
moldando tinajas

Lago de Atitlán

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MusicoIndigena.jpg (27975 bytes)

SanAntonioPalopo.jpg (36713 bytes)

CargadorTinajas.jpg (39194 bytes)

iglesia en Atitlán

Músico indígena,
San Martín Chile Verde

Indias del pueblo
San Antonio Palopó

Cargador de
tinajas - Quiché

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FuenteChimaltenango.jpg (42655 bytes)

IglesiaSantiagoAtitlan.jpg (41351 bytes)

HospitalQuirigua.jpg (41354 bytes)

Hall del Aeropuerto
de la Aurora

Fuente colonial,

Patio de la iglesia,
Santiago Atitlán

de Quiriguá

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Chichicastenango.jpg (40281 bytes)

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Reja, Mayan Inn,


Indio orando en el interior de la iglesia

Fuente, Mayan Inn

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DiaDeLosSantos.jpg (46079 bytes)

IndiosChichicastenango.jpg (39490 bytes)

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Indio típico de

Dia de los Santos

en sus oraciones

Marimba típica,

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GoldLabel.jpg (4379 bytes)

WeaverPhoto.jpg (41486 bytes)


An original hand-tinted photograph was typically mounted on heavy textured paper that was embossed with Biener's name. A gold foil label like the one above was glued to the back. These two 5" x 7" hand-tinted photographs, mounted on thick paper that measures 9" x 12", were recently donated to Fototeca Guatemala.

CIRMA is the Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica. Click here to visit CIRMA's website and explore its mission of preserving the region's photographic history and making it available to the public.

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