Marek Jablonko was born in Poland in 1927 and died in Italy in 2002. He spent the years of World War II as a refugee in Komi S.S.R. and Uzbhekisthan and came to Italy in 1947. There he attended the Istituto Politecnico di Torino before immigrating to the US where he earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering at M.I.T. in 1954. While studying for an M.B.A. at the New York University School of Business Administration and writing a thesis on Criteria and Efficiency of Investment in Post-War Polish Economy, he worked for Western Electric. In 1962 he returned to Italy to work with an international team of engineers for research and development organized by Enrico Mattei at ENI in Milano. Mattei’s mysterious death on October 27, 1962, brought this chapter of Marek’s life to an abrupt close. He changed course entirely, marrying Allison Peters and joining her in Papua New Guinea where she was making photographic and cine records of life among the Maring of the Simbai Valley as part of the Columbia University Expedition for the Study of the Human Ecology of the New Guinea Rainforest.
Pressed into work as a cameraman with a 16mm. 3-lens turret Bolex, Marek shot most of the 63,000 ft of silent film which were destined for D. Carleton Gajdusek’s Archive for the Study of Child Growth and Development and Disease Patterns in Primitive Cultures (then at the National Institutes of Nervous Diseases and Blindness, Bethesda, MD). At the conclusion of the Maring expedition, returning to New York via Rajasthan, Marek filmed scenes from daily life in the village of Gangwa where Robert Thomas Rosen was starting his fieldwork. Upon the Jablonkos return to New York in 1964, Marek learned something of the niceties of montage by directing Peter Smollett, professional editor, in the making of Kerepe’s House: A Housebuilding in New Guinea and a visual poem on the dry season in Rajasthan – Undala. He also carried out the chronological splicing of all six hundred and thirty 100 foot rolls of original film for the research film archive in Bethesda.
In 1968 the Jablonkos returned to Papua New Guinea, this time with Arriflex and Nagra, to make synch sound research footage among the Maring. In 1969 they were invited by Maurice Godelier to film his fieldwork among the Baruya of the Eastern Highlands, a project that continued once the Jablonkos settled in Italy, first with the help of two Baruya men who were visiting Europe and translated the sound track and explained fine points of the filmed events, and later, in 1980-1982, with the help of Stephen Olsson who had just received his M.A. in visual anthropology from Temple University. Stephen brought together portions of 35 of the 83 filmed events, shot interviews with Godelier in Paris, and wrote the text for the film To Find the Baruya Story, Under Marek’s direction he edited a short version of Godelier’s kinship interview, thus making available to general audiences a view of this key event as the film Her Name Came on Arrows
From 1965 onward, Marek was a loyal supporter of the Festival dei Popoli in Florence, taking active part in the early seminars and discussion groups that brought together ethnographic filmmakers from around the world. In the mid-1990s, invited by Enrico Castelli to teach the course of Visual Anthropology at the University of Perugia, he continued to encourage young anthropologists to explore the possibilities of visual documentation and communication.