Archive for the 'Berlin' Category

11
Dec
21

Exhibition: ‘The New Woman Behind the Camera’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington Part 2

Exhibition dates: 31st October, 2021 – 30th January, 2022

Curator: The exhibition is curated by Andrea Nelson, associate curator in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 

 

Ilse Salberg (German, 1899-1947) 'Anton im Detail' (Anton in Detail) 1938

 

Ilse Salberg (German, 1899-1947)
Anton im Detail (Anton in Detail)
1938
Gelatin silver print
Image: 29.6 x 39.8cm (11 5/8 x 15 11/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 41.3 x 51.3 x 2.7cm (16 1/4 x 20 3/16 x 1 1/16 in.)
Galerie Berinson, Berlin

 

 

Ilse Salberg (1899-1947) worked in the New Vision style in Paris and Sanary-sur-Mer. Driven from Cologne, Germany by persecutions, escaping the SS in Barjols, France, she died early of cancer in Switzerland. …

For a long time, Ilse Salberg’s photographs went unnoticed by the public. Most of her photographs from exile in France were lost while fleeing. Fortunately, in 1963 Anton Räderscheidt and his new wife Giséle found paintings and negatives by Ilse Salberg in a cellar in Barjols, which she had to leave behind when she fled to Switzerland.

For more information please see the German Wikipedia website entry

 

 

The second of a humungous three-part posting on this archaeological exhibition. See Part 1 of the posting.

Combined with the posting I did on this exhibition when it was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this three-part posting will include over 160 new images from the exhibition… meaning a combined total over the four postings of over 200 images with biographical information.

This has been a mammoth effort to construct these postings but so worthwhile!

I will make comment on the exhibition in part 3 of the posting.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“[Lee] Miller was the quintessential New Woman, as were the photographers in The New Woman Behind the Camera in New York. Andrea Nelson, who organised the show at its next destination, the National Gallery in Washington, says these new women were independent, competent, and – especially in the 1920s – found themselves in a moment when they were fighting for, then winning the right to vote, “and had really started examining their lives, their marriages and children.” They were also exploring what it meant to be professional photographers. “It was a time when photography was replacing drawings in all the magazines,” says Nelson. And women could sell their advertising and fashion pictures readily.”

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Susan Stamberg. “Behind The Lens, These Women Created Photographs That Leap Over Decades,” on the NPR website July 25th, 2021 [Online] Cited 28/11/2021

 

 

Leni Riefenstahl (German, 1902-2003) 'Freiübungen im Stadion, Olympischen Kampf, Berlin' (Calisthenics in the Stadium, Olympic Games, Berlin) 1936

 

Leni Riefenstahl (German, 1902-2003)
Freiübungen im Stadion, Olympischen Kampf, Berlin (Calisthenics in the Stadium, Olympic Games, Berlin)
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.8 x 28.2cm (8 9/16 x 11 1/8 in.)
Mount: 29.9 x 36.9cm (11 3/4 x 14 1/2 in.)
Mat: 42.5 x 49.5 cm (16 3/4 x 19 1/2 in.)
Frame (outer): 47.9 x 52.7 cm (18 7/8 x 20 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987 bpk / Leni Riefenstahl
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Resource, NY

 

 

Helene Bertha Amalie “Leni” Riefenstahl (German, 22 August 1902 – 8 September 2003) was a German film director, photographer, and actress, known for her seminal role in producing Nazi propaganda.

Read a fuller biography on this “fellow traveller” (Mitläufer) on the Wikipedia website

 

The relentless pursuit of the truth about Riefenstahl. About time.

She knew what was going on and hitched her wagon to National Socialism, taking money to make her film Tiefland (Lowlands), bringing in extra from a concentration camp, keeping them in rags and starving them. After filming some were executed in the gas chambers. Her story is similar to that of Albert Speer (Hitler’s architect) who after being released from Spandau prison in 1966 rehabilitated himself by writing books and public speaking about his wartime experiences. Only recently has it come to light that Speer knew all along about the ruthlessness of the Nazi regime and – as Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production (until 2 September 1943 Reich Minister of Armaments and Munitions) – used conscripted labour and prisoners of war in appalling conditions to power the Nazi war effort. Many thousands died as a result of his zeal.

Read the excellent article on The Guardian website about Riefenstahl.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

“Riefenstahl denied that she had visited the camp to handpick the extras, denied failing to pay them and denied having promised and subsequently failed to save them from Auschwitz. She claimed that, while making the film, she had not known of the existence of the gas chambers, nor of the fate of the Roma and Sinti.”

Kate Connolly. “Burying Leni Riefenstahl: one woman’s lifelong crusade against Hitler’s favourite film-maker,” on The Guardian website Thursday 9 December 2021 [Online] Cited 11/12/2021

 

Vera Jackson (American, 1911-1999) 'Man at Printing Press' 1940s

 

Vera Jackson (American, 1911-1999)
Man at Printing Press
1940s
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 27.94 x 35.56cm (11 x 14 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Framed (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
Collection of Friends, the Foundation of the California African American Museum. Gift of the artist
Courtesy of the California African American Museum

 

 

Vera Jackson (July 21, 1911 – January 26, 1999) was a “pioneer woman photographer in the black press”. She photographed African-American social life and celebrity culture in 1930s and 1940s Los Angeles. Noted photographic subjects included major league baseball player Jackie Robinson, educator Mary McLeod Bethune, and actresses Dorothy Dandridge, Hattie McDaniel and Lena Horne.

 

Hildegard Rosenthal (Brazilian born Switzerland, 1913-1990) 'Ponto de encontro Ladeira Porto Geral, esquina da Rua 25 de Março, São Paulo' (Meeting Place Ladeira Porto Geral, Corner of 25 de Março Street, São Paulo) c. 1940, printed later

 

Hildegard Rosenthal (Brazilian born Switzerland, 1913-1990)
Ponto de encontro Ladeira Porto Geral, esquina da Rua 25 de Março, São Paulo (Meeting Place Ladeira Porto Geral, Corner of 25 de Março Street, São Paulo)
c. 1940, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24 x 36cm (9 7/16 x 14 3/16 in.)
Mount: 40 x 50cm (15 3/4 x 19 11/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 42 x 52cm (16 9/16 x 20 1/2 in.)
Instituto Moreira Salles Collection Hildegard Rosenthal / Acervo Instituto Moreira Salles

 

 

Hildegard Baum Rosenthal (March 25, 1913 – September 16, 1990) was a Swiss-born Brazilian photographer, the first woman photojournalist in Brazil. She was part of the generation of European photographers who emigrated during World War II and, acting in the local press, contributed to the photographic aesthetic renovation of Brazilian newspapers.

 

Life and career

Rosenthal was born in Zurich, Switzerland. Until her adolescence, she lived in Frankfurt (Germany), where she studied pedagogy from 1929 until 1933. She lived in Paris between 1934 and 1935. Upon her return to Frankfurt, she studied photography for about 18 months in a program led by Paul Wolff [de]. Wolff emphasised small, portable cameras that used 35 mm film. These were a recent innovation at the time, and could be used unobtrusively for street photography. She also studied photographic laboratory techniques at the Gaedel Institute.

In this same period, she had entered a relationship with Walter Rosenthal. Rosenthal was Jewish, and Jews were increasingly persecuted in Germany in the 1930s under the National Socialist (Nazi) regime that took power in 1933. Walter Rosenthal emigrated to Brazil in 1936. Hildegard joined him in São Paulo in 1937. That same year she began working as a laboratory supervisor at the Kosmos photographic materials and services company. A few months later, the agency Press Information hired her as a photojournalist and she did news reports for national and international newspapers. During this period, she took photographs of the city of São Paulo and the state countryside of Rio de Janeiro and other cities in southern Brazil, as well as portraying several personalities from the São Paulo cultural scene, such as the painter Lasar Segall, the writers Guilherme de Almeida and Jorge Amado, the humorist Aparicio Torelly (Barão de Itararé) and the cartoonist Belmonte. Her images sought to capture the artist at his moment of creation, in obvious connection with his spirit of reporter. She interrupted her professional activity in 1948, after the birth of her first daughter. And in 1959, after her husband died, she took over the management of her family’s company.

 

Artistic trajectory

Her photographs remained little known until 1974, when art historian Walter Zanini held a retrospective of her work at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the University of São Paulo. The following year the Museum of Image and Sound of São Paulo (MIS) was opened with the exhibition Memória Paulistana, by Rosenthal. In 1996 the Instituto Moreira Salles acquired more than 3,000 of her negatives, in which urban scenes of São Paulo from the 1930s and 1940s stood out, during which time the city underwent a vertiginous growth, both material and cultural. Other negatives were donated by her during her life to the Lasar Segall Museum.

“Photography without people does not interest me,” she said at the Museum of Image and Sound of São Paulo in 1981.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Liselotte Grschebina (Israeli born Germany, 1908-1994) 'Arbeiterin, Primazon GmbH, Netanya' (Worker, Primazon Ltd., Netanya) c. 1937

 

Liselotte Grschebina (Israeli born Germany, 1908-1994)
Arbeiterin, Primazon GmbH, Netanya (Worker, Primazon Ltd., Netanya)
c. 1937
Gelatin silver print
Image: 16.8 x 22.7cm (6 5/8 x 8 15/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 38.4 x 46cm (15 1/8 x 18 1/8 in.)
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Gift of Beni and Rina Gjebin, Shoham, Israel, with the assistance of Rachel and Dov Gottesman, Tel Aviv and London
Photo: Liselotte Grschebina
© The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

 

 

Liselotte Grschebina (or Grjebina; 1908-1994) was an Israeli photographer. …

In January 1932 Grschebina opens Bilfoto, her own studio, announcing her specialisation in child photography, and takes on students. In 1933, following the Nazis come to power and the restrictions on professional freedom for Jews, Grschebina closed her studio. Before leaving Germany, she marries Dr. Jacob (Jasha) Grschebin. …

The Grschebin couple reaches Tel Aviv in March 1934. The same year, Grschebina opens the Ishon studio on Allenby Street with her friend Ellen Rosenberg (Auerbach), previously a partner in the Berlin photographic studio ringl + pit. In 1936 the Ishon studio is closed when Rosenberg leaves the country; Grschebina continues to work from her home.

 

Style

Grschebina arrived in Palestine in 1934, a trained professional profoundly influenced by the revolutionary movements of the Weimar Republic: New Objectivity in painting and New Vision in photography, as well as by a number of prominent professors, including Karl Hubbuch and Wilhelm Schnarrenberger. Unlike many of her colleagues in Palestine, who sought their identities in the collective Zionist endeavour by documenting and extolling it in their work, Grschebina did not use photography as a means of forming her identity. She came with a full-fledged style and remained committed to Weimar artistic ideals and principles in her new home, where she continued to apply and develop them. … Grschebina’s artistic roots clearly lay in New Vision, which defined photography as an artistic field in its own right and called on camera artists to portray subjects in a new, different way to convey their unique qualities and their essence. She did this through striking vantage points and strong diagonals, making masterful use of mirrors, reflections, and plays of light and shadow to create geometric shapes and to endow her photographs with atmosphere, appeal, and meaning.

In Germany, most of her photographs – usually advertising commissions – were taken in the studio. In the land of Israel, she also worked outdoors, observing those around her with a clear, impartial eye. She photographed people going about their daily routine, unaffected by the presence of the camera. The viewer of her pictures feels like an outsider looking in, gaining a new, objective perspective on the subject: the “objective portrait … not encumbered with subjective intention” wherein, according to New Vision photographer László Moholy-Nagy, lies the genius of photography.

 

Legacy

The photographs of Liselotte Grschebina, rediscovered casually, almost miraculously, in a cupboard in Tel Aviv, reveal a talent that might otherwise have remained forgotten.

The archive of Liselotte Grschebina’s photographs were given to the Israel Museum by her son, Beni Gjebin and his wife Rina, from Shoham, with the assistance of Rachel and Dov Gottesman, the museum president between 2001 and 2011.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Liselotte Grschebina (Israeli born Germany, 1908-1994) 'Hebräische Wassermelone' (Hebrew Watermelon) c. 1935

 

Liselotte Grschebina (Israeli born Germany, 1908-1994)
Hebräische Wassermelone (Hebrew Watermelon)
c. 1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.7 x 29cm (8 15/16 x 11 7/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.5 x 53.8cm (17 1/8 x 21 3/16 in.)
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Gift of Beni and Rina Gjebin, Shoham, Israel, with the assistance of Rachel and Dov Gottesman, Tel Aviv and London Photo Liselotte Grschebina
© The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

 

Liselotte Grschebina (Israeli born Germany, 1908-1994) 'Turnerin' (Gymnast) 1930

 

Liselotte Grschebina (Israeli born Germany, 1908-1994)
Turnerin (Gymnast)
1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.5 x 17.5cm (9 1/4 x 6 7/8 in.)
Frame (outer): 46 x 38.4cm (18 1/8 x 15 1/8 in.)
The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Gift of Beni and Rina Gjebin, Shoham, Israel, with the assistance of Rachel and Dov Gottesman, Tel Aviv and London
Photo: Liselotte Grschebina
© The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

 

Eiko Yamazawa (Japanese, 1899-1995) '(Untitled (Yasue Yamamoto as Okichi in "Elegy for a Woman" by Yuzo Yamamoto))' c. 1943-1944, printed 1944

 

Eiko Yamazawa (Japanese, 1899-1995)
(Untitled (Yasue Yamamoto as Okichi in “Elegy for a Woman” by Yuzo Yamamoto))
c. 1943-1944, printed 1944
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 x 10.5cm (5 7/8 x 4 1/8 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 54.61 x 44.45cm (21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
Tomoka Aya, The Third Gallery Aya
© Yamazawa Eiko

 

 

Eiko Yamazawa (山沢 栄子, Yamazawa Eiko, February 19, 1899 – July 16, 1995) was a renowned Japanese photographer. She is considered one of Japan’s earliest women photographers and is among the few women photographers in Japan who were active both before and after World War II. First trained in Nihonga, she later studied photography in the U.S. under the mentorship of Consuelo Kanaga, and also exposed to the work of Kanaga’s contemporaries such as Paul Strand and Edward Weston.

After coming back to Japan in 1929, she established herself as a professional photographer. In 1931 she opened a portrait studio in Osaka, and in 1950 she established the Yamazawa Institute of Photography also in Osaka. In the early half of her career, Yamazawa was engaged in portraiture and commercial photography, having produced work for major Osaka department stores. In 1960 she shifted abstraction away from realism. Her work in this latter half of her career is characterised by her photographing art materials in distortion and reflection. Yamazawa’s photographs were unique at the time for their use of vibrant colour, which was in stark contrast to black and white photography championed by other Japanese photographers.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Eiko Yamazawa (Japanese, 1899-1995) '(Untitled (Yasue Yamamoto as Okichi in "Elegy for a Woman" by Yuzo Yamamoto))' c. 1943-1944, printed 1944

 

Eiko Yamazawa (Japanese, 1899-1995)
(Untitled (Yasue Yamamoto as Okichi in “Elegy for a Woman” by Yuzo Yamamoto))
c. 1943-1944, printed 1944
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 x 10.5cm (5 7/8 x 4 1/8 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 54.61 x 44.45cm (21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
Tomoka Aya, The Third Gallery Aya
© Yamazawa Eiko

 

Eiko Yamazawa (Japanese, 1899-1995) '(Untitled (Yasue Yamamoto as Okichi in "Elegy for a Woman" by Yuzo Yamamoto))' c. 1943-1944, printed 1944

 

Eiko Yamazawa (Japanese, 1899-1995)
(Untitled (Yasue Yamamoto as Okichi in “Elegy for a Woman” by Yuzo Yamamoto))
c. 1943-1944, printed 1944
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15 x 10.5cm (5 7/8 x 4 1/8 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 54.61 x 44.45cm (21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
Tomoka Aya, The Third Gallery Aya
© Yamazawa Eiko

 

 

Yamamoto Yasue (Japanese 山 本 安 英, actually Yamamoto Chiyo (山 本 千代); born October 29, 1906 in Tōkyō ; died December 29, 1993 there) was a Japanese actress.

Yamamoto Yasue attended from 1921 the “School for modern theater training for women” (現代 劇 女優 養成 所, Gendaigeki joyū yōseijo), which was directed by Ichikawa Sadanji II (二世 市 川 左 団 次; 1880-1940). In 1924 she became a founding member of the “Small Theater Tsukiji” (築 地 小 劇 所) directed by Osanai Kaoru and played the leading role in 67 productions. After Osanai’s death in 1928, Yamamoto and Hijikata Yoshi (1998-1959) founded the “New Tsukiji Theater Company” (新 築 地 劇 団, Shin Tsukiji gekidan). Until the end of the Pacific War, she also took part in radio broadcasts.

In 1951 the Ministry of Culture honored Yamamoto for her role as Tsū in Kinoshita Junji’s internationally acclaimed play “Yūzuru” (夕 鶴), “Crane in the Twilight” [A1] , which had been performed since 1949. In 1966 she founded the “Yasue no kai” (安 英 の 会) to research recitation in contemporary pieces. Yamamoto had a unique presence on stage and a sophisticated way of speaking. In 1974 she was awarded the Asahi Prize and in 1984 the Mainichi Art Prize.

 

Yūzō Yamamoto (山本 有三, Yamamoto Yūzō, July 27, 1887 – January 11, 1974) was a Japanese novelist and playwright. His real name was written as “山本 勇造” but pronounced the same as his pen name. He was born to a family of kimono makers in Tochigi-city, Tochigi Prefecture.

He studied German literature at Tokyo Imperial University. After graduating, he gained popularity for his solidly crafted plays, some twenty in all, notably Professor Tsumura (Tsumura kyōju, 1919), The Crown of Life (生命の冠, Inochi no kanmuri, 1920), Infanticide (Eijigoroshi, 1920), and People Who Agree (同志の人々, Dōshi no hitobito, 1923). In 1926 he turned to novels, known for their clarity of expression and dramatic composition. Later, with the writers Kan Kikuchi and Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, he helped to co-found the Japanese Writer’s Association and openly criticised Japan’s wartime military government for its censorship policies.

After World War II he joined the debate on Japanese language reform, and from 1947 to 1953 he served in the National Diet as a member of the House of Councillors. He is well known for his opposition to the use of enigmatic expressions in written Japanese and his advocacy for the limited use of furigana [a Japanese reading aid]. In 1965 he was awarded the prestigious Order of Culture. He died at his summer villa in Yugawara, Kanagawa in 1974.

Yamamoto’s large European-style house in Mitaka, Tokyo, was expropriated by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers by eminent domain during the occupation period from 1945 to 1953. The mansion was then used as an archive and research lab by non-profit organisations for years, until it was converted into the Mitaka City Yūzō Yamamoto Memorial Museum in 1996. There is also a museum dedicated to him in his hometown of Tochigi.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Valentina Kulagina (Russian, 1902-1987) 'A. Tarasov-Rodionov's "October"' 1930

 

Valentina Kulagina (Russian, 1902-1987)
A. Tarasov-Rodionov’s “October”
1930
Book cover maquette with collage of cut-and-pasted gelatin silver prints, gouache, and ink on paper
Overall: 20.7 x 31.2cm (8 1/8 x 12 1/4 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
Collection Merrill C. Berman

 

 

Valentina Kulagina, full name Valentina Nikiforovna Kulagina-Klutsis (Russian: Валентина Никифоровна Кулагина-Клуцис, 1902-1987) was a Russian painter and book, poster, and exhibition designer. She was a central figure in Constructivist avant-garde in the early 20th century alongside El Lissitzky, Alexander Rodchenko other and her husband Gustav Klutsis. She is known for the Soviet revolutionary and Stalinist propaganda she produced in collaboration with Klutsis.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Elizaveta Ignatovich (Russian, 1903-1983) 'The struggle for the polytechnical school is the struggle for the five-year plan, for the communist education about class consciousness' 1931

 

Elizaveta Ignatovich (Russian, 1903-1983)
The struggle for the polytechnical school is the struggle for the five-year plan, for the communist education about class consciousness
1931
Photolithograph
Sheet: 51.4 x 72.1cm (20 1/4 x 28 3/8 in.)
Frame: 66.04 x 86.36cm (26 x 34 in.)
Collection Merrill C. Berman

 

 

Elizaveta Ignatovich (1903-1983) was born in Moscow, and was a well-regarded photographer and photojournalist of the 1920s through 1940s. In 1929, Elizaveta joined the experimental October organisation with such artists as Alexander Rodchenko, Elizar Langman, Dmitry Debabov, and her husband Boris Ignatovich. After October disbanded, she joined the Ignatovich Brigade along with her husband; her sister-in-law, Olga; Elizar Langman; J. Brodsky and L. Bach.

Elizaveta participated in many photographic exhibitions in the 1930s both in the Soviet Union and abroad including the seminal 1937 exhibition, First all-Union Exhibition of Soviet Photographic Art. While a prolific photographer of her day, Elizaveta’s photographs are now distinguished for their rarity. Among her photographs are Family of Kolkhoz Farmer, Portrait of Pioneer Leader Galina Pogrebniak, The Worker Tatiana Surina, and At the Kokhoz’s 10 Year Anniversary. By 1940, having gained a reputation as a veteran of documentary art photography, Sovetskoe Foto (1940, no. 3, “Zhenshchiny-fotoreportery”) wrote on Elizaveta:

“She is captivated by the fast-paced developments and the colourfulness of our lives, and she knows how to present it in a new fashion with the eyes of an artist. Her work is opposed to posturing and artificiality; as well as to the flashiness in formalist scholasticism.

Overall, E. Ignatovich tends to analyse every component of the scene before taking the shot. For this reason, she is attracted to creating monumental work and to constructing the scene. And E. Ignatovich truly succeeds in creating these scenes. A rich characterisation of her subjects and an artistic integrity distinguish her work.”

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The writer for Sovetskoe Foto underscores Ignatovich’s ability to breath life into her subjects by manifesting their histories and personalities on film. In Family of Kolzhoz Farmer, Ignatovich creates an elaborate scene framed compositionally by tasseled curtains. Occupied by their tasks, Ignatovich’s subjects reveal their dynamic as a tight-knit Soviet family, and suggest their own personalities and concerns.

Later in her career, Ignatovich worked creating commercial photographic albums and post cards for the art publishing house Izogiz and the art journal Iskusstvo. In 1956, she received a silver medal and diploma at the Fifth International Salon of Art Photography (see Power of Pictures, 2015, p. 223) in Paris.

In 2015, E. Ignatovich’s artwork was included in the acclaimed exhibition The Power of Pictures: Early Soviet Photography, Early Soviet Film at the Jewish Museum in New York.

Anonymous text. “Elizaveta Ignatovich,” on the Nailya Alexander Gallery website [Online] Cited 28/11/2021

 

Elizaveta Ignatovich (Russian, 1903-1983) 'Family of a Kolkhoz Farmer' 1930s

 

Elizaveta Ignatovich (Russian, 1903-1983)
Family of a Kolkhoz Farmer
1930s
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 40.64 x 27.94cm (16 x 11 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 45.72cm (24 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 64.77 x 49.53cm (25 1/2 x 19 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Elizaveta Ignatovich
Courtesy of Nailya Alexander Gallery, New York

 

 

During the 1920s, the iconic New Woman was splashed across the pages of magazines and projected on the silver screen. As a global phenomenon, she embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Featuring more than 120 photographers from over 20 countries, the groundbreaking exhibition, The New Woman Behind the Camera, explores the diverse “new” women who embraced photography as a mode of professional and personal expression from the 1920s to the 1950s. The first exhibition to take an international approach to the subject, it examines how women brought their own perspectives to artistic experimentation, studio portraiture, fashion and advertising work, scenes of urban life, ethnography, and photojournalism, profoundly shaping the medium during a time of tremendous social and political change. Accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, this landmark exhibition will be on view from October 31, 2021 through January 30, 2022, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It was previously on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from July 2 through October 3, 2021.

In an era when traditional definitions of womanhood were being questioned, women’s lives were a mix of emancipating and confining experiences that varied by country. Many women around the world found the camera to be a means of independence as they sought to redefine their positions in society and expand their rights. This exhibition presents a geographically, culturally, and artistically diverse range of practitioners to advance new conversations about the history of modern photography and the continual struggle of women to gain creative agency and self-representation.

“This innovative exhibition reevaluates the history of modern photography through the lens of the New Woman, a feminist ideal that emerged at the end of the 19th century and spread globally during the first half of the 20th century,” said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art. “The transnational realities of modernism visualised in photography by women such as Lola Álvarez Bravo, Berenice Abbott, Claude Cahun, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Niu Weiyu, Tsuneko Sasamoto, and Homai Vyarawalla offer us an opportunity to better understand the present by becoming more fully informed of the past.”

 

About the exhibition

This landmark exhibition critically examines the extraordinary impact women had on the practice of photography worldwide from the 1920s to the 1950s. It presents the work of over 120 international photographers who took part in a dramatic expansion of the medium propelled by artistic creativity, technological innovation, and the rise of the printed press. Photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Ilse Bing, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Madame d’Ora, Florence Henri, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Dora Maar, Niu Weiyu, Eslanda Goode Robeson, Tsuneko Sasamoto, Gerda Taro, and Homai Vyarawalla, among many others, emerged at a tumultuous moment in history that was profoundly shaped by two world wars, a global economic depression, struggles for decolonisation, and the rise of fascism and communism. Against the odds, these women were at the forefront of experimentation with the camera and produced invaluable visual testimony that reflects both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the era.

Organised thematically in eight galleries, The New Woman Behind the Camera illustrates women’s groundbreaking work in modern photography, exploring their innovations in the fields of social documentary, avant-garde experimentation, commercial studio practice, photojournalism, ethnography, and the recording of sports, dance, and fashion. By evoking the global phenomenon of the New Woman, the exhibition seeks to reevaluate the history of photography and advance new and more inclusive conversations on the contributions of female photographers.

Known by different names, from nouvelle femme and neue Frau to modan gāru and xin nüxing, the New Woman was easy to recognise but hard to define. Fashionably dressed with her hair bobbed, the self-assured cosmopolitan New Woman was arguably more than a marketable image. She was a contested symbol of liberation from traditional gender roles. Revealing how women photographers from around the world gave rise to and embodied the quintessential New Woman even as they critiqued the popular construction of the role, the exhibition opens with a group of compelling portraits and self-portraits. In these works, women defined their positions as professionals and artists during a time when they were seeking greater personal rights and freedoms.

For many women, the camera became an effective tool for self-determination as well as a source of income. With better access to education and a newfound independence, female photographers emerged as a major force in studio photography. From running successful businesses in Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, and Vienna, to earning recognition as one of the first professional female photographers in their home country, women around the world, including Karimeh Abbud, Steffi Brandl, Trude Fleischmann, Annemarie Heinrich, Eiko Yamazawa, and Madame Yevonde, reinvigorated studio practice. A collaborative space where both sitters and photographers negotiated gender, race, and cultural difference, the portrait studio was also vitally important to African American communities which sought to represent and define themselves within a society that continued to be plagued by racism. Photography studios run by Black women, such as Florestine Perrault Collins and Winifred Hall Allen, thrived throughout the United States, and not only preserved likenesses and memories, but also constructed a counter narrative to the stereotyping images that circulated in the mass media.

With the invention of smaller lightweight cameras, a growing number of women photographers found that the camera’s portability created new avenues of discovery outside the studio. In stunning photographs of the city, photographers such as Alice Brill, Rebecca Lepkoff, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Genevieve Naylor, and Tazue Satō Matsunaga used their artistic vision to capture the exhilarating modern world around them. They depicted everyday life, spontaneous encounters on the street, and soaring architectural views in places like Bombay (now Mumbai), New York, Paris, São Paulo, and Tokyo, revealing the multiplicity of urban experience. Many incorporated the newest photographic techniques to convey the energy of the city, and the exhibition continues with a gallery focused on those radical formal approaches that came to define modern photography. Through techniques like photomontage, photograms, sharp contrasts of light and shadow, extreme cropping, and dizzying camera angles, women including Aenne Biermann, Imogen Cunningham, Dora Maar, Tina Modotti, Lucia Moholy, and Cami Stone pushed the boundaries of the medium.

Women also produced dynamic pictures of the modern body, including innovative nude studies as well as sport and dance photography. Around the world, participation in spectator and team sports increased along with membership in fitness and hygiene reform movements. New concepts concerning health and sexuality along with new attitudes in movement and dress emphasised the body as a central site of experiencing modernity. On view are luminous works by photographers Laure Albin Guillot, Yvonne Chevalier, Florence Henri, and Jeanne Mandello who reimagined the traditional genre of the nude. Photographs by Irene Bayer-Hecht and Liselotte Grschebina highlight joyous play and gymnastic exercise, while Charlotte Rudolph, Ilse Bing, Trude Fleischmann, and Lotte Jacobi made breathtaking images of dancers in motion, revealing the body as artistic medium.

During the modern period, a growing number of women pursued professional photographic careers and traveled widely for the first time. Many took photographs that documented their experiences abroad and interactions with other cultures as they engaged in formal and informal ethnographic projects. The exhibition continues with a selection of photographs and photobooks by women, mainly from Europe and the United States, that reveal a diversity of perspectives and approaches. Gender provided some of these photographers with unusual access and the drive to challenge discriminatory practices, while others were not exempt from portraying stereotypical views. Publications by Jette Bang, Hélène Hoppenot, Ella Maillart, Anna Riwkin, Eslanda Goode Robeson, and Ellen Thorbecke exemplify how photographically illustrated books and magazines were an influential form of communication about travel and ethnography during the modern period. Other works on display include those by Denise Bellon and Ré Soupault, who traveled to foreign countries on assignment for magazines and photo agencies seeking ethnographic and newsworthy photographs, and those by Marjorie Content and Laura Gilpin, who worked on their own in the southwestern United States.

The New Woman – both as a mass-circulating image and as a social phenomenon – was confirmed by the explosion of photographs found in popular fashion and lifestyle magazines. Fashion and advertising photography allowed many women to gain unprecedented access to the public sphere, establish relative economic independence, and attain autonomous professional success. Producing a rich visual language where events and ideas were expressed directly in pictures, illustrated fashion magazines such as Die DameHarper’s Bazaar, and Vogue became an important venue for photographic experimentation by women for a female readership. Photographers producing original views of women’s modernity include Lillian Bassman, Ilse Bing, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Toni Frissell, Toni von Horn, Frances McLaughlin-Gill, ringl + pit, Margaret Watkins, Caroline Whiting Fellows, and Yva.

The rise of the picture press also established photojournalism and social documentary as dominant forms of visual expression during the modern period. Ignited by the effects of a global economic crisis and growing political and social unrest, numerous women photographers including Lucy Ashjian, Margaret Bourke-White, Kati Horna, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Kata Kálmán, Dorothea Lange, and Hansel Mieth engaged a wide public with gripping images. So-called soft topics such as “women and children,” “the family,” and “the home front” were more often assigned to female photojournalists than to their male counterparts. The exhibition asks viewers to question the effect of having women behind the camera in these settings. Pictures produced during the war, from combat photography by Galina Sanko and Gerda Taro to images of the Blitz in London by Thérèse Bonney and the Tuskegee airmen by Toni Frissell, are also featured. At the war’s end, haunting images by Lee Miller of the opening of Nazi concentration camps and celebratory images of the victory parade of Allied Forces in New Delhi by Homai Vyarawalla made way for the transition to the complexities of the postwar era, including images of daily life in US-occupied Japan by Tsuneko Sasamoto and the newly formed People’s Republic of China by Hou Bo and Niu Weiyu.

The New Woman Behind the Camera acknowledges that women are a diverse group whose identities are defined not exclusively by gender but rather by a host of variable factors. It contends that gender is an important aspect in understanding their lives and work and provides a useful framework for analysis to reveal how photography by women has powerfully shaped our understanding of modern life.

 

Exhibition catalog

Published by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and distributed by DelMonico Books | D.A.P., this groundbreaking, richly illustrated 288-page catalog examines the diverse women whose work profoundly marked the medium of photography from the 1920s to the 1950s. The book – featuring over 120 international photographers, including Lola Álvarez Bravo, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Tsuneko Sasamoto, and Homai Vyarawalla – reevaluates the history of modern photography through the lens of the iconic New Woman. Inclusive scholarly essays introduce readers to these important photographers and question the past assumptions about gender in the history of photography. Contributors include Andrea Nelson, associate curator in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art; Elizabeth Cronin, assistant curator of photography in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs, New York Public Library; Mia Fineman, curator in the department of photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mila Ganeva, professor of German in the department of German, Russian, Asian, and Middle Eastern languages and cultures, Miami University, Ohio; Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Elizabeth Otto, professor of modern and  contemporary art history, University at Buffalo (The State University of New York); and Kim Sichel, associate professor in the department of the history of art and architecture at Boston University; biographies of the photographers by Kara Felt, Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Ella Maillart (Swiss, 1903-1997) 'Turkistan Solo' 1935

 

Ella Maillart (Swiss, 1903-1997)
Turkistan Solo
1935
Bound volume
Open: 21.59 x 22.86cm (8 1/2 x 9 in.)
Cradle: 12.07 x 27.31 x 22.54cm (4 3/4 x 10 3/4 x 8 7/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of the Department of Photographs

 

 

Ella Maillart (or Ella K. Maillart; 20 February 1903, Geneva – 27 March 1997, Chandolin) was a Swiss adventurer, travel writer and photographer, as well as a sportswoman.

 

Career

From the 1930s onwards she spent years exploring Muslim republics of the USSR, as well as other parts of Asia, and published a rich series of books which, just as her photographs, are today considered valuable historical testimonies. Her early books were written in French but later she began to write in English. Turkestan Solo describes a journey in 1932 in Soviet Turkestan. Photos from this journey are now displayed in the Ella Maillart wing of the Karakol Historical Museum. In 1934, the French daily Le Petit Parisien sent her to Manchuria to report on the situation under the Japanese occupation. It was there that she met Peter Fleming, a well-known writer and correspondent of The Times, with whom she would team up to cross China from Peking to Srinagar (3,500 miles), much of the route being through hostile desert regions and steep Himalayan passes. The journey started in February 1935 and took seven months to complete, involving travel by train, on lorries, on foot, horse and camelback. Their objective was to ascertain what was happening in Xinjiang (then also known as Sinkiang or Chinese Turkestan) where the Kumul Rebellion had just ended. Maillart and Fleming met the Hui Muslim forces of General Ma Hushan. Ella Maillart later recorded this trek in her book Forbidden Journey, while Peter Fleming’s parallel account is found in his News from Tartary. In 1937 Maillart returned to Asia for Le Petit Parisien to report on Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, while in 1939 she undertook a trip from Geneva to Kabul by car, in the company of the Swiss writer, Annemarie Schwarzenbach. The Cruel Way is the title of Maillart’s book about this experience, cut short by the outbreak of the second World War.

She spent the war years at Tiruvannamalai in the South of India, learning from different teachers about Advaita Vedanta, one of the schools of Hindu philosophy. On her return to Switzerland in 1945, she lived in Geneva and at Chandolin, a mountain village in the Swiss Alps. She continued to ski until late in life and last returned to Tibet in 1986.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Ellen Thorbecke (Dutch, 1902-1973) 'People in China: Thirty-Two Photographic Studies from Life' 1935

 

Ellen Thorbecke (Dutch, 1902-1973)
People in China: Thirty-Two Photographic Studies from Life
1935
Bound volume
Closed:
30.48 x 22.86cm (12 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.85 x 43.18cm (11 3/4 x 17 in.)
Cradle: 13.97 x 40.64 x 30.48cm (5 1/2 x 16 x 12 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

(Ellen Thorbecke, born Ellen Kolban, 1902-1973) is a woman who holds a unique position in Dutch photography. Her small yet extraordinary photo archive, one of the Nederlands Fotomuseum Collection’s true gems, shows rare images of everyday life in China during that era. She photographed with an open mind and as a result Ellen Thorbecke’s images are still relevant and immensely popular in China today.

 

Compelling photographer

In 1931, Ellen Thorbecke left Berlin for China to be reunited with her beloved husband Willem Thorbecke, who had been appointed as an envoy in China on behalf of the Netherlands. Before she left for China, she bought her first camera, as she was planning to work in China as a correspondent for the Berlin newspapers. To illustrate her articles, she captured a series of portraits and street scenes in the Chinese countryside and in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. This was during the era when the idea of ‘East Meets West’ was gaining ground and a number of Western writers, filmmakers and artists were shining the spotlight on China.

Being a journalist from origin, Thorbecke gradually developed into a compelling photographer who infused her photographs with fully-engaged observation of the people and places she visited. The exhibition Ellen Thorbecke’s China presents photographs that capture the changing identity of the young Chinese Republic between centuries-old traditions and Western modernisation. Her images range from those that refer to traditional Chinese role patterns – such as arranged marriages at a young age – to modern portraits showing the desire for freedom and independence.

Anonymous text. “Ellen Thorbecke’s China,” on the Nederlands Fotomuseum website [Online] Cited 29/11/2021

 

Photographer and journalist Ellen Thorbecke (born Ellen Kolban, 1902-1973) occupies a unique and forgotten position in the photography world. In 1931 she left Berlin for Beijing. For this trip she bought her first camera. Thorbecke developed into a compelling photographer who provided her photos with engaged observations about the people and places she visited. She made reports in a lively candid style with an eye for the vitality of street life and has produced several photo books including Peking Studies (1934) and People in China (1935).

Her visual stories and travel guides make her oeuvre a unique time document. Her compact but special photo archive is held at the Dutch Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and consists of 638 black and white negatives, 166 of which were made in China. The photographs Thorbecke made are still relevant today because of her human, direct and unbiased way of looking.

Anonymous text. “Ellen Thorbecke,” on the Photography of China website [Online] Cited 29/11/2021

 

Eslanda Goode Robeson (American, 1896-1965) 'African Journey' 1945

 

Eslanda Goode Robeson (American, 1896-1965)
African Journey
1945
Bound volume
Open:
21.59 x 31.75cm (8 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.)
Mount: 3.49 x 31.27 x 21.75cm (1 3/8 x 12 5/16 x 8 9/16 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of the Department of Photographs

 

 

Eslanda Cardozo Goode Robeson (American, 1896-1965), “Essie,” as she was called, was a photographer, actress, world traveler, author and activist

Born Eslanda Cardoza Goode in Washington, D.C., in 1896, “Essie,” as she was known by her intimates, was the wife of the dynamic performer and activist Paul Robeson. Although not as well known as her famous husband, Eslanda Robeson by no means hid in his shadow. Through her writings and actions, she advocated racial equality and withstood considerable political and social pressure in the course of her long activist career. …

The mid-1940s brought significant accolades to the Robesons as Eslanda’s book African Journey appeared in 1945 and Paul received the Spingarn Medal that same year. While a scholarly work, African Journey was not so much analytical as it was descriptive of the living habits and cultural customs of different tribes, complete with photographs taken by Eslanda. Both provocative and enlightening, it was a landmark work in the sense that it was the first by an American to show the need for reform among the colonial powers. This theme of colonialism became a focal point of Eslanda’s later writings; she strongly believed that the end of World War II hearkened a new era of freedom from European colonisers for emerging nations in Asia and Africa.

Anonymous text. “Robeson, Eslanda Goode (1896-1965),” on the Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia website [Online] Cited 28/11/2021

 

Esther Bubley (American, 1921-1998) 'Young woman in the doorway of her room at a boardinghouse, Washington, DC' 1943

 

Esther Bubley (American, 1921-1998)
Young woman in the doorway of her room at a boardinghouse, Washington, DC
1943
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 26.42 x 25.4cm (10 3/8 x 10 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Kent and Marcia Minichiello

 

 

Esther Bubley (February 16, 1921 – March 16, 1998) was an American photographer who specialised in expressive photos of ordinary people in everyday lives. She worked for several agencies of the American government and her work also featured in several news and photographic magazines.

A protégée of Roy Stryker at the U.S. Office of War Information and subsequently at Standard Oil Company (New Jersey), Esther Bubley (1921-1998) was a preeminent freelance photographer during the “golden age” of American photojournalism, from 1945 to 1965. At a time when most post-war American women were anchored by home and family, Bubley was a thriving professional, traveling throughout the world, photographing stories for magazines such as LIFE and the Ladies’ Home Journal and for prestigious corporate clients that included Pepsi-Cola and Pan American World Airways.

“Put me down with people, and it’s just overwhelming,” Bubley exclaimed in an interview. Like most great photojournalists, she found her art in everyday life, and she successfully balanced her artistic ambitions with the demands of commercial publishing. Edward Steichen, curator of photographs at the Museum of Modern Art and the era’s arbiter of taste, was a great supporter of Bubley, whose work embodied his aesthetic ideal that photography “explain man to man and each to himself.” …

Bubley’s photographs are of cultural as well as artistic interest. Her photo-essays explore the era’s American stereotypes – the troubled child, the high school drop-out, the harried housewife, the enterprising farm family – that were elaborated in the pages of the magazines for which she worked. Her corporate assignments document the introduction of American companies into traditional cultures abroad. Bubley developed a specialty in stories about health care and mental health, documenting the era’s faith in new technologies and the growing prestige of psychology and psychiatry. She also covered her share of celebrities and popular culture topics, including children’s television and beauty contests. A cross-section of Bubley’s work provides a revealing glimpse into the post-war decades, seen not only through Bubley’s lens but through the pages of the illustrated magazines that dominated the mass media of the time.

Bonnie Yochelson. “Biography of Esther Bubley,” on the Esther Bubley website [Online] Cited 28/11/2021

 

Florence Henri (European, 1893-1982) 'Portrait Composition (Femme aux cartes)' (Portrait Composition (Woman with Cards)) 1930

 

Florence Henri (European, 1893-1982)
Portrait Composition (Femme aux cartes) (Portrait Composition (Woman with Cards))
1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28 x 22.4cm (11 x 8 13/16 in.)
Mount: 38.1 x 33cm (15 x 13 in.)
Frame (outer): 52.7 x 47.6cm (20 3/4 x 18 3/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
Florence Henri © Galleria Martini & Ronchetti, courtesy Archives Florence Henri
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Resource, NY

 

 

Florence Henri (28 June 1893 – 24 July 1982) was a surrealist artist; primarily focusing her practice on photography and painting, in addition to pianist composition. In her childhood, she traveled throughout Europe, spending portions of her youth in Paris, Vienna, and the Isle of Wight. She studied in Rome, where she would encounter the Futurists, finding inspiration in their movement. From 1910 to 1922, she studied piano in Berlin, under the instruction of Egon Petri and Ferrucio Busoni. She would find herself landlocked to Berlin during the first World War, supporting herself by composing piano tracks for silent films. She returned to Paris in 1922, to attend the Académie André Lhote, and would attend until the end of 1923. From 1924 to 1925, she would study under painters Fernand Léger and Amédée Ozenfant at the Académie Moderne. Henri’s most important artistic training would come from the Bauhaus in Dessau, in 1927, where she studied with masters Josef Albers and László Moholy-Nagy, who would introduce her to the medium of photography. She returned to Paris in 1929 where she started seriously experimenting and working with photography up until 1963. Finally, she would move to Compiègne, where she concentrated her energies on painting until the end of her life in 1982. Her work includes experimental photography, advertising, and portraits, many of which featured other artists of the time.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Florestine Perrault Collins (American, 1895-1988) 'Mae Fuller Keller' Early 1920s

 

Florestine Perrault Collins (American, 1895-1988)
Mae Fuller Keller
Early 1920s
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 35.56 x 27.94cm (14 x 11 in.)
Frame: 35.56 x 27.94cm (14 x 11 in.)
Frame (outer): 39.37 x 31.75cm (15 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.)
Dr Arthé A. Anthony

 

 

Florestine Perrault Collins (1895-1988) was an American professional photographer from New Orleans. Collins is noted for having created photographs of African-American clients that “reflected pride, sophistication, and dignity,” instead of racial stereotypes.

In 1909, Collins began practicing photography at age 14. Her subjects ranged from weddings, First Communions, and graduations to personal photographs of soldiers who had returned home. At the beginning of her career, Collins had to pass as a white woman to be able to assist photographers.

Collins eventually opened her own studio, catering to African-American families. She gained a loyal following and had success, due to both her photography and marketing skills. Out of 101 African-American women who identified themselves as photographers in the 1920 U.S. Census, Collins was the only one listed in New Orleans.

She advertised in newspapers, playing up the sentimentality of a well-done photograph. Collins also included her photograph in the ads to appeal to customers who thought a female photographer might take better pictures of babies and children.

According to the Encyclopedia of Louisiana, Collins’ career “mirrored a complicated interplay of gender, racial and class expectations”.

“The history of black liberation in the United States could be characterised as a struggle over images as much as it has also been a struggle over rights,” according to Bell Hooks. Collins’ photographs are representative of that. By taking pictures of black women and children in domestic settings, she challenged the pervasive stereotypes of the time about black women.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Photographer unknown. 'Florestine Perrault Collins' 1920s

 

Photographer unknown
Florestine Perrault Collins
1920s
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 35.56 x 27.94cm (14 x 11 in.)
Frame: 35.56 x 27.94cm (14 x 11 in.)
Frame (outer): 39.37 x 31.75cm (15 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.)
Dr Arthé A. Anthony

 

Germaine Krull (German, French, and Dutch, Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand and India, 1897-1985) 'Eielturm' (Eifel Tower) 1928

 

Germaine Krull (German, French, and Dutch, Brazil, Republic of the Congo, Thailand and India, 1897-1985)
Eielturm (Eifel Tower)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.5 x 15.2cm (8 7/8 x 6 in.)
Frame: 50 x 40cm (19 11/16 x 15 3/4 in.)
Frame (outer): 52 x 42 x 2.8cm (20 1/2 x 16 9/16 x 1 1/8 in.)
Museum Folkwang, Essen © Estate Germaine Krull, Museum Folkwang, Essen
Photo © Museum Folkwang Essen – ARTOTHEK

 

Gertrude Fehr (German, 1895-1996) 'Odile' 1936

 

Gertrude Fehr (German, 1895-1996)
Odile
1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 32.39 x 29.21cm (12 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 25.75 x 21.75cm (10 1/8 x 8 9/16 in.)
Trish and Jan de Bont

 

 

Gertrude Fehr was a German photographer. She was born in Mainz on Tuesday 5 March 1895 and died in 1996 at the age of 101. She was one of the earliest professional female photographers.

Fehr studied photography at the Bavarian School of photography in Munich and undertook an apprenticeship in the Munich studio of Eduard Wasow. Shortly after finishing the apprenticeship, she set up a photographic studio dedicated fundamentally to the theatre and to the portrait technique which employed six people. In 1933, the rise of Hitler and the establishment of the Third Reich forced Fehr to close the studio and to emigrate to Paris with her future Swiss husband, the painter Jules Fehr. Installed in the French capital there she opened her own school of photography: PUBLI-phot.

In Paris she found the artistic atmosphere of the avant-garde of the time and, influenced by the movements modernism, began photographic experiments. Patent in those moments was the tremendous influence of the most transgressive photographer-painter of the moment, Man Ray, which she considered “fascinating”. Like him, she started experimenting with the solarisation process. The solarisation of Fehr (unlike Man Ray) are works that have a aesthetic which resembles an academic charcoal drawing. If it were not for the difference in procedures, Fehr’s “Odile” (1940) seems rather an image enhanced by traditional procedures rather than by the photographic avant-garde.

At the end of the 1930s she and her husband moved to Switzerland, where they opened a photography school in Lausanne.

 

Adele Gloria (Italian, 1910-1984) 'Senza titolo' (Untitled) c. 1933

 

Adele Gloria (Italian, 1910-1984)
Senza titolo (Untitled)
c. 1933
Collage with gelatin silver prints
Overall: 18.2 x 21.27cm (7 3/16 x 8 3/8 in.)
Mat: 39.37 x 49.85cm (15 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
Collection Merrill C. Berman

 

 

Adele Gloria was the only futurist woman in Sicily, she distinguished herself in the field of aeropainting and avant-garde, in the early 30s in Catania. She was a poet, photographer, painter, sculptor and journalist, a “total” artist according to the canons of the Futurist movement.

 

Adele Gloria (Italian, 1910-1984) 'Senza titolo' (Untitled) c. 1933 (detail)

 

Adele Gloria (Italian, 1910-1984)
Senza titolo (Untitled) (detail)
c. 1933
Collage with gelatin silver prints
Overall: 18.2 x 21.27cm (7 3/16 x 8 3/8 in.)
Mat: 39.37 x 49.85cm (15 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
Collection Merrill C. Berman

 

Adele Gloria (Italian, 1910-1984) 'Senza titolo' (Untitled) c. 1933 (detail)

 

Adele Gloria (Italian, 1910-1984)
Senza titolo (Untitled) (detail)
c. 1933
Collage with gelatin silver prints
Overall: 18.2 x 21.27cm (7 3/16 x 8 3/8 in.)
Mat: 39.37 x 49.85cm (15 1/2 x 19 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
Collection Merrill C. Berman

 

Hélène Hoppenot (French, 1894-1990) 'Chine' 1946

 

Hélène Hoppenot (French, 1894-1990)
Chine
1946
Bound volume
Open: 35.56 x 33.02cm (14 x 13 in.)
Cradle:11.43 x 49.85 x 36.2cm (4 1/2 x 19 5/8 x 14 1/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of the Department of Photographs

 

 

Hélène Hoppenot (1894-1990) was a French amateur photographer who made thousands of snapshots using the Rolleiflex from 1933 to the 1970s.

Hoppenot made a trip to China where she photographed the everyday life and habits of Chinese people in the country and in the city. This book is her testimony of this travel. It is accompanied with a text from writer Paul Claudel who was deeply interested in Chinese culture and traveled to China as well.

 

Homai Vyarawalla (Indian, 1913-2012) 'The Ashes of Mahatma Gandhi Being Carried in a Procession, Allahabad' February 1948

 

Homai Vyarawalla (Indian, 1913-2012)
The Ashes of Mahatma Gandhi Being Carried in a Procession, Allahabad
February 1948
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 38.1 x 38.1cm (15 x 15 in.)
Frame: 53.34 x 53.34cm (21 x 21 in.)
Frame (outer): 55.88 x 55.88cm (22 x 22 in.)
Homai Vyarawalla Archive / The Alkazi Collection of Photography

 

 

Homai Vyarawalla (9 December 1913 – 15 January 2012), commonly known by her pseudonym Dalda 13, was India’s first woman photojournalist. She began work in the late 1930s and retired in the early 1970s. In 2011, she was awarded Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award of the Republic of India. She was amongst the first women in India to join a mainstream publication when she joined The Illustrated Weekly of India.

 

Career

Vyarawalla started her career in the 1930s. At the onset of World War II, she started working on assignments for Mumbai-based The Illustrated Weekly of India magazine which published many of her most admired black-and-white images. In the early years of her career, since Vyarawalla was unknown and a woman, her photographs were published under her husband’s name. Vyarawalla stated that because women were not taken seriously as journalists she was able to take high-quality, revealing photographs of her subjects without interference:

People were rather orthodox. They didn’t want the women folk to be moving around all over the place and when they saw me in a sari with the camera, hanging around, they thought it was a very strange sight. And in the beginning they thought I was just fooling around with the camera, just showing off or something and they didn’t take me seriously. But that was to my advantage because I could go to the sensitive areas also to take pictures and nobody will stop me. So I was able to take the best of pictures and get them published. It was only when the pictures got published that people realized how seriously I was working for the place.

~  Homai Vyarawalla in Dalda 13: A Portrait of Homai Vyarawalla (1995)

.
Eventually her photography received notice at the national level, particularly after moving to Delhi in 1942 to join the British Information Services. As a press photographer, she recorded many political and national leaders in the period leading up to independence, including Mohandas Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Indira Gandhi and the Nehru-Gandhi family.

The Dalai Lama in ceremonial dress enters India through Nathu La in Sikkim on 24 November 1956, photographed by Homai Vyarawalla. In 1956, she photographed for Life Magazine the 14th Dalai Lama when he entered Sikkim in India for the first time via the Nathu La. Most of her photographs were published under the pseudonym “Dalda 13”. The reasons behind her choice of this name were that her birth year was 1913, she met her husband at the age of 13 and her first car’s number plate read “DLD 13”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Photographer unknown. 'Homai Vyarawalla photographing Ganesh Chaturthi at Chowpatty Beach, Bombay' Late 1930s, printed later

 

Photographer unknown
Homai Vyarawalla photographing Ganesh Chaturthi at Chowpatty Beach, Bombay
Late 1930s, printed later
Inkjet print
Image: 30.48 x 20.8cm (12 x 8 3/16 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
Homai Vyarawalla Archive / The Alkazi Collection of Photography

 

Homai Vyarawalla (Indian, 1913-2012) 'The Victory Parade by the Allied Forces in India Marking the End of the Second World War, Connaught Place, New Delhi' 1945

 

Homai Vyarawalla (Indian, 1913-2012)
The Victory Parade by the Allied Forces in India Marking the End of the Second World War, Connaught Place, New Delhi
1945
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 31 x 30.8cm (12 3/16 x 12 1/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 45.72cm (18 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 48.26cm (19 x 19 in.)
Homai Vyarawalla Archive / The Alkazi Collection of Photography

 

Homai Vyarawalla (Indian, 1913-2012) 'Students at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art, Bombay' Late 1930s, printed later

 

Homai Vyarawalla (Indian, 1913-2012)
Students at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy School of Art, Bombay
Late 1930s, printed later
Inkjet print
Image/sheet: 40.7 x 40.7cm (16 x 16 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 55.88cm (22 x 22 in.)
Frame (outer): 58.42 x 58.42cm (23 x 23 in.)
Homai Vyarawalla Archive / The Alkazi Collection of Photography

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976) 'Magnolia Blossom' c. 1925

 

Imogen Cunningham (American, 1883-1976)
Magnolia Blossom
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
17.1 x 21.6cm (6 3/4 x 8 1/2 in.)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Gift of Albert M. Bender
© 2020 Imogen Cunningham Trust

 

Judit Kárász (Hungarian, 1912-1977) 'Kávészemek cukorral' (Coffee Beans and Sugar) 1931

 

Judit Kárász (Hungarian, 1912-1977)
Kávészemek cukorral (Coffee Beans and Sugar)
1931
Gelatin silver print
Image: 13.02 x 20.96cm (5 1/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
Support: 13.02 x 20.96cm (5 1/8 x 8 1/4 in.)
Mat: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 41.28 x 51.44 x 3.33cm (16 1/4 x 20 1/4 x 1 5/16 in.)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Gift of Louis Stern Digital Image
© 2019 Museum Associates / LACMA / Licensed by Art Resoure, NY

 

 

Judit Kárász (21 May 1912 – 30 May 1977) was a Hungarian photographer interested in the medium’s ability to reveal the hidden structures of everyday subject matter. Her photography brought together social documentary and modernist ideas such as Gestalt theory.

 

Bauhaus

On 21 June 1932 Kárász received her Bauhaus diploma, where she majored in photography. She was taught by Walter Peterhans, who founded the school’s photography department in 1929. Influenced by the work of artists such as fellow Hungarian László Moholy-Nagy who had previously taught at the school, Kárász began to experiment with compositional devices, such as bird’s-eye perspective, and explored modernist themes and subject matters including industrial landscapes.

 

Career

In 1931 Kárász became a member of Kostufa (Kommunistische Studenten Fraktion) a communist student group, and following her active role in election campaigns she was expelled from the Sachsen-Anhalt area of Germany. Between 1932-1935 Karasz worked as a laboratory technician at the Dephot in Berlin, a photographic agency that represented photojournalists, such as Robert Capa.

Karasz was involved with the Workers-Photography movement, a collective associated with communism dedicated to activating photography for social ends.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Vera Gabrielová (Czech, 1919-2002) 'Bez názvu (lžíce)' (Untitled (Spoons)) 1935-1936

 

Vera Gabrielová (Czech, 1919-2002)
Bez názvu (lžíce) (Untitled (Spoons))
1935-1936
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.8 x 17.5cm (9 3/8 x 6 7/8 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Ellen and Robert Grimes

 

Jaroslava Hatláková (Czech, 1904-1989) 'Bez názvu' (Untitled) c. 1936

 

Jaroslava Hatláková (Czech, 1904-1989)
Bez názvu (Untitled)
c. 1936
Gelatin silver print
10.8 x 8.26cm (4 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Trish and Jan de Bont

 

Jeanne Mandello (German, 1907-2001) 'Arbeiter der neuen uruguayischen Fakultät für Architektur, Montevideo' (Workers on the new Uruguayan School of Architecture, Montevideo) c. 1945, printed later

 

Jeanne Mandello (German, 1907-2001)
Arbeiter der neuen uruguayischen Fakultät für Architektur, Montevideo (Workers on the new Uruguayan School of Architecture, Montevideo)
c. 1945, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 35 x 27cm (13 3/4 x 10 5/8 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Isabel Mandello Collection
© 2020 Isabel Mandello

 

 

Jeanne Mandello (née Johanna Mandello; October 18, 1907, Frankfurt – December 17, 2001, Barcelona) was a German modern artist and experimental photographer. …

In 1926 she began studying photography at Lette-Verein. In a time when it was difficult for a woman to get attention as an artist, photography opened a way into the art world. Inspired by the spirit of freedom in Berlin in the 1920s, the women’s movement offered an opportunity to go out, attended theater performances, concerts, exhibitions and decide on the model of the “new woman”, imitating Grete Stern and Ellen Auerbach who wore pants and short hair. In 1927, she studied at the studio of Paul Wolff and Alfred Tritschler. Through Wolff, she became familiar with Leica Camera photography. Back in Berlin, she returned to Lette and finished her studies. Using a Leica film camera, she photographed portraits, landscapes and scenes of everyday life. In 1929, she taught in Frankfurt, creating a studio at her parents’ house. Here, she collaborated with the photographer Nathalie Reuter (1911-1990), a former classmate and friend. In 1932, she met Arno Grünebaum. Under Mandello’s guidance, he learned photography. In 1933, they married. Being Jewish and being aware of the coming danger, they left Germany in 1934 and began in Paris a new life.

 

Career

In Paris, she changed her first name Johanna into the French form, Jeanne. Like other modern photographers of the Weimar Republic, Mandello found inspiration during her exile in Paris. She was influenced by the Nouvelle Vision; by Man Ray, Brassaï and Doisneau, in redefined photography. They experimented with new techniques, unusual camera angles, picture cutouts, exposures and photomontages. Mandello and Grunbaum specialised in commercial and portrait photography and established themselves as fashion photographers. In 1937, they opened a studio in 17th Arrondissement under the name “Mandello”. “Mandello” did work for Fémina, Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, as well as the fashion houses of Balenciaga, Guerlain, Maggy Rouff, and Creed. Occasionally, they worked with the photographer Hermann Landshoff, who had also fled Nazi Germany. After the outbreak of World War II, Mandello and her husband were considered Alien Enemies within the French Republic and were forced to leave Paris in early 1940. They had to leave everything behind: the photo studio, camera equipment, archived works and negatives. They were allowed to take only 14 kilos of luggage. They came to the village of Dognen where she helped out in the infirmary. Her German citizenship was withdrawn on 28 October 1940. With visas to Uruguay, Mandello and Grunebaum left France and started a new life in South America where she exhibited beginning in 1943. Her new work included architecture, landscapes, photograms, portraits, and solarisations. In 1952, she exhibited at Museum of Modern Art, Rio de Janeiro, and two years later, she separated from her husband, and moved to Brazil to be with the journalist, Lothar Bauer. With Bauer, she moved to Barcelona at the end of the decade where she worked the rest of her life. She married Bauer, and they adopted a daughter, Isabel, in 1970. Mandello died in Barcelona in 2001.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Jeanne Mandello was a pioneer of modern photography and a Jewish avant-garde woman artist working in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona.

She belongs to the same school of modern female photographers of the early 20th century as her contemporaries Grete Stern, Ellen Auerbach, Ilse Bing, Marianne Breslauer, Gisèle Freund, or, even though some years older, Germaine Krull. …

Jeanne Mandello became a cosmopolitan artist by the force of circumstances and brought the geometry of the Bauhaus and the surrealist fantasy of pre-war Paris to her later countries of residence, Uruguay, Brazil and Spain. Her eye remained European and wherever she lived her photographs rendered homage to her new countries. No country can claim her for itself but her work is another example of the universality of art, which transcends all physical frontiers.

Forgotten for nearly 50 years because of the historical circumstances surrounding her life, she is today rediscovered and seen as she should have been: an avant-garde Jewish-German woman artist and a pioneer in the field of modern photography.

Anonymous text. “Jeanne Mandello: Photographer in Exile,” on the Jeanne Mandello website [Online] Cited 28/11/2021

 

Jeanne Mandello (German, 1907-2001) 'Perfume Advertisement for Maggy Rou' c. 1935-1938, printed later

 

Jeanne Mandello (German, 1907-2001)
Perfume Advertisement for Maggy Rou
c. 1935-1938, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 29 x 22cm (11 7/16 x 8 11/16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Isabel Mandello Collection
© 2020 Isabel Mandello

 

Jeanne Mandello (German, 1907-2001) 'Selbstporträt, Montevideo' (Self-Portrait, Montevideo) c. 1942-1943, printed later

 

Jeanne Mandello (German, 1907-2001)
Selbstporträt, Montevideo (Self-Portrait, Montevideo)
c. 1942-1943, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28.5 x 24cm (11 1/4 x 9 7/16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Framed (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Isabel Mandello Collection
© 2020 Isabel Mandello

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979) 'Untitled (Pueblo dwelling, woman holding a bowl)' c. 1930

 

Laura Gilpin (American, 1891-1979)
Untitled (Pueblo dwelling, woman holding a bowl)
c. 1930
Platinum print
Sheet: 24.7 x 19.8cm (9 3/4 x 7 13/16 in.)
Mat: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.74cm (19 x 15 in.)
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
© 1979 Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

 

 

Laura Gilpin (April 22, 1891 – November 30, 1979) was an American photographer. Gilpin is known for her photographs of Native Americans, particularly the Navajo and Pueblo, and Southwestern landscapes. Gilpin began taking photographs as a child in Colorado and formally studied photography in New York from 1916 to 1917 before returning to her home in Colorado to begin her career as a professional photographer.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Lucy Ashjian (American, 1907-1993) 'Savoy Dancers' 1935-1943

 

Lucy Ashjian (American, 1907-1993)
Savoy Dancers
1935-1943
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24 x 18.8cm (9 7/16 x 7 3/8 in.)
Sheet: 26.2 x 20.2cm (10 5/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 47.3 x 39.5cm (18 5/8 x 15 9/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Gregor Ashjian Preston, 2004
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Art Resource, NY

 

 

Lucy Ashjian (1907-1993) is an American photographer best known as a member of the New York Photo League. Her work is included in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona and the Museum of the City of New York.

 

Margaret Michaelis (Austrian-Australian, 1902-1985) '"Residencia de J. M. a Barcelona," in D'Ací i d'Allà' Spring 1936

 

Margaret Michaelis (Austrian-Australian, 1902-1985)
“Residencia de J. M. a Barcelona,” in D’Ací i d’Allà
Spring 1936
Bound volume
Open: 32.39 x 52.07cm (12 3/4 x 20 1/2 in.)
Closed: 32.39 x 29.21cm (12 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.)
Cradle: 15.88 x 57.15 x 33.02cm (6 1/4 x 22 1/2 x 13 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

Margaret Michaelis (Austrian-Australian, 1902-1985) '"Residencia de J. M. a Barcelona," in D'Ací i d'Allà' Spring 1936 (detail)

 

Margaret Michaelis (Austrian-Australian, 1902-1985)
“Residencia de J. M. a Barcelona,” in D’Ací i d’Allà (detail)
Spring 1936
Bound volume
Open: 32.39 x 52.07cm (12 3/4 x 20 1/2 in.)
Closed: 32.39 x 29.21cm (12 3/4 x 11 1/2 in.)
Cradle: 15.88 x 57.15 x 33.02cm (6 1/4 x 22 1/2 x 13 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

Margaret (Margarethe) Michaelis-Sachs (née Gross, 1902-1985) was an Austrian-Australian photographer of Polish-Jewish origin. In addition to her many portraits, her architectural scenes of Barcelona and her images of the Jewish quarter in Kraków in the 1930s are of lasting historical interest.

Michaelis studied photography at Vienna’s Graphische Lehr-und Versuchsanstalt from 1918 to 1921.

 

Career

In 1922, still in Vienna, she first worked for a period at the Studio d’Ora before spending a number of years at the Atelier für Porträt Photographie. She went on to work for Binder Photographie in Berlin and Fotostyle in Prague, and finally returned to Berlin in 1929 to work intermittently for a variety of studios during the hard times of the Depression.

In October 1933, she married Rudolf Michaelis who, as an anarcho-syndicalist, was almost immediately arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis. In December 1933, after Rudolf’s release, the couple moved to Spain but they separated shortly afterwards. In Barcelona, Michaelis opened her own studio, Foto-elis. Collaborating with a group of architects, she produced documentary images of progressive architecture which were published in Catalan journals such as D’Ací i d’Allà and, after the start of the civil war, Nova Iberia.

After returning to Poland in 1937, she obtained a German passport, went to London and, in September 1939, emigrated to Australia, first working as a house maid in Sydney. In 1940, she opened her “Photo-studio”, becoming one of the few women photographers in Sydney. She specialised in portraits, especially of Europeans, Jews and people in the arts, many published in Australia and Australian Photography. A member of the photographers’ associations of New South Wales and Australia, in 1941 she was the only woman to join the Institute of Photographic Illustrators.

Margaret Michaelis’ photographic career came to an end in 1952 as a result of poor eyesight. In 1960, she married Albert George Sachs, a glass merchant. She died on 10 October 1985 in Melbourne.

 

Styles

In her early life, Michaelis used the sharp focus and sometimes unusual vantage points of modernist photography while her portraits sought to reveal the psychological essence of her sitters. Her portraits were primarily focused on capturing the lives of Jewish immigrants. Of particular significance is the small set of scenes from the Jewish market in Kraków taken in the 1930s. Helen Ennis of the National Gallery of Australia stated the images “carry the weight of history, offering a visual trace of a way of life that was destroyed by fascism.”

Michaelis was also fond of self-portraiture using the landscapes around Sydney and Melbourne as her backdrop.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927) 'The Handcrafts Group Organised by Families of Shanghai Business Owners Making Chinese Dolls' 1956, printed later

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927)
The Handcrafts Group Organised by Families of Shanghai Business Owners Making Chinese Dolls
1956, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 43.9 x 45.8cm (17 5/16 x 18 1/16 in.)
Sheet: 60.9 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 60.96 cm (24 x 24 in.)
Frame (outer): 63.5 x 63.5cm (25 x 25 in.)
Gao Fan & Niu Weiyu Foundation

 

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese: 牛畏予; born 1927 in Tanghe, Henan) is a Chinese photojournalist whose career started in the 1940s with coverage of the Chinese Communist Party’s wartime experiences and continued after 1949. She is praised for her photographs of ordinary workers and ethnic groups, and as one of the few women in photography, she specialised in female images.

She is a member of the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese Photographers Association. Her husband, Gao Fan (1922-2004) was also a wartime and post-1949 photographer.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Niu Weiyu 牛畏予 (1927- ) is a native of Tanghe County, Henan Province. In the spring of 1945, she joined in revolution. She studied in Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese Military and Political College. In 1947, she served as Publicity Officer of Shanxi-Hebei-Shandong-Henan Military Region Political Department. In 1948, she served as a photographer of North China Pictorial. Later, she followed the Second Field Army to advance southwards, and worked as a photographer in Southwest Pictorial. In the early 1951, she was transferred to civilian work and served as a photographer of News Photography Bureau. She was the Head of photography team in North China Branch and Beijing Branch of Xinhua News Agency. In 1955, she began to serve as the central news photojournalist of Xinhua News Agency. In 1973, she was transferred to the post of photographer of foreign affairs team of Xinhua News Agency. In 1978, she began to serve as Head of photography team of Hong Kong Branch of Xinhua News Agency. She retired as a veteran cadre in 1982.

Anonymous text. “Niu Weiyu,” on the Photography of China website [Online] Cited 29/11/2021

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927) 'Female Pilot' 1952, printed 1988

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927)
Female Pilot
1952, printed 1988
Gelatin silver print
Image: 43.8 x 33cm (17 1/4 x 13 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 63.5 x 53.34cm (25 x 21 in.)
Gao Fan & Niu Weiyu Foundation

 

Shu Ye (Chinese) 'Niu Weiyu with Camera' c. 1960

 

Shu Ye (Chinese)
Niu Weiyu with Camera
c. 1960
Gelatin silver print
Image: 15.4 x 7.1 cm (6 1/16 x 2 13/16 in.)
Mount: 25.4 x 12.8 cm (10 x 5 1/16 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56 cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1 cm (19 x 15 in.)
Gao Fan & Niu Weiyu Foundation

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927) 'Train, Bridge, Highway, and Elephant' 1950s, printed later

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927)
Train, Bridge, Highway, and Elephant
1950s, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Image: 38.8 x 55.9cm (15 1/4 x 22 in.)
Sheet: 50.8 x 60.9cm (20 x 24 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 60.9cm (20 x 24 in.)
Gao Fan & Niu Weiyu Foundation

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927) 'The First Beginning of Spring After Liberation, an International Women's Day Celebration in front of the Temple of the Forbidden City' 1949, printed 2017

 

Niu Weiyu (Chinese, b. 1927)
The First Beginning of Spring After Liberation, an International Women’s Day Celebration in front of the Temple of the Forbidden City
1949, printed 2017
Gelatin and silver bromide printing
National Art Museum Collection of China
Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

 

Behind the Camera

Women actively participated in the development of photography soon after its inception in the 19th century. Yet it was in the 1920s, after the seismic disruptions of World War I, that women entered the field of photography in force. Aided by advances in technology and mass communications, along with growing access to training and acceptance of their presence in the workplace, women around the world made an indelible mark on the growth and diversification of the medium. They brought innovation to a range of photographic disciplines, from avant-garde experimentation and commercial studio practice to social documentary, photojournalism, ethnography, and the recording of sports, dance, and fashion.

 

The New Woman

A global phenomenon, the New Woman of the 1920s embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Her image – a woman with bobbed hair, stylish dress, and a confident stride – was a staple of newspapers and magazines first in Europe and the United States and soon in China, Japan, India, Australia, and elsewhere. A symbol of the pursuit of liberation from traditional gender roles, the New Woman in her many guises represented women who faced a mix of opportunities and obstacles that varied from country to country. The camera became a powerful means for female photographers to assert their self-determination and redefine their position in society. Producing compelling portraits, including self-portraits featuring the artist with her camera, they established their roles as professionals and artists.

 

The Studio

Commercial studio photography was an important pathway for many women to forge a professional career and to earn their own income. Running successful businesses in small towns and major cities from Buenos Aires to Berlin and Istanbul, women reinvigorated the genre of portraiture. In the studio, both sitters and photographers navigated gender, race, and cultural difference; those run by women presented a different dynamic. For example, Black women operated studios in Chicago, New Orleans, and elsewhere in the United States, where they not only preserved likenesses and memories, but also constructed a counter narrative to racist images then circulating in the mass media.

 

The City

The availability of smaller, lightweight cameras and the increasing freedom to move about cities on their own spurred a number of women photographers to explore the diversity of the urban experience beyond the studio walls. Using their creative vision to capture the vibrant modern world around them, women living and working in Bombay (now Mumbai), London, New York, Paris, São Paulo, Tokyo, and beyond photographed soaring architecture and spontaneous encounters on the street.

 

Avant-Garde Experiments

Creative formal approaches – photomontage, photograms, sharp contrasts of light and shadow, unconventional cropping, extreme close-ups, and dizzying camera angles – came to define photography during this period. Women incorporated these cutting-edge techniques to produce works that conveyed the movement and energy of modern life. Although often overshadowed by their male partners and colleagues, women photographers were integral in shaping an avant-garde visual language that promoted new ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

 

Modern Bodies

Beginning in the 1920s, new concepts concerning health and sexuality, along with changing attitudes about movement and dress, emphasised the human body as a central site of experiencing modernity. Women photographers produced incisive visions of liberated modern bodies, from pioneering photographs of the nude to exuberant pictures of sport and dance. Photographs of joyous play and gymnastic exercise, as well as images of dancers in motion, celebrate the body as artistic medium.

 

Ethnographic Approaches

During this modern period, numerous women pursued professional photographic careers and traveled extensively for the first time. Many took photographs that documented their experiences abroad in Africa, China, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, while others engaged in more formal ethnographic projects. Some women with access to domains that were off limits to their male counterparts produced intimate portraits of female subjects. While gender may have afforded these photographers special connections to certain communities, it did not exempt some, especially those from Europe and the United States, from producing stereotypical views that reinforced hierarchical concepts of race and ethnocentrism.

 

Fashion and Advertising

Images splashed across the pages of popular fashion and lifestyle magazines vividly defined the New Woman. The unprecedented demand for fashion and advertising photographs between the world wars provided exceptional employment opportunities for fashion reporters, models, and photographers alike, allowing women to emerge as active agents in the profession. Cultivating the tastes of newly empowered female consumers, fashion and advertising photography provided a space where women could experiment with pictures intended for a predominantly female readership.

 

Social Documentary

Galvanised by the effects of a global economic crisis and the growing political and social unrest that began in the 1930s, numerous women photographers produced arresting images of the human condition. Whether working for government agencies or independently, women contributed to the visual record of the Depression and the events leading up to World War II. From images of breadlines and worker demonstrations to forced migration and internment, women photographers helped to expose dire conditions and shaped what would become known as social documentary photography.

 

Reportage

The rise of the picture press established photojournalism as a dominant form of visual expression during a period shaped by two world wars. Women photographers conveyed an inclusive view of worldwide economic depression, struggles for decolonisation in Africa, and the rise of fascism and communism in Europe and the Soviet Union. They often received the “soft assignments” of photographing women and children, families, and the home front, but some women risked their lives close to the front lines. Images of concentration camps and victory parades made way for the complexities of the postwar era, as seen in pictures of daily life in US-occupied Japan and the newly formed People’s Republic of China.

The photographers whose works are in The New Woman Behind the Camera represent just some of the many women around the world who were at the forefront of experimenting with the camera. They produced invaluable visual testimony that reflected both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the early 20th century. Together, they changed the history of modern photography.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Nobuko Tsuchiura (Japanese, 1900-1998) 'Untitled (A doll)' c. 1938

 

Nobuko Tsuchiura (Japanese, 1900-1998)
Untitled (A doll)
c. 1938
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.8 x 14.3cm (8 9/16 x 5 5/8 in.)
Frame: 54.5 x 42.5cm (21 7/16 x 16 3/4 in.)
Frame (outer): 56.3 x 44.1 x 2cm (22 3/16 x 17 3/8 x 13/16 in.)
The Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo

 

 

Nobuko Tsuchiura (1900-1998) was the first woman architect in Japan.

The wife of architect Kameki Tsuchiura, also an architect, she trained with Frank Lloyd Wright. The couple worked with Wright on the Imperial Hotel. They returned to the United States with Wright and worked for him for two years as draftsmen. After their return to Japan in 1929, they established their own architectural firm. Besides designing homes, the firm also experimented with furniture design. However, her work was always presented under her husband’s name, not her own. In 1937, she founded the Ladies’ Photo Club; at the time, photography was considered to be a more appropriate activity for women than architecture.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sonya Noskowiak (American born Germany, 1900-1975) 'Ohne Titel' (Untitled) c. 1930

 

Sonya Noskowiak (American born Germany, 1900-1975)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24.13 x 17.78cm (9 1/2 x 7 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg

 

 

Sonya Noskowiak (25 November 1900 – 28 April 1975) was a 20th-century German-American photographer and member of the San Francisco photography collective Group f/64 that included Ansel Adams and Edward Weston. She is considered an important figure in one of the great photographic movements of the twewntieth century. Throughout her career, Noskowiak photographed landscapes, still lifes, and portraits. Her most well-known, though unacknowledged, portraits are of the author John Steinbeck. In 1936, Noskowiak was awarded a prize at the annual exhibition of the San Francisco Society of Women Artists. She was also represented in the San Francisco Museum of Art’s “Scenes from San Francisco” exhibit in 1939. Ten years before her death, Noskowiak’s work was included in a WPA exhibition at the Oakland Museum in Oakland, California.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Tazue Sato Matsunaga (Japanese) 'Door' 1938-1939

 

Tazue Sato Matsunaga (Japanese)
Door
1938-1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 28.8 x 22.5cm (11 5/16 x 8 7/8 in.)
Frame: 54.4 x 42.3cm (21 7/16 x 16 5/8 in.)
Frame (outer): 56.3 x 44.1 x 2cm (22 3/16 x 17 3/8 x 13/16 in.)
The Shoto Museum of Art, Tokyo

 

Thérèse Bonney (American, 1894-1978) 'Europe's Children' 1943

 

Thérèse Bonney (American, 1894-1978)
Europe’s Children
1943
Bound volume
Open: 29.85 x 44.45cm (11 3/4 x 17 1/2 in.)
Closed: 29.85 x 22.23cm (11 3/4 x 8 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

Thérèse Bonney (born Mabel Bonney, Syracuse, New York, July 15, 1894 – Paris, France, January 15, 1978) was an American photographer and publicist. Bonney was best known for her images taken during World War II on the Russian-Finnish front. Her war effort earned her the decoration of the Croix de guerre in May 1941, and one of the five degrees the Légion d’honneur. She published several photo-essays, and was the subject of the 1944 True Comics issue “Photo-fighter”.

 

Career

Beginning in 1925, she thoroughly documented the French decorative arts through photography. At this time, most of the photographs were not taken by Bonney herself, but rather gathered from sources such as the collections of fellow photographers, photo agencies, architects, designers, stores, and various establishments. An ardent self-publicist, Bonney acquired the images directly from the Salon exhibitions, stores, manufacturers, architects, and designers of furniture, ceramics, jewellery, and other applied arts as well as architecture. She sold the photographic prints to various client-subscribers primarily in the U.S. (a small-effort precursor to today’s illustrated news agency) and charged fees for reproduction rights in a more traditional manner. She typed captions and glued them to the backs of the photographic prints. These photographs, sometimes garnered without permissions, were widely published – both with and without published credits.

She attended the 1930 “Stockholmsutstäliningen” (Stockholm Exhibition) and gathered photographs there. While in the Netherlands, she collected images of contemporary Dutch architecture.

After her decade-and-a-half activities in publicity and the photography of the decorative arts and architecture by others, Bonney took up photography herself and became a photojournalist. Her concerns with the ravages caused by World War II informed her images, which focused on civilians. Her early photographs focused at first on the individuals at the Russian-Finnish front. For her documentation of this demographic, she was granted the Order of the White Rose of Finland medal for bravery. She also traveled through western Europe during the war, taking photographs of children in dire conditions. A collection of the images were shown at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1940 and later published in her 1943 book Europe’s Children. Other activities included serving with the Croix-rouge (French International Red Cross).

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Tina Modotti (American born Italy, 1896-1942) 'Campesinos (Farm Labourers) or Workers Parade' 1926

 

Tina Modotti (American born Italy, 1896-1942)
Campesinos (Farm Labourers) or Workers Parade
1926
Gelatin silver print
Image: 21.43 x 18.57cm (8 7/16 x 7 5/16 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser

 

 

Tina Modotti (born Assunta Adelaide Luigia Modotti Mondini, August 16/17, 1896 – January 5, 1942) was an Italian American photographer, model, actor, and revolutionary political activist for the Comintern. She left Italy in 1913 and moved to the USA, where she worked as a model and subsequently as a photographer. In 1922 she moved to Mexico, where she became an active Communist. …

 

Photography career

As a young girl in Italy her uncle, Pietro Modotti, maintained a photography studio. Later in the U.S., her father briefly ran a similar studio in San Francisco. While in Los Angeles, she met the photographer Edward Weston and his creative partner Margrethe Mather. It was through her relationship with Weston that Modotti developed as an important fine art photographer and documentarian. By 1921, Modotti was Weston’s lover. Ricardo Gómez Robelo became the head of Mexico’s Ministry of Education’s Fine Arts Department, and persuaded Robo to come to Mexico with a promise of a job and a studio.

Robo left for Mexico in December 1921. Perhaps unaware of his affair with Modotti, Robo took with him prints of Weston’s, hoping to mount an exhibition of his and Weston’s work in Mexico. While she was on her way to be with Robo, Modotti received word of his death from smallpox on February 9, 1922. Devastated, she arrived two days after his death. In March 1922, determined to see Robo’s vision realised, she mounted a two-week exhibition of Robo’s and Weston’s work at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City. She sustained a second loss with the death of her father, which forced her to return to San Francisco later in March 1922. In 1923, Modotti returned to Mexico City with Weston and his son Chandler, leaving behind Weston’s wife Flora and their youngest three children. She agreed to run Weston’s studio free of charge in return for his mentoring her in photography.

Together they opened a portrait studio in Mexico City. Modotti and Weston quickly gravitated toward the capital’s bohemian scene and used their connections to create an expanding portrait business. Together they found a community of cultural and political “avant-gardists”, which included Frida Kahlo, Lupe Marín, Diego Rivera, and Jean Charlot. In general, Weston was moved by the landscape and folk art of Mexico to create abstract works, while Modotti was more captivated by the people of Mexico and blended this human interest with a modernist aesthetic. Modotti also became the photographer of choice for the blossoming Mexican mural movement, documenting the works of José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Between 1924 and 1928, Modotti took hundreds of photographs of Rivera’s murals at the Secretariat of Public Education in Mexico City. Modotti’s visual vocabulary matured during this period, such as her formal experiments with architectural interiors, blooming flowers, urban landscapes, and especially in her many beautiful images of peasants and workers during the depression. In 1926, Modotti and Weston were commissioned by Anita Brenner to travel around Mexico and take photographs for what would become her influential book Idols Behind Altars. The relative contributions of Modotti and Weston to the project has been debated. Weston’s son Brett, who accompanied the two on the project, indicated that the photographs were taken by Edward Weston.

In 1925, Modotti joined International Red Aid, a Communist organisation. In November 1926, Weston left Mexico and returned to California. During this time Modotti met several political radicals and Communists, including three Mexican Communist Party leaders who would all eventually become romantically linked with her: Xavier Guerrero, Julio Antonio Mella, and Vittorio Vidali.

Starting in 1927, a much more politically active Modotti (she joined the Mexican Communist Party that year) found her focus shifting and more of her work becoming politically motivated. Around that time her photographs began appearing in publications such as Mexican Folkways, Forma, and the more radically motivated El Machete, the German Communist Party’s Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (AIZ), and New Masses.

Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo divided Modotti’s career as a photographer into two distinct categories: “Romantic” and “Revolutionary”, with the former period including her time spent as Weston’s darkroom assistant, office manager and, finally, creative partner. Her later works were the focus of her one-woman retrospective exhibition at the National Library in December 1929, which was advertised as “The First Revolutionary Photographic Exhibition In Mexico”.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Toni Frissell (American, 1907-1988) 'Untitled (Model Natalie Nickerson Paine wearing a bikini, Montego Bay, Jamaica)' 1946

 

Toni Frissell (American, 1907-1988)
Untitled (Model Natalie Nickerson Paine wearing a bikini, Montego Bay, Jamaica)
1946
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 27.2 x 26cm (10 11/16 x 10 1/4 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Toni Frissell Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

 

Antoinette Frissell Bacon (March 10, 1907 – April 17, 1988), known as Toni Frissell, was an American photographer, known for her fashion photography, World War II photographs, and portraits of famous Americans, Europeans, children, and women from all walks of life. …

 

World War II

In 1941, Frissell volunteered her photographic services to the American Red Cross. Later she worked for the Eighth Army Air Force and became the official photographer of the Women’s Army Corps. On their behalf, she took thousands of images of nurses, front-line soldiers, WACs, African-American airmen, and orphaned children.

She travelled to the European front twice. Her first picture to be published in Life magazine was of bombed out London in 1942. Her moving photographs of military women and African American fighter pilots in the elite 332d Fighter Group (the “Tuskegee Airmen”) were used to encourage public support for women and African Americans in the military.

During the War she produced a series of photographs of children that were used in an edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s much-published A child’s garden of verses which were an early example of the successful use of photography in illustration of children’s literature.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Toni Frissell (American, 1907-1988) 'Untitled (William A. Campbell and Thurston L. Gaines, Jr., members of the 332nd Fighter Group in Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945)' 1945

 

Toni Frissell (American, 1907-1988)
Untitled (William A. Campbell and Thurston L. Gaines, Jr., members of the 332nd Fighter Group in Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945)
1945
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 35.5 x 28.4cm (14 x 11 3/16 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Toni Frissell Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

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04
Dec
21

Exhibition: ‘The New Woman Behind the Camera’ at the National Gallery of Art, Washington Part 1

Exhibition dates: 31st October, 2021 – 30th January, 2022

Curator: The exhibition is curated by Andrea Nelson, associate curator in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

 

 

Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (American, 1905-2002) 'Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky' 1937

 

Marvin Breckinridge Patterson (American, 1905-2002)
Frontier Nursing Service, Kentucky
1937
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 24.2 x 18.8cm (9 1/2 x 7 3/8 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Marvin Breckinridge Patterson

 

 

The first of a humungous three-part posting on this archaeological exhibition.

Combined with the posting I did on this exhibition when it was on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, this three-part posting will include over 160 new images from the exhibition… meaning a combined total over the four postings of over 200 images with biographical information.

This has been a mammoth effort to construct these postings but so worthwhile!

I will make comment on the exhibition in part 3 of the posting.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the National Gallery of Art for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009) 'New York' c. 1942

 

Helen Levitt (American, 1913-2009)
New York
c. 1942
Gelatin silver print
Sheet (trimmed to image): 18.6 x 24.8cm (7 5/16 x 9 3/4 in.)
Frame: 35.56 x 45.72cm (14 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 38.1 x 48.26cm (15 x 19 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of William H. Levitt
© Helen Levitt Film Documents LLC. All rights reserved
Courtesy of Thomas Zander Gallery

 

Renata Bracksieck (German, 1900-1992) 'Karnevalslichter' (Carnival Lights) 1920s-1930s

 

Renata Bracksieck (German, 1900-1992)
Karnevalslichter (Carnival Lights)
1920s-1930s
Gelatin silver print sheet (trimmed to image): 23.8 x 17.8cm (9 3/8 x 7 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 55.25 x 45.09cm (21 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Renata Bracksieck (German, 1900-1992) was trained as a fashion designer at Christoph Drecoll’s in Berlin, and afterwards ran her own successful fashion studio in Bremen. She started taking photographs in 1929, but had been experimenting with and assisting her close friend and future husband Werner Rohde before. Her photographs were featured in the international exhibition Das Lichtbild in Munich in 1930. In 1937 she married Werner Rohde and subsequently was called Renata Bracksieck-Rohde. After he returned from a POW camp in 1945, they moved to the artist colony Worpswede near the city of Bremen, where they continued to live until their deaths.

Text from the Kicken Berlin website

 

Lotte Jacobi (American, 1896-1990) 'Lieselotte Felger, die Wespentaille in dem Tanz, der Kreisel, Berlin' (Lieselotte Felger as "Die Wespentaille" in the Dance "Der Kreisel," Berlin) 1931

 

Lotte Jacobi (American, 1896-1990)
Lieselotte Felger, die Wespentaille in dem Tanz, der Kreisel, Berlin (Lieselotte Felger as “Die Wespentaille” in the Dance “Der Kreisel,” Berlin)
1931
Gelatin silver print sheet (trimmed to image): 25.2 x 20.2cm (9 15/16 x 7 15/16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Lotte Jacobi (August 17, 1896 – May 6, 1990) was a leading American portrait photographer and photojournalist, known for her high-contrast black-and-white portrait photography, characterised by intimate, sometimes dramatic, sometimes idiosyncratic and often definitive humanist depictions of both ordinary people in the United States and Europe and some of the most important artists, thinkers and activists of the 20th century.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944) 'Ohne Titel (Schmuck)' (Untitled (Jewellery)) c. 1930

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944)
Ohne Titel (Schmuck) (Untitled (Jewellery))
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 22.7 x 16.2 cm (8 15/16 x 6 3/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56 cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 50.17 x 40.01 cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Yva (26 January 1900 – 31 December 1944) was the professional pseudonym of Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon who was a German Jewish photographer renowned for her dreamlike, multiple exposed images. She became a leading photographer in Berlin during the Weimar Republic.

When the Nazi Party came to power, she was forced into working as a radiographer. She was deported by the Gestapo in 1942 and murdered, probably in the Majdanek concentration camp during World War II.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944) 'Ohne Titel (Schmuck)' (Untitled (Jewellery)) c. 1930

 

Yva (Else Ernestine Neuländer-Simon) (German, 1900-1944)
Ohne Titel (Schmuck) (Untitled (Jewellery))
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.05 x 15.24cm (7 1/2 x 6 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 50.17 x 40.01cm (19 3/4 x 15 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection
Gift of the Women’s Committee of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Brenda and Robert Edelson Collection

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998) 'Study for "Salut de Schiaparelli" (Lily Perfume), Paris' 1934

 

Ilse Bing (German, 1899-1998)
Study for “Salut de Schiaparelli” (Lily Perfume), Paris
1934
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 28.2 x 22.3cm (11 1/8 x 8 3/4 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Ilse Bing Wolff

 

 

During the 1920s, the iconic New Woman was splashed across the pages of magazines and projected on the silver screen. As a global phenomenon, she embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Featuring more than 120 photographers from over 20 countries, the groundbreaking exhibition, The New Woman Behind the Camera, explores the diverse “new” women who embraced photography as a mode of professional and personal expression from the 1920s to the 1950s. The first exhibition to take an international approach to the subject, it examines how women brought their own perspectives to artistic experimentation, studio portraiture, fashion and advertising work, scenes of urban life, ethnography, and photojournalism, profoundly shaping the medium during a time of tremendous social and political change. Accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, this landmark exhibition will be on view from October 31, 2021 through January 30, 2022, in the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington. It was previously on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, from July 2 through October 3, 2021.

In an era when traditional definitions of womanhood were being questioned, women’s lives were a mix of emancipating and confining experiences that varied by country. Many women around the world found the camera to be a means of independence as they sought to redefine their positions in society and expand their rights. This exhibition presents a geographically, culturally, and artistically diverse range of practitioners to advance new conversations about the history of modern photography and the continual struggle of women to gain creative agency and self-representation.

“This innovative exhibition reevaluates the history of modern photography through the lens of the New Woman, a feminist ideal that emerged at the end of the 19th century and spread globally during the first half of the 20th century,” said Kaywin Feldman, director, National Gallery of Art. “The transnational realities of modernism visualised in photography by women such as Lola Álvarez Bravo, Berenice Abbott, Claude Cahun, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Niu Weiyu, Tsuneko Sasamoto, and Homai Vyarawalla offer us an opportunity to better understand the present by becoming more fully informed of the past.”

 

About the exhibition

This landmark exhibition critically examines the extraordinary impact women had on the practice of photography worldwide from the 1920s to the 1950s. It presents the work of over 120 international photographers who took part in a dramatic expansion of the medium propelled by artistic creativity, technological innovation, and the rise of the printed press. Photographers such as Berenice Abbott, Ilse Bing, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Madame d’Ora, Florence Henri, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Dora Maar, Niu Weiyu, Eslanda Goode Robeson, Tsuneko Sasamoto, Gerda Taro, and Homai Vyarawalla, among many others, emerged at a tumultuous moment in history that was profoundly shaped by two world wars, a global economic depression, struggles for decolonisation, and the rise of fascism and communism. Against the odds, these women were at the forefront of experimentation with the camera and produced invaluable visual testimony that reflects both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the era.

Organised thematically in eight galleries, The New Woman Behind the Camera illustrates women’s groundbreaking work in modern photography, exploring their innovations in the fields of social documentary, avant-garde experimentation, commercial studio practice, photojournalism, ethnography, and the recording of sports, dance, and fashion. By evoking the global phenomenon of the New Woman, the exhibition seeks to reevaluate the history of photography and advance new and more inclusive conversations on the contributions of female photographers.

Known by different names, from nouvelle femme and neue Frau to modan gāru and xin nüxing, the New Woman was easy to recognise but hard to define. Fashionably dressed with her hair bobbed, the self-assured cosmopolitan New Woman was arguably more than a marketable image. She was a contested symbol of liberation from traditional gender roles. Revealing how women photographers from around the world gave rise to and embodied the quintessential New Woman even as they critiqued the popular construction of the role, the exhibition opens with a group of compelling portraits and self-portraits. In these works, women defined their positions as professionals and artists during a time when they were seeking greater personal rights and freedoms.

For many women, the camera became an effective tool for self-determination as well as a source of income. With better access to education and a newfound independence, female photographers emerged as a major force in studio photography. From running successful businesses in Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, and Vienna, to earning recognition as one of the first professional female photographers in their home country, women around the world, including Karimeh Abbud, Steffi Brandl, Trude Fleischmann, Annemarie Heinrich, Eiko Yamazawa, and Madame Yevonde, reinvigorated studio practice. A collaborative space where both sitters and photographers negotiated gender, race, and cultural difference, the portrait studio was also vitally important to African American communities which sought to represent and define themselves within a society that continued to be plagued by racism. Photography studios run by Black women, such as Florestine Perrault Collins and Winifred Hall Allen, thrived throughout the United States, and not only preserved likenesses and memories, but also constructed a counter narrative to the stereotyping images that circulated in the mass media.

With the invention of smaller lightweight cameras, a growing number of women photographers found that the camera’s portability created new avenues of discovery outside the studio. In stunning photographs of the city, photographers such as Alice Brill, Rebecca Lepkoff, Helen Levitt, Lisette Model, Genevieve Naylor, and Tazue Satō Matsunaga used their artistic vision to capture the exhilarating modern world around them. They depicted everyday life, spontaneous encounters on the street, and soaring architectural views in places like Bombay (now Mumbai), New York, Paris, São Paulo, and Tokyo, revealing the multiplicity of urban experience. Many incorporated the newest photographic techniques to convey the energy of the city, and the exhibition continues with a gallery focused on those radical formal approaches that came to define modern photography. Through techniques like photomontage, photograms, sharp contrasts of light and shadow, extreme cropping, and dizzying camera angles, women including Aenne Biermann, Imogen Cunningham, Dora Maar, Tina Modotti, Lucia Moholy, and Cami Stone pushed the boundaries of the medium.

Women also produced dynamic pictures of the modern body, including innovative nude studies as well as sport and dance photography. Around the world, participation in spectator and team sports increased along with membership in fitness and hygiene reform movements. New concepts concerning health and sexuality along with new attitudes in movement and dress emphasised the body as a central site of experiencing modernity. On view are luminous works by photographers Laure Albin Guillot, Yvonne Chevalier, Florence Henri, and Jeanne Mandello who reimagined the traditional genre of the nude. Photographs by Irene Bayer-Hecht and Liselotte Grschebina highlight joyous play and gymnastic exercise, while Charlotte Rudolph, Ilse Bing, Trude Fleischmann, and Lotte Jacobi made breathtaking images of dancers in motion, revealing the body as artistic medium.

During the modern period, a growing number of women pursued professional photographic careers and traveled widely for the first time. Many took photographs that documented their experiences abroad and interactions with other cultures as they engaged in formal and informal ethnographic projects. The exhibition continues with a selection of photographs and photobooks by women, mainly from Europe and the United States, that reveal a diversity of perspectives and approaches. Gender provided some of these photographers with unusual access and the drive to challenge discriminatory practices, while others were not exempt from portraying stereotypical views. Publications by Jette Bang, Hélène Hoppenot, Ella Maillart, Anna Riwkin, Eslanda Goode Robeson, and Ellen Thorbecke exemplify how photographically illustrated books and magazines were an influential form of communication about travel and ethnography during the modern period. Other works on display include those by Denise Bellon and Ré Soupault, who traveled to foreign countries on assignment for magazines and photo agencies seeking ethnographic and newsworthy photographs, and those by Marjorie Content and Laura Gilpin, who worked on their own in the southwestern United States.

The New Woman – both as a mass-circulating image and as a social phenomenon – was confirmed by the explosion of photographs found in popular fashion and lifestyle magazines. Fashion and advertising photography allowed many women to gain unprecedented access to the public sphere, establish relative economic independence, and attain autonomous professional success. Producing a rich visual language where events and ideas were expressed directly in pictures, illustrated fashion magazines such as Die DameHarper’s Bazaar, and Vogue became an important venue for photographic experimentation by women for a female readership. Photographers producing original views of women’s modernity include Lillian Bassman, Ilse Bing, Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Toni Frissell, Toni von Horn, Frances McLaughlin-Gill, ringl + pit, Margaret Watkins, Caroline Whiting Fellows, and Yva.

The rise of the picture press also established photojournalism and social documentary as dominant forms of visual expression during the modern period. Ignited by the effects of a global economic crisis and growing political and social unrest, numerous women photographers including Lucy Ashjian, Margaret Bourke-White, Kati Horna, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Kata Kálmán, Dorothea Lange, and Hansel Mieth engaged a wide public with gripping images. So-called soft topics such as “women and children,” “the family,” and “the home front” were more often assigned to female photojournalists than to their male counterparts. The exhibition asks viewers to question the effect of having women behind the camera in these settings. Pictures produced during the war, from combat photography by Galina Sanko and Gerda Taro to images of the Blitz in London by Thérèse Bonney and the Tuskegee airmen by Toni Frissell, are also featured. At the war’s end, haunting images by Lee Miller of the opening of Nazi concentration camps and celebratory images of the victory parade of Allied Forces in New Delhi by Homai Vyarawalla made way for the transition to the complexities of the postwar era, including images of daily life in US-occupied Japan by Tsuneko Sasamoto and the newly formed People’s Republic of China by Hou Bo and Niu Weiyu.

The New Woman Behind the Camera acknowledges that women are a diverse group whose identities are defined not exclusively by gender but rather by a host of variable factors. It contends that gender is an important aspect in understanding their lives and work and provides a useful framework for analysis to reveal how photography by women has powerfully shaped our understanding of modern life.

 

Exhibition catalog

Published by the National Gallery of Art, Washington and distributed by DelMonico Books | D.A.P., this groundbreaking, richly illustrated 288-page catalog examines the diverse women whose work profoundly marked the medium of photography from the 1920s to the 1950s. The book – featuring over 120 international photographers, including Lola Álvarez Bravo, Elizaveta Ignatovich, Germaine Krull, Dorothea Lange, Tsuneko Sasamoto, and Homai Vyarawalla – reevaluates the history of modern photography through the lens of the iconic New Woman. Inclusive scholarly essays introduce readers to these important photographers and question the past assumptions about gender in the history of photography. Contributors include Andrea Nelson, associate curator in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art; Elizabeth Cronin, assistant curator of photography in the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints, and Photographs, New York Public Library; Mia Fineman, curator in the department of photographs, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Mila Ganeva, professor of German in the department of German, Russian, Asian, and Middle Eastern languages and cultures, Miami University, Ohio; Kristen Gresh, Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Elizabeth Otto, professor of modern and  contemporary art history, University at Buffalo (The State University of New York); and Kim Sichel, associate professor in the department of the history of art and architecture at Boston University; biographies of the photographers by Kara Felt, Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art.

Press release from the National Gallery of Art

 

Olga Máté (Hungarian, 1878-1961) 'Horgász-stég' (Fisherman's Dock) c. 1930

 

Olga Máté (Hungarian, 1878-1961)
Horgász-stég (Fisherman’s Dock)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 22.38 x 17.46cm (8 13/16 x 6 7/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Olga Máté (1878-1961) was one of the first women Hungarian photographers, most known for her portraits. She was known for her lighting techniques and used lighted backgrounds to enhance her portraits and still life compositions. In 1912 she won a gold medal in Stuttgart at an international photography exhibit. Perhaps her best-known images are portraits she took of Mihály Babits and Margit Kaffka. She was also an early suffragist in Hungary and during the Hungarian White Terror assisted several intellectuals in their escapes.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Kata Kálmán (Hungarian, 1909-1978) 'Weisz Ernö 23 éves gyári munkás, Budapest' (Ernö Weisz, 23-Year-Old Factory Worker, Budapest) 1932, printed before 1955

 

Kata Kálmán (Hungarian, 1909-1978)
Weisz Ernö 23 éves gyári munkás, Budapest (Ernö Weisz, 23-Year-Old Factory Worker, Budapest)
1932, printed before 1955
Gelatin silver print image: 24.2 x 17.6cm (9 1/2 x 6 15/16 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

Marianne Brandt (German, 1893-1983) 'Ohne Titel' (Untitled) 1930

 

Marianne Brandt (German, 1893-1983)
Ohne Titel (Untitled)
1930
Photomontage on paper
Overall: 65 x 50.1cm (25 9/16 x 19 3/4 in.)
Frame: 89.22 x 73.98 x 4.13cm (35 1/8 x 29 1/8 x 1 5/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Pepita Milmore Memorial Fund, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation, and Thomas Walther

 

 

Marianne Brandt (1 October 1893 – 18 June 1983) was a German painter, sculptor, photographer, metalsmith, and designer who studied at the Bauhaus art school in Weimar and later became head of the Bauhaus Metall-Werkstatt (Metal Workshop) in Dessau in 1927. Today, Brandt’s designs for household objects such as lamps, ashtrays and teapots are considered timeless examples of modern industrial design. She also created photomontages. …

Brandt is also remembered as a pioneering photographer. She created experimental still-life compositions, but it is her series of self-portraits which are particularly striking. These often represent her as a strong and independent New Woman of the Bauhaus; other examples show her face and body distorted across the curved and mirrored surfaces of metal balls, creating a blended image of herself and her primary medium at the Bauhaus. Brandt was one of few women at Bauhaus who distanced herself from the fields considered more feminine at the time such as weaving or pottery.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Rosalie Gwathmey (American, 1908-2001) 'Tobacco Picker, Rocky Mount, North Carolina' 1943

 

Rosalie Gwathmey (American, 1908-2001)
Tobacco Picker, Rocky Mount, North Carolina
1943
Gelatin silver print
Image: 25.56 x 34.13cm (10 1/16 x 13 7/16 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Mary and Dan Solomon and Patrons’ Permanent Fund

 

 

Rosalie Gwathmey or Rosalie Hook (September 15, 1908 – February 12, 2001) was an American painter and photographer known for her photos of black southern communities around her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. …

Her photography was known for capturing the lives of residents of Southern African American communities. She focused on black life in her home of Charlotte and Rocky Mount, North Carolina. She photographed many of the black sharecroppers and southern townscapes that became the basis of her husband’s paintings. While Rosalie’s social documentary photographs offer no stylistic revolution, her life and art reflect significant issues relating to politics and race relations in the United States during the 1940s. While in the Photo League, she worked with many radical photographers of the era: Paul Strand, Aaron Siskind, Sid Grossman, Dorothea Lange, Bernice Abbott, Lizette Modell, Walter Rosenblum, Dan Weiner, and Lou Stettner.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Marjorie Content (American, 1895-1984) 'Adam Trujillo and His Son Pat, Taos' Summer 1933

 

Marjorie Content (American, 1895-1984)
Adam Trujillo and His Son Pat, Taos
Summer 1933
Gelatin silver print
Image: 11.5 x 14.2cm (4 1/2 x 5 9/16 in.)
Frame: 35.56 x 45.72cm (14 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 38.1 x 48.26cm (15 x 19 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Purchased as the Gift of the Gallery Girls
© Estate of Marjorie Content

 

 

Marjorie Content (1895-1984) was an American photographer from New York City active in modernist social and artistic circles. Her photographs were rarely published and never exhibited in her lifetime. Since the late 20th century, collectors and art historians have taken renewed interest in her work. Her photographs have been collected by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Chrysler Museum of Art; her work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions.

She was married several times, including for a short period to Harold Loeb, a writer and the editor of the avant-garde journal, Broom. Her marriage to writer Jean Toomer in 1934 lasted more than 30 years, to his death. …

 

Photographic years (1926-1935)

Content began serious photography while married to her second husband, the painter Michael Carr. She used a 3+1⁄4 × 4+1⁄4 inch Graflex, and, after 1932, a 5×7 inch Graflex as well. Despite reports that Stieglitz taught her developing techniques, some scholars believe it was her friend Consuelo Kanaga. Content sometimes worked in Kanaga’s darkroom.

Her travels in the West and Southwest with painter Gordon Grant influenced her style toward a more formalist aesthetic. She briefly worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs photographing rural Native American life. She married a third time, to Leon Fleischman.

In the 1930s Content was also close to painter Georgia O’Keeffe. In 1933 she traveled with her to Bermuda to nurse her through a depression. The following year, she drove with her to New Mexico, where O’Keefe had settled. Other close friends of this period included Stieglitz, Ridge, Sherwood Anderson, Paul Rosenfeld, and Margaret Naumburg, at whose Walden School in New York City both of her children were educated.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Madame d'Ora (Austrian, 1881-1963) 'Mariette Pachhofer (later Mariette Lydis)' 1921

 

Madame d’Ora (Austrian, 1881-1963)
Mariette Pachhofer (later Mariette Lydis)
1921
Gelatin silver print image: 21.9 x 13.9cm (8 5/8 x 5 1/2 in.)
Mount: 38.7 x 26.4cm (15 1/4 x 10 3/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 44.45 x 54.61cm (17 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund and the R. K. Mellon Family Foundation

 

 

Dora Philippine Kallmus (20 March 1881 – 28 October 1963), also known as Madame D’Ora or Madame d’Ora, was an Austrian fashion and portrait photographer.

Dora Philippine Kallmus was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1881 to a Jewish family. Her father was a lawyer. Her sister, Anna, was born in 1878 and deported in 1941 during the Holocaust. Although her mother, Malvine (née Sonnenberg), died when she was young, her family remained an important source of emotional and financial support throughout her career.

She became interested in the photography field while assisting the son of the painter Hans Makart, and in 1905 she was the first woman to be admitted to theory courses at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt (Graphic Training Institute). That same year she became a member of the Association of Austrian photographers. At that time she was also the first woman allowed to study theory at the Graphischen Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt, which in 1908 granted women access to other courses in photography.

In 1907, she established her own studio with Arthur Benda in Vienna called the Atelier d’Ora or Madame D’Ora-Benda. The name was based on the pseudonym “Madame d’Ora”, which she used professionally. D’ora and Benda operated a summer studio from 1921 to 1926 in Karlsbad, Germany, and opened another gallery in Paris in 1925. She was represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal) and it was her intervention that saved the agency’s owner after his arrest by the Nazis, enabling him to flee to Paris from Vienna.

Her subjects included Josephine Baker, Coco Chanel, Tamara de Lempicka, Alban Berg, Maurice Chevalier, Colette, and other dancers, actors, painters, and writers.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Alma Lavenson (American, 1897-1989) 'Self-Portrait' 1932

 

Alma Lavenson (American, 1897-1989)
Self-Portrait
1932
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.9 x 24.5cm (7 1/16 x 9 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 43.18 x 53.34cm (17 x 21 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund, Diana and Mallory Walker Fund, New Century Fund, and the Eugene L. and Marie-Louise Garbáty Fund
© Alma Lavenson Archives, All Rights Reserved, 2020
Courtesy Susan Ehrens

 

 

Alma Ruth Lavenson (May 20, 1897, in San Francisco – September 19, 1989 in Piedmont, California) was an American photographer of the early 20th century. She worked with and was a close friend of Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Edward Weston and other photographic masters of the period.

 

Rogi André (French born Hungary, 1900-1970) 'Dora Maar' 1941

 

Rogi André (French born Hungary, 1900-1970)
Dora Maar
1941
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17 x 11.9cm (6 11/16 x 4 11/16 in.)
Mount: 28 x 20cm (11 x 7 7/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
rame (outer): 49.53 x 39.37cm (19 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund

 

 

Rogi André (born Rozsa Klein, 10 August 1900, Budapest – 11 April 1970, Paris) was a Hungarian-born French photographer and artist. She was the first wife of André Kertész. …

In 1935, the photographer and theoretician of photography Emmanuel Sougez, writing in the journal Arts et Métiers Graphique compared the photography of Rogi André and that of Laure Albin Guillot, and criticised the former for posing her subjects in their environment. Some critics have noted in her portraits an influence of Cubism, for example in the portrait of Dora Maar (c. 1940) in which she creates a geometric composition using the play of shadows and lights.

What a life she had!

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Anna Barna (Hungarian, 1901-1964) 'Leskelodo' (Onlooker) 1930s

 

Anna Barna (Hungarian, 1901-1964)
Leskelodo (Onlooker)
1930s
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.6 x 16.9cm (8 7/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Robert B. Menschel and the Vital Projects Fund

 

 

Behind the Camera

Women actively participated in the development of photography soon after its inception in the 19th century. Yet it was in the 1920s, after the seismic disruptions of World War I, that women entered the field of photography in force. Aided by advances in technology and mass communications, along with growing access to training and acceptance of their presence in the workplace, women around the world made an indelible mark on the growth and diversification of the medium. They brought innovation to a range of photographic disciplines, from avant-garde experimentation and commercial studio practice to social documentary, photojournalism, ethnography, and the recording of sports, dance, and fashion.

 

The New Woman

A global phenomenon, the New Woman of the 1920s embodied an ideal of female empowerment based on real women making revolutionary changes in life and art. Her image – a woman with bobbed hair, stylish dress, and a confident stride – was a staple of newspapers and magazines first in Europe and the United States and soon in China, Japan, India, Australia, and elsewhere. A symbol of the pursuit of liberation from traditional gender roles, the New Woman in her many guises represented women who faced a mix of opportunities and obstacles that varied from country to country. The camera became a powerful means for female photographers to assert their self-determination and redefine their position in society. Producing compelling portraits, including self-portraits featuring the artist with her camera, they established their roles as professionals and artists.

 

The Studio

Commercial studio photography was an important pathway for many women to forge a professional career and to earn their own income. Running successful businesses in small towns and major cities from Buenos Aires to Berlin and Istanbul, women reinvigorated the genre of portraiture. In the studio, both sitters and photographers navigated gender, race, and cultural difference; those run by women presented a different dynamic. For example, Black women operated studios in Chicago, New Orleans, and elsewhere in the United States, where they not only preserved likenesses and memories, but also constructed a counter narrative to racist images then circulating in the mass media.

 

The City

The availability of smaller, lightweight cameras and the increasing freedom to move about cities on their own spurred a number of women photographers to explore the diversity of the urban experience beyond the studio walls. Using their creative vision to capture the vibrant modern world around them, women living and working in Bombay (now Mumbai), London, New York, Paris, São Paulo, Tokyo, and beyond photographed soaring architecture and spontaneous encounters on the street.

 

Avant-Garde Experiments

Creative formal approaches – photomontage, photograms, sharp contrasts of light and shadow, unconventional cropping, extreme close-ups, and dizzying camera angles – came to define photography during this period. Women incorporated these cutting-edge techniques to produce works that conveyed the movement and energy of modern life. Although often overshadowed by their male partners and colleagues, women photographers were integral in shaping an avant-garde visual language that promoted new ways of seeing and experiencing the world.

 

Modern Bodies

Beginning in the 1920s, new concepts concerning health and sexuality, along with changing attitudes about movement and dress, emphasised the human body as a central site of experiencing modernity. Women photographers produced incisive visions of liberated modern bodies, from pioneering photographs of the nude to exuberant pictures of sport and dance. Photographs of joyous play and gymnastic exercise, as well as images of dancers in motion, celebrate the body as artistic medium.

 

Ethnographic Approaches

During this modern period, numerous women pursued professional photographic careers and traveled extensively for the first time. Many took photographs that documented their experiences abroad in Africa, China, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, while others engaged in more formal ethnographic projects. Some women with access to domains that were off limits to their male counterparts produced intimate portraits of female subjects. While gender may have afforded these photographers special connections to certain communities, it did not exempt some, especially those from Europe and the United States, from producing stereotypical views that reinforced hierarchical concepts of race and ethnocentrism.

 

Fashion and Advertising

Images splashed across the pages of popular fashion and lifestyle magazines vividly defined the New Woman. The unprecedented demand for fashion and advertising photographs between the world wars provided exceptional employment opportunities for fashion reporters, models, and photographers alike, allowing women to emerge as active agents in the profession. Cultivating the tastes of newly empowered female consumers, fashion and advertising photography provided a space where women could experiment with pictures intended for a predominantly female readership.

 

Social Documentary

Galvanised by the effects of a global economic crisis and the growing political and social unrest that began in the 1930s, numerous women photographers produced arresting images of the human condition. Whether working for government agencies or independently, women contributed to the visual record of the Depression and the events leading up to World War II. From images of breadlines and worker demonstrations to forced migration and internment, women photographers helped to expose dire conditions and shaped what would become known as social documentary photography.

 

Reportage

The rise of the picture press established photojournalism as a dominant form of visual expression during a period shaped by two world wars. Women photographers conveyed an inclusive view of worldwide economic depression, struggles for decolonisation in Africa, and the rise of fascism and communism in Europe and the Soviet Union. They often received the “soft assignments” of photographing women and children, families, and the home front, but some women risked their lives close to the front lines. Images of concentration camps and victory parades made way for the complexities of the postwar era, as seen in pictures of daily life in US-occupied Japan and the newly formed People’s Republic of China.

 

The photographers whose works are in The New Woman Behind the Camera represent just some of the many women around the world who were at the forefront of experimenting with the camera. They produced invaluable visual testimony that reflected both their personal experiences and the extraordinary social and political transformations of the early 20th century. Together, they changed the history of modern photography.

Text from the National Gallery of Art website

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000) 'Johannesburg Social Center, South Africa' 1948, printed later

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000)
Johannesburg Social Center, South Africa
1948, printed later
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 50.8 x 40.48cm (20 x 15 15/16 in.)
Image: 43.18 x 37.94cm (17 x 14 15/16 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 50.8cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 62.23 x 52.07cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase)

 

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (7 August 1914 – 27 July 2000) was an English photographer best known for her images of South Africa and her photo-journalism on Europe during World War II. She was South Africa’s first female war correspondent. …

 

Career

On her return to South Africa in 1936 she established the Constance Stuart Portrait Studio in Pretoria. She became a renowned portraitist, and photographed many of the leading statesmen, generals, artists, writers, society and theatrical personalities of that period. In 1946 she opened a second studio in Johannesburg.

Between 1937 and 1949 Stuart developed her lifelong interest in recording and exhibiting the vanishing ethnic cultures of South Africa: the Ndebele, Bushmen, Lobedu, Zulu, Swazi, Sotho and Transkei peoples. Some of them she took during the visit of the British Royals to South Africa in 1947. Stuart was the official photographer of the royal tour, and while traveling throughout Basutoland (Lesotho), Swaziland and Bechuanaland (Botswana), which were at the time the three British protectorates in South Africa. She photographed tribal people dressed up for the occasion in their native costumes. She exhibited these photographs, and many like them in Preotria, Johannesburg and Cape Town, which led to her appointment as South Africa’s first woman war correspondent for Libertas magazine. Between 1945 and 1955 she served in Egypt, Italy, France and England, attached to the American 7th Army and the South African 6th Division in the Italian Apennines. Although she had only been hired to photograph the South African troops in the army, Stuart went well beyond her assignment. She photographed the American, French, British and Canadian troops as well as her South African countrymen. She also photographed the civilians the soldiers met on the way to Germany, and she photographed the devastated villages, towns and cities in their path. As a female war correspondent Stuart was often held back from the front for days, and as she was billeted separately from her male co-workers the facilities available to her were often uncomfortable. She took all the difficulties in stride, accepting them as part of the war, and quickly gained the respect of the people around her. One co-worker wrote: ‘Constance Stuart… has made a fine art of getting around the fronts. She has seen more of war than any other woman I have met.’

Although she was not permitted to keep a diary on the front, she compiled her photographic notes and letters into a memoir named Jeep Trek, published in 1946.

When she returned to South Africa in 1945 she travelled throughout the country exhibiting many of these photographs, as well as her depictions of South African tribal people. In 1948, the National Party came to power in South Africa and instituted a policy of strict racial segregation. The following year, Stuart left South Africa for America.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000) 'Untitled (Collaborators, St. Tropez, France)' 1944

 

Constance Stuart Larrabee (English, 1914-2000)
Untitled (Collaborators, St. Tropez, France)
1944
Gelatin silver print, printed later
Image: 39.53 x 38.1cm (15 9/16 x 15 in.)
Sheet: 50.32 x 40.48cm (19 13/16 x 15 15/16 in.)
Frame: 60.96 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 62.23 x 52.07cm (24 1/2 x 20 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Corcoran Collection
Gift of the Artist, Constance Stuart Larrabee WWII Collection

 

Margaret De Patta (American, 1903-1964) 'Untitled' 1939

 

Margaret De Patta (American, 1903-1964)
Untitled
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 17.8 x 21.9cm (7 x 8 5/8 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

 

“I find work problems as set for myself fall into these main directions: space articulation, movement to a purpose, visual explorations with transparencies, reflective surfaces, negative positive relationships, structures and new materials. A single piece may incorporate one or many of these ideas. Problems common to sculpture and architecture are inherent in jewellery design, i.e. – space, form, tension, organic structure, scale, texture, interpenetration, superimposition and economy of means – each necessary element playing its role in a unified entity.”

~ Margaret De Patta (Design Quarterly #33)

 

Cami Stone (Belgian, 1892-1975) 'Ohne Titel (Nachtaufnahme, Berlin)' (Untitled (Night shot, Berlin)) c. 1929

 

Cami Stone (Belgian, 1892-1975)
Ohne Titel (Nachtaufnahme, Berlin) (Untitled (Night shot, Berlin))
c. 1929
Gelatin silver print
Image: 9.5 x 14cm (3 3/4 x 5 1/2 in.)
Frame: 30.48 x 40.64cm (12 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 33.02 x 43.18cm (13 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

ringl + pit (Grete Stern German-Argentine, 1904-1999, Ellen Auerbach American born Germany, 1906-2004) 'Die Ringlpitis' 1931

 

ringl + pit (Grete Stern German-Argentine, 1904-1999, Ellen Auerbach American born Germany, 1906-2004)
Die Ringlpitis
1931
Bound volume of 6 photographs, 12 collages, 8 watercolours, 6 texts, and 1 drawing
Open: 20.32 x 38.1cm (8 x 15 in.)
Closed: 20.32 x 20.32cm (8 x 8 in.)
Fold-out page: 37.5 x 57.2cm (14 3/4 x 22 1/2 in)
Sits: 20.3cm (8 in.)
Tall; plus pop-out element: 10.2cm (4 in.)
Cradle: 10.8 x 39.37 x 20.32cm (4 1/4 x 15 1/2 x 8 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© ringl + pit, courtesy Robert Mann Gallery, New York

 

 

Ringl and Pit were the childhood nicknames of Grete Stern (Ringl) and Ellen Auerbach (Pit). Together, they established a photography studio in 1930 in Berlin. Both studied privately with Walter Peterhans, a photography instructor at the Bauhaus, whose promulgation of a highly rationalized style of advertising photography–one that signified “machine made” in its emphasis on sleek form and graphic design–was proposed as a solution to the question of art’s role in industrial society. …

In their representation of the “modern woman,” a new social type emerging out of the political upheaval of the Weimar Republic, the duo employed visual strategies subversive to traditional conceptions of woman. Often using mannequins, wigs, and other symbols of femininity, Stern and Auerbach worked to question the artifice and masquerade of feminine identity.

Text from The Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Ellen Auerbach and Grete Stern met as private students of Bauhaus professor Walter Peterhans. Stern took over Peterhans’s studio in 1929, and the following year Stern and Auerbach formed the studio foto ringl + pit. “Ringl” and “Pit” were their respective childhood nicknames.

“I frivoled and she was serious,” Auerbach recalled of their personalities in the partnership. ringl + pit specialised in advertising photography, and their photographs redefined the image of women in advertising. Their work came to define the “new women” that emerged in the 1910s and 20s, as women gained the right to vote and entered the work force in increasing numbers. Their partnership ended when they both emigrated in 1933.

Text from the J. Paul Getty website

 

Márta Aczél (Hungarian, 1909-1997) 'Cím nélkül (Tál)' (Untitled (Bowl)) 1935

 

Márta Aczél (Hungarian, 1909-1997)
Cím nélkül (Tál) (Untitled (Bowl))
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 23.3 x 17.2cm (9 3/16 x 6 3/4 in.)
Sheet: 23.8 x 17.5cm (9 3/8 x 6 7/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1 cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

 

Born in Budapest in 1909. Educated in a private school Receives a degree in history of arts and German literature at the University of Frankfurt. Returns to Hungary in 1935. Jzsef Pcsi invites her to his private school. Although she did photography prior to that time, Pcsi’s school is a turning point in her life. Not only does the famous photographer teach her the technique but also influences her intellectually. At that time a substantial part of her advertising work and object photographs are made; she also she starts to exhibit her photographs. In 1936 she meets her future husband, György Kreilisheim. Magazines publish articles about their travels illustrated with her photos. After an apprenticeship exam Márta Aczél works for two years as an assistant to Elemérn Marsovszky (Fot Ada). She passes her master exam at Angelo’s. In 1950 starts working for Iparterv, and subsequently deals with industrial photography. At that time she travels widely across the whole country.

Anonymous text from the Luminous-Lint website [Online] Cited 25/11/2021

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Domestic Symphony' 1919

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Domestic Symphony
1919
Gelatin silver print, printed 1920s
Image: 21.59 x 16.51cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
Mount: 35.56 x 27.94cm (14 x 11 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 54.61 x 44.45cm (21 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery

 

 

Margaret Watkins (1884-1969) was a Canadian photographer who is remembered for her innovative contributions to advertising photography. She lived a life of rebellion, rejection of tradition, and individual heroism; she never married, she was a successful career woman in a time when women stayed at home, and she exhibited eroticism and feminism in her art and writing.

 

Career

Watkins opened a studio in Greenwich Village, New York City, and in 1920 became editor of the annual publication Pictorial Photography in America. She worked successfully as an advertising photographer for Macy’s and the J. Walter Thompson Company and Fairfax, becoming one of the first women photographers to contribute to advertising agencies. She also produced landscapes, portraits, nudes and still lifes. While teaching at the Clarence White school from 1916 to 1928, her students included Margaret Bourke-White, Laura Gilpin, Paul Outerbridge, Ralph Steiner and Doris Ulmann.

One of the earliest art photographers in advertising, her images of everyday objects set new standards of acceptability. From 1928, when she was based in Glasgow, she embarked on street photography in Russia, Germany and France, specialising in store fronts and displays.

Watkins died in Glasgow, Scotland in 1969, largely forgotten as a photographer.

 

Legacy

Watkins legacy exists in her exemplary work left behind, but also her example as an independent, successful woman. The Queen’s Quarterly suggests her life is an inspiration for single women, who are fulfilled by their careers, rather than the traditional gender roles women face of fulfilment through marrying and having children.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969) 'Woodbury Soap' 1924

 

Margaret Watkins (Canadian, 1884-1969)
Woodbury Soap
1924
Palladium print
Image: 15.4 x 20.4cm (6 1/16 x 8 1/16 in.)
Mount: 24 x 31.2cm (9 7/16 x 12 5/16 in.)
Frame: 40.64 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Frame (outer): 44.45 x 54.61 cm (17 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© The Estate of Margaret Watkins, Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933) 'Ohne Titel (Anthurium)' (Untitled (Anthurium)) 1927

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933)
Ohne Titel (Anthurium) (Untitled (Anthurium))
1927
Gelatin silver print
Image: 37.7 x 48.6cm (14 13/16 x 19 1/8 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 66.04cm (22 x 26 in.)
Frame (outer): 60.33 x 70.49cm (23 3/4 x 27 3/4 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

 

 

Aenne Biermann (March 8, 1898 – January 14, 1933), born Anna Sibilla Sternfeld, was a German photographer of Ashkenazi origin. She was one of the major proponents of New Objectivity, a significant art movement that developed in Germany in the 1920s.

 

Career

Biermann was a self-taught photographer. Her first subjects were her two children, Helga and Gershon. The majority of Biermann’s photographs were shot between 1925 and 1933. Gradually she became one of the major proponents of New Objectivity, an important art movement in the Weimar Republic. Her work became internationally known in the late 1920s, when it was part of every major exhibition of German photography.

Major exhibitions of her work include the Munich Kunstkabinett, the Deutscher Werkbund and the exhibition of Folkwang Museum in 1929. Other important exhibitions include the exhibition entitled Das Lichtbild held in Munich in 1930 and the 1931 exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts (French: Palais des Beaux Arts) in Brussels. Since 1992 the Museum of Gera has held an annual contest for the Aenne Biermann Prize for Contemporary German Photography, which is one of the most important events of its kind in Germany.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (American, 1895-1989) 'Model outside the Rose Pauson House' 1942

 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (American, 1895-1989)
Model outside the Rose Pauson House
1942
Gelatin silver print
Image: 22.25 x 19.7cm (8 3/4 x 7 3/4 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund
© Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents

 

 

Louise Dahl-Wolfe (November 19, 1895 – December 11, 1989) was an American photographer. She is known primarily for her work for Harper’s Bazaar, in association with fashion editor Diana Vreeland. …

 

Style

Among the celebrated fashion photographers of the 20th century, Louise Dahl-Wolfe was an innovator and influencer who significantly contributed to the fashion world. She was most widely known for her work with Harper’s Bazaar. Dahl-Wolfe was considered a pioneer of the ‘female gaze’ in the fashion industry. Dahl-Wolfe created the new image of American women during the World War II. They were strong and independent. Dahl-Wolfe often shot on location and outdoors, bringing her models out of the studio and to exotic locales such as Tunisia, Cuba and South America. Her models pose candidly, almost as if Dahl-Wolfe had just walked in on them. Dahl-Wolf innovatively used colour in photography and mainly concerned with the qualities of natural lighting, composition, and balance. Her methodology in using natural sunlight and shooting outdoors became the industry standard even now. …

“She is the most important woman, fashion photographer of the first half of the 20th century,” according to photographic expert Terrence Pepper and for Valerie Steele, the vitality and dynamism in Dahl-Wolfe’s work “were a big part of the rise of the American look.”

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Genevieve Naylor (American, 1915-1989) 'Models wearing suits by Carolyn Schnurer' 1945-1946

 

Genevieve Naylor (American, 1915-1989)
Models wearing suits by Carolyn Schnurer
1945-1946
Gelatin silver print
Image: 27.4 x 25.2cm (10 13/16 x 9 15/16 in.)
Mount: 50.5 x 25.2cm (19 7/8 x 9 15/16 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 40.64cm (22 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 58.42 x 43.18cm (23 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Peter Rezniko

 

 

Genevieve Naylor (February 2, 1915 – July 21, 1989) was an American photographer and photojournalist, best known for her photographs of Brazil and as Eleanor Roosevelt’s personal photographer.

 

Career

At the age of 22, in 1937, Naylor was chosen by Holger Cahill of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) as a photographer for the Harlem Arts Center. She also worked for the WPA in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., and New York. She then worked for the Associated press and was one of the first women photojournalists to be hired by any American news wire services.

In 1940, Genevieve Naylor was assigned by the U.S. State department as part of a team to travel to Brazil. In an effort to further and strengthen the anti-Nazi relationship between the United States and Brazil and to promote mutual cultural awareness, the U.S. Office of Inter-American Affairs, under the leadership of Nelson Rockefeller, created a team of notable Americans that included Orson Welles, Errol Flynn, and Walt Disney. Genevieve Naylor and her partner (and later husband) Misha Reznikoff arrived in Brazil in October, 1940, where he showed his paintings while Miss Naylor took photographs. Naylor’s assignment was to document Brazil’s progress toward becoming a modern nation, capture images that would boost war-time morale, foster cultural interchange, and promote the Allied cause. But Naylor, with her energetic and outgoing personality, soon ventured into other milieus, taking photographs of Brazilian workers jammed into trams, school children, religious and street festivals, and various aspects of everyday lives. Because it was war time, film was rationed, and Naylor’s equipment was modest. She had neither flash nor studio lights and had to carefully choose her shots, balancing spontaneity with careful composition. Of her work, nearly 1,350 photos survived and were preserved. After her return to the states in 1943, Naylor become only the second woman photographer to be given a one-woman show when her work was exhibited by New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

Naylor later spent 15 years as a photographer with Harper’s Bazaar and from 1944 to 1980 was a freelance photographer for Vogue, McCall’s, Town and Country, Life, Look, Saturday Evening Post, Women’s Home Companion, Cosmopolitan, Fortune, Collier’s, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Vanity Fair, Elle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Redbook, House Beautiful, Holiday, Mademoiselle, American Home, Seventeen, Better Homes and Gardens, Charm, Bride’s, amongst others. She was a war time photographer, covering parts of the Korean War for Look magazine.

Naylor’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions in the United States, the UK, and Europe. The most recent, The New Women Behind the Camera 2021-2022, opened at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the summer of 2021, and will continue into 2022 at The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Her historic alliance with Brazil continues in 2022 with the SESC 24 de Maio, Sao Paulo, exhibition, Raio-Que-O-Parta: Modern Fictions in Brazil.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003) 'Teacup Ballet' 1935

 

Olive Cotton (Australian, 1911-2003)
Teacup Ballet
1935
Gelatin silver print
Image: 40.64 x 30.48cm (16 x 12 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 45.72 x 4.45cm (21 x 18 x 1 3/4 in.)
The Sir Elton John Photography Collection

 

 

Olive Cotton (11 July 1911 – 27 September 2003) was a pioneering Australian modernist female photographer of the 1930s and 1940s working in Sydney. Cotton became a national “name” with a retrospective and touring exhibition 50 years later in 1985. A book of her life and work, published by the National Library of Australia, came out in 1995. Cotton captured her childhood friend Max Dupain from the sidelines at photoshoots, e.g. “Fashion shot, Cronulla Sandhills, circa 1937” and made several portraits of him. Dupain was Cotton’s first husband. …

 

Style

During the 1930s Cotton developed mastery using the ‘Pictorial’ style of photography popular at the time and also incorporated a very modern style approach. Cotton’s photography was personal in feeling with an appreciation of certain qualities of light in the surroundings. From mid-1934 until 1940 she worked as Max Dupain’s assistant in his largely commercial studio in Bond Street, Sydney, where she developed a very personal approach which concentrated on capturing the play of light on inanimate objects and in nature. She would often use her Rolleiflex camera to secure unposed reactions while Max set up the lighting for a portrait. Her style soon became distinguishable from that of other modernist photographers’ of her time.

 

Signature photographs

Tea cup ballet (1935) was photographed in the studio after Cotton had bought some inexpensive china from Woolworth’s to replace the old chipped studio crockery. In it she used a technique of back of the lighting to cast bold shadows towards the viewer to express a dance theme between the shapes of the tea cups, their saucers and their shadows. It was exhibited locally at the time and in the London Salon of Photography in 1935. It has become Cotton’s signature image and was acknowledged on a stamp commemorating 150 years of photography in Australia in 1991. Tea cup ballet features on the cover of the book Olive Cotton: Photographer published by the National Library of Australia in 1995.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Caroline Whiting Fellows (American, 1905-1989) 'Untitled (Vermouth and rye)' 1930s

 

Caroline Whiting Fellows (American, 1905-1989)
Untitled (Vermouth and rye)
1930s
Dye imbibition print
Image: 21.6 x 17cm (8 1/2 x 6 11/16 in.)
Mount: 27 x 22.2cm (10 5/8 x 8 3/4 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of Isabell VanMerlin

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990) 'Toni Birkmeyer-Ballett in "Cancan," Wien' (Toni Birkmeyer Ballet Company in "Cancan," Vienna) c. 1930

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990)
Toni Birkmeyer-Ballett in “Cancan,” Wien (Toni Birkmeyer Ballet Company in “Cancan,” Vienna)
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Image: 19.05 x 17.46cm (7 1/2 x 6 7/8 in.)
Mat: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.1cm (19 x 15 in.)
Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg

 

 

Trude Fleischmann (22 December 1895 – 21 January 1990) was an Austrian-born American photographer. After becoming a notable society photographer in Vienna in the 1920s, she re-established her business in New York in 1940. …

 

Early life

Born in Vienna in December 1895, Fleischmann was the second of three children in a well-to-do Jewish family. After matriculating from high school, she spent a semester studying art history in Paris followed by three years of photography at the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie und Reproduktionsverfahren in Vienna. She then worked for a short period as an apprentice in Dora Kallmus’ fashionable Atelier d’Ora and for a longer period for photographer Hermann Schieberth. In 1919, she joined the Photographische Gesellschaft in Wien (Vienna Photographic Society).

 

Career

In 1920, at the age of 25, Fleischmann opened her own studio close to Vienna’s city hall. Her glass plates benefitted from her careful use of diffuse artificial light. Photographing music and theatre celebrities, her work was published in journals such as Die Bühne, Moderne Welt, ‘Welt und Mode and Uhu. She was represented by Schostal Photo Agency (Agentur Schostal). In addition to portraits of Karl Kraus and Adolf Loos, in 1925 she took a nude series of the dancer Claire Bauroff which the police confiscated when the images were displayed at a Berlin theatre, bringing her international fame. Fleischmann also did much to encourage other women to become professional photographers.

With the Anschluss in 1938, Fleischmann was forced to leave the country. She moved first to Paris, then to London and finally, together with her former student and companion Helen Post, in April 1939 to New York. In 1940, she opened a studio on West 56th Street next to Carnegie Hall which she ran with Frank Elmer who had also emigrated from Vienna. In addition to scenes of New York City, she photographed celebrities and notable immigrants including Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oskar Kokoschka, Lotte Lehmann, Otto von Habsburg, Count Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi and Arturo Toscanini. She also worked as a fashion photographer, contributing to magazines such as Vogue. She established a close friendship with the photographer Lisette Model.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990) 'Katharine Cornell' 1939

 

Trude Fleischmann (American born Austria, 1895-1990)
Katharine Cornell
1939
Gelatin silver print
Image: 31.43 x 25.4cm (12 3/8 x 10 in.)
Mat: 33.5 x 35.56cm (13 3/16 x 14 in.)
Mount: 31.4 x 25.4cm (12 3/8 x 10 in.)
Frame (outer): 52.7 x 42.4 cm (20 3/4 x 16 11/16 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Herbert F. and Teruko S. Neuwalder, 1991
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Image source: Art Resource, NY

 

Wynn Richards (American, 1888-1960) 'Preparing Yarn for Weaving' 1948

 

Wynn Richards (American, 1888-1960)
Preparing Yarn for Weaving
1948
Collage of gelatin silver prints
Sheet: 24 x 20.9cm (9 7/16 x 8 1/4 in.)
Mount: 34.8 x 25.7cm (13 11/16 x 10 1/8 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.88cm (18 x 14 1/8 in.)
Frame (outer): 48.26 x 38.74cm (19 x 15 1/8 in.)
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

 

Richards trained as a Pictorialist in 1918 and 1919 at the Clarence White School of Photography in New York City, and then operated a portrait studio in her hometown of Greenville, Mississippi. After centuries of looking to Europe for cultural leadership, America was developing its own forms of creative expression and New York City was emerging as the centre of that movement. In 1922 Richards relocated there and soon found work at Vogue magazine.

After World War I, people showed little interest in the quality of illusion characteristic of the Pictorialist aesthetic. Sharp-focus and artificial lighting were replacing the soft-focus, available-light style she learned initially. With course work in advertising photography at the White School in 1924, Richards broke ground as one of the very first women in a newly emerging area of fashion photography. Richards not only successfully bridged the Pictorialist and Modernist movements but rose to the top of her field and remained there for more than 25 years. …

Richards’s established a career when few professional photography opportunities existed for women. She entered her profession just as formal education and institutional frameworks for fashion photographers began to operate in New York. Even so, she felt forced to choose between being a wife, mother, and social leader or a woman with a career. Richards made a lifelong commitment to photography – not just as a career, but as an art form.

Through her work with schools and professional organisations, Richards helped advance the concept of careers for women. Although she dropped from popular view in the last quarter of the twentieth century, Richards’ photographs are being rediscovered through exhibitions and the art photography market.

Beverly W. Brannan, Curator of Photography, Prints & Photographs Division. “Wynn Richards (1888-1960),” on the Library of Congress website 2013 updated 2015 [Online] Cited 26/11/2021

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014) 'Untitled' 1940s

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014)
Untitled
1940s
Gelatin silver print
Image: 24 x 19.5cm (9 7/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Mount: 38.2 x 29.5cm (15 1/16 x 11 5/8 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation
© The Estate of Frances McLaughlin-Gill, 2018

 

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (1919-2014) was an American photographer and the first female fashion photographer under contract with Vogue. After two decades in the fashion industry, she worked as an independent film producer for a decade making commercials and films. One of her films won the Gold Medal at the 1969 International Films and TV Festival of New York. In her later career, she published several collections both with her sister and in collaboration with other authors.

Read a fuller biography on the Wikipedia website

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014) 'Untitled' 1946

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014)
Untitled
1946
Gelatin silver print
Image/sheet: 25.4 x 26.67cm (10 x 10 1/2 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, R. K. Mellon Family Foundation
© The Estate of Frances McLaughlin-Gill, 2018

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014) 'Untitled (Toni Frissell photographing three models at a fashion shoot with her husband and daughter in the foreground)' c. 1940

 

Frances McLaughlin-Gill (American, 1919-2014)
Untitled (Toni Frissell photographing three models at a fashion shoot with her husband and daughter in the foreground)
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 27.3 x 26cm (10 3/4 x 10 1/4 in.)
Mat: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
Toni Frissell Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

 

Anna Riwkin (Swedish born Russia, 1908-1970) 'Nomads of the North' 1950

 

Anna Riwkin (Swedish born Russia, 1908-1970)
Nomads of the North
1950
Bound volume
Open:
27.94 x 44.45cm (11 x 17 1/2 in.)
Mount: 3.02 x 43.82 x 28.26cm (1 3/16 x 17 1/4 x 11 1/8 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, Gift of the Department of Photographs

 

 

Anna Riwkin-Brick or just Anna Riwkin (Surazh, Chernigov Governorate, Russia 23 June [O.S. 10 June] 1908 – Tel Aviv 19 December 1970) was a Russian-born Swedish photographer. …

Riwkin-Brick contributed significantly to the growing use of photographs in children’s picture-books, a genre that developed in the second half of the century.

In 1950, with the aim of promoting tolerance by introducing children from different countries to each other’s lives, and international understanding through children’s literature that would also be read by adults, Riwkin-Brick was commissioned by the UNESCO to make a photo book about the Sami people. She persuaded Elly Jannes, a journalist for the journal Vi, to write the text for Vandrande by (‘Wandering Village’, also released as ‘Nomads of the North’), published in 1950. Anna Riwkin-Brick took many photos of a Sami family’s little girl Elle Kari that were not included in the Vandrande by edition, and Elly Jannes suggested they make another photo book about Elle Kari and to aim it at a child audience which was published in 1951.

It was the first Swedish picturebook with photos of everyday life of a child in a continuous story, and the first of many such books that the photographer was to make. It was a success. Translated into eighteen languages in editions with high print runs; 25,000 copies were printed for the first edition released in Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Annelise Kretschmer (German, 1903-1987) 'Junges Mädchen' (Young Woman) 1928

 

Annelise Kretschmer (German, 1903-1987)
Junges Mädchen (Young Woman)
1928
Gelatin silver print
Image: 46.7 x 39.8cm (18 3/8 x 15 11/16 in.)
Frame: 65 x 50cm (25 9/16 x 19 11/16 in.)
Frame (outer): 67 x 52 x 3cm (26 3/8 x 20 1/2 x 1 3/16 in.)
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Christiane von Königslöw
Photo © Museum Folkwang Essen – ARTOTHEK

 

 

Annelise Kretschmer (1903-1987) was a German portrait photographer. Kretschmer is best known for her depictions of women in Germany in the early 20th century and is credited with helping construct the ‘Neue Frau’ or New Woman image of modern femininity.

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Page from New York Album
1929-1930
Ten gelatin silver prints
Mat: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Mount: 37.1 x 35.7cm (14 5/8 x 14 1/16 in.)
Images: each 5.6 x 8.2cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.) or 8.2 x 5.6 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.)
Reverse album page size: 25.4 x 33.02cm (10 x 13 in.)
Frame (outer): 42.6 x 51.4cm (16 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Emanuel Gerard, 1984
Berenice Abbott / Masters Collection / Getty Images
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Art Resource, NY

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Page from New York Album' 1929-1930 (detail)

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Page from New York Album (details)
1929-1930
Ten gelatin silver prints
Mat: 40.6 x 50.8cm (16 x 20 in.)
Mount: 37.1 x 35.7cm (14 5/8 x 14 1/16 in.)
Images: each 5.6 x 8.2cm (2 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.) or 8.2 x 5.6 cm (3 1/4 x 2 1/4 in.)
Reverse album page size: 25.4 x 33.02cm (10 x 13 in.)
Frame (outer): 42.6 x 51.4cm (16 3/4 x 20 1/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Emanuel Gerard, 1984
Berenice Abbott / Masters Collection / Getty Images
Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Art Resource, NY

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Vanderbilt Avenue from East 46th Street' October 9, 1935

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Vanderbilt Avenue from East 46th Street
October 9, 1935
Gelatin silver print
Overall: 23.7 x 16.5cm (9 5/16 x 6 1/2 in.)
Frame: 50.8 x 40.64cm (20 x 16 in.)
Frame (outer): 53.34 x 43.18cm (21 x 17 in.)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, The Marvin Breckinridge Patterson Fund and Robert B. Menschel Fund

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) 'Janet Flanner' 1927

 

Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991)
Janet Flanner
1927
Gelatin silver print
Sheet: 22.6 x 17.2cm (8 7/8 x 6 3/4 in.)
Mat: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame: 45.72 x 35.56cm (18 x 14 in.)
Frame (outer): 49.53 x 39.37cm (19 1/2 x 15 1/2 in.)
Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Berenice Abbott / Masters Collection / Getty Images

 

Louise Barbour Davis (American, 1905-1955) 'Abstraction' 1953

 

Louise Barbour Davis (American, 1905-1955)
Abstraction
1953
Gelatin silver print
Image: 34.29 x 27.31cm (13 1/2 x 10 3/4 in.)
Mount: 36.83 x 29.85cm (14 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.)
Frame: 55.88 x 45.72cm (22 x 18 in.)
Frame (outer): 60.33 x 50.17cm (23 3/4 x 19 3/4 in.)
From the estate of Louise Barbour Davis
© Louise Barbour Davis

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) 'Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter' (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) 1947

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953)
Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (Amsterdam during the hunger winter)
1947
Bound volume
Closed:
29.21 x 22.86cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.21 x 44.45cm (11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

Emmy Eugenie Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) was a Dutch photographer best known for her work with the Underground Camera group (De Ondergedoken Camera [nl]) during World War II. …

 

War years and the ‘Underground Camera’

In June 1941 Andriesse married graphic designer and visual artist Dick Elffers (a gentile with whom she had two sons, one who died young), but as a Jew during the Nazi occupation Andriesse was no longer able to publish and she was forced into hiding. At the end of 1944, with the assistance of the anthropologist Arie de Froe [nl] she forged an identity card and re-engaged in everyday life, joining a group of photographers, including Cas Oorthuys and Charles Breijer, working clandestinely as De Ondergedoken Camera. The photos that Andriesse made under very difficult conditions of famine in Amsterdam, include Boy with pan, The Gravedigger and Kattenburg Children are documents of hunger, poverty and misery during the occupation in the “winter of hunger” of 1944-1945.

 

Post-war

After the war, she became a fashion photographer and was an associate and mentor of Ed van der Elsken. She participated in the group show Photo ’48 and in 1952, together with Carel Blazer [nl], Eva Besnyö and Cas Oorthuys, the exhibition Photographie, both in Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. Edward Steichen chose her 1947 portrait of a staid and elderly Dutch couple for the section ‘we two form a multitude’ in the Museum of Modern Art world-touring The Family of Man that was seen by an audience of 9 million. More recently (October 2006 – January 2007) she was included in a display of Twentieth Century European photography at the Barbican Art Gallery, London.

Andriesse’s last commission, the book The World of Van Gogh – published posthumously in 1953 – was not yet complete when she became ill and after a long battle with cancer, died at the age of 39.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) 'Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter' (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) 1947 (detail)

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953)
Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) (detail)
1947
Bound volume
Closed:
29.21 x 22.86cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.21 x 44.45cm (11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

Steeds grauwer werd het beeld de steden. Schoeisel en kleding raakten totaal versleten
The image of the cities became increasingly grey. Footwear and clothing became totally worn out

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953) 'Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter' (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) 1947 (detail)

 

Emmy Andriesse (Dutch, 1914-1953)
Amsterdam tijdens de hongerwinter (Amsterdam during the hunger winter) (detail)
1947
Bound volume
Closed:
29.21 x 22.86cm (11 1/2 x 9 in.)
Open: 29.21 x 44.45cm (11 1/2 x 17 1/2 in.)
National Gallery of Art Library, David K.E. Bruce Fund

 

 

De etalages waren leeg of toonden alleen vervangingsmiddelen
The shop windows were empty or only showed substitutes

 

 

National Gallery of Art
National Mall between 3rd and 7th Streets
Constitution Avenue NW, Washington

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 5pm

National Gallery of Art website

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29
Aug
21

Exhibition: ‘Michael Schmidt: A new German Perspective’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 8th June – 29th August 2021

Curators: Thomas Weski and Laura Bielau

 

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Cityscapes)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Dark atmosphere of a grey reality

The contribution of German photographers to the development of photography in the 20th century cannot be underestimated. When we think of quantum leaps in the development of the medium and its languages, we can think of Wilhelm von Gloeden, August Sander, Lisette Model, Germaine Krull, Ilse Bing, Erich Salomon, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Bernd and Hiller Becher, Wolfgang Tillmans, Aenne Biermann, Erwin Blumenfeld, Bill Brandt, Candida Höfer, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Demand and many more too numerous to mention. And then we have the (mainly Jewish) photographers of the German diaspora of the 1920s-1940s who emigrated to all parts of Europe, South America, America and Australia and who went on to influence photographers in their adopted countries.

Perhaps there is something inherent in the German psyche which promotes a certain awareness, a certain understanding of the mechanics of photography. Perhaps this is a link between German psychology (such as Urformen: the original, archetypal form1), psychoanalysis (such as Freud’s term Das Unheimliche: “the uncanny” in the sense of something that produces unease and is disturbing) and photography – a relationship which promotes objective seeing, seeing things in new and unexpected ways. Perhaps this ability to perceive in new ways has something to do with Germany’s European roots and that continent’s history of war, destruction and reclamation, where the archetypes are constantly being dissolved and constructed – in a circle which leads us back to the roots of German psychology. These are only thoughts which are slowly forming, nascent thoughts in a long process of research, which could possibly be interesting, or not.

.
Added to these many German photographers is another intelligent, inventive artist that I admire – an artist that also redefined the language of photography in the 20th century. His name is Michael Schmidt.

Much as Bill Brandt considered “atmosphere” a term fundamental in his images (“I only know it is a combination of elements … which reveals the subject as familiar and yet strange”) in order to capture the very essence of a place, so Schmidt’s inimitable understanding of his environment and its people, namely his beloved Berlin, allowed him to dissect and disseminate the dystopian “atmosphere” and habitus of its inhabitants.

Schmidt (and here I précis a lot of people) perceives and reacts to the world, offering through “fragmentation, condensation, abstraction” a “sense of space distorted in depth”, in which “existence is hollowed out to its extremes” that “take his subjects out of their historical anchorage” to offer a “harsh and completely unique view of the fragility of human existence” – “a subjective, deeply felt work of the life and suffering of people in the shadow of Berlin.”

“This is the strength of Michael Schmidt’s work. An ability to transcend the present – its present – and to fragment it in order to better represent it. Creations with shallow backgrounds, which play with nuances and break free from simple black and white to offer a shade of grey, evoking the rainy sky of Berlin. A true love letter, tortured, raw, deep and complex, to the city where it was born, grew and disappeared.”2

As Joe Lloyd has observed of Schmidt’s masterpiece Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) (1985-87) “It is difficult to imagine a future for these anxious youths, whose lives are encircled by an evil empire on the cusp of dissolution. The Berlin Wall appears on the verge of subsiding. Vegetation grows unbidden, new life to replace the old. Schmidt turns his camera on the city’s insignificant minutiae, a shadowy realm between the sights and, in doing so, captures its liminality.”3

Liminality is one of the key words I associate with the work of Michael Schmidt… the other being language.

Liminality is a term used to describe the psychological process of transitioning across boundaries and borders. The term “limen” comes from the Latin for threshold; it is literally the threshold separating one space from another. It is the place in the wall where people move from one room to another.4

As he probed and prodded the threshold of existence in his photography, Schmidt transited the line between representation and abstraction, photographing the ever mutable spaces of Berlin and the people that were stationed there, under the Wall – even as the subject matter he chose transitioned from dour city to blank officer workers, from women to children, old people and disaffected youths.

Schmidt sought new ways to transition across the boundaries and borders of both the city and his mind in order to create a “new reality” of visual language, not to reproduce real things as he said, but to show how things really are. As the curator Thomas Weski has observed, “”Every time he finished a series, he went through periods of turmoil where he looked for new ways to approach reality…”5

The liminal, interstitial spaces the artist creates, these fragments of time, these “shards of reality” are tough, gritty photographs – of love, desire, work, destitution, despair, loneliness, sadness and fortitude – realities expressed in sombre tones of grey that recite a sense of foreboding. Forty years after the end of the war, the clash of cultures between stoicism and rebellion, between rich and poor, between communism and freedom is still in full flight in a divided Berlin… for here (unlike Brandt’s photographs where the fragments are part of the whole) there is no unity, no ceasefire, no holistic healing, there is only a language of dissolution and despair. Here, there is no way hope can be deployed to distort one’s relationship with reality.

Schmidt’s relationship between photography and subject is always about the artist metaphorically “becoming naked” and open, pushing the boundaries of the possible when looking for new ways to approach reality. Schmidt’s language of the fragmentation bomb shows the benefits of working on language to break any self-imposed limits – to picture the ‘deep time’6 so intimately linked with the life of the city.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

Footnotes

  1. “The original, archetypal form… the first form of a narrative from which all known variants emerged; the archetype version that provides a model and pattern for all variants (alternatively, Urform). The term comes from the German Urform (plural Urformen), meaning primitive form, original form, or archetype, and is derived from Ur, the mythological first city.
    Randal S. Allison. “Ur-Form,” in Thomas A. Green (ed.,). Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Beliefs, Customs, Tales, Music and Art Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 1997, p. 823.
  2. Lou Tsatsas. “Michael Schmidt décompose Berlin au Jeu de Paume,” on the Fisheye Magazine website June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021
  3. Joe Lloyd. “Michael Schmidt Retrospective: Photographs 1965-2014,” on the Studio International website 12/10/202 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021
  4. Larson, P. “Liminality,” in Leeming, D.A. (eds). Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion. Springer, Boston, MA, 2014
  5. Thomas Weski quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.
  6. “As the Anangu people of Uluru explain, the land contains proof of a spoken narrative, like a photograph. The land’s markings are the archives, the inscriptions revealing and proving deep history stories.”
    Ann McGrath. “‘All things will outlast us’: how the Indigenous concept of deep time helps us understand environmental destruction,” on The Conversation website, August 19, 2020 [Online] Cited 29/08/2021.

.
Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Realism consists not in reproducing real things, but in showing how things really are.”

“Black and white are always the darkest grey and the lightest grey.”

.
Michael Schmidt

 

“His language is a language of precision and his tool is the most simple one: a small, 35mm camera, and a few rolls of films. His pictures look simple at first glance, and their anti-sentimentality, their refusal of all the tricks of the usual seduction, their concision and their clarity, give them great efficiency. They show what they show but they manage to retain an opacity, a mystery, and they become a support for our imagination.”

“Schmidt does not accuse, he simply reveals, and the interpretation is left to the viewer. He can do so because he has confidence in the power of his medium and confidence in the intelligence of the viewer.”

.
Luc Delahaye

 

“His photography no longer follows a means of pure documentation, but rather formulates a dystopian attitude towards the life of a generation shortly before the fall of the wall in surprising image contexts. Schmidt develops a world of breaks and gaps that defies any claim to a sovereign overview.”

.
Einar Schleef

 

“Amongst the pages of photographer Michael Schmidt’s seminal book, ‘Waffenruhe’ – a fragmented psychological portrait of West Berlin shot between 1985 and 1987 – is an image of an outstretched wrist, the camera’s flash igniting a jagged scar across its milky skin. The space opposite is obscured with a blank pull-out page that expands to reveal a tree in full bloom, bright flowers swelling between branches. The Berlin Wall looms in the background, like a shadow sunshine can’t dispel. In Schmidt’s Waffenruhe, life and death cohabitate – existence is hollowed out to its extremes. Four decades after the end of World War II, Waffenruhe (German for “ceasefire”) captured the gloom of a bisected city as it waited for the smoke to clear.”

.
Ashleigh Kane. “Why Michael Schmidt is the perfect photographer for our dystopia,” on the Highsnobiety website February 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

 

 

 

Exposition “Michael Schmidt. Une autre photographie allemande” 

 

Berlin-Wedding 1976-78

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Müller-Ecke Seestrasse, Berlin-Wedding' (Berlin-Wedding) 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Müller-Ecke Seestrasse, Berlin-Wedding (Berlin-Wedding)
1976-78
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'City Inspector at the Wedding District Office' 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
City Inspector at the Wedding District Office
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
43.4 x 46cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'City Inspector at work in his Wedding District Office' 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
City Inspector at work in his Wedding District Office
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
43.4 x 46cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding' (Pupil, elementary school, Berlin-Wedding) 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding (Pupil, elementary school, Berlin-Wedding)
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding' (CM1 pupil, primary school, Berlin-Wedding) 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Schüler der 4. Klasse, Grundschule, Berlin-Wedding (CM1 pupil, primary school, Berlin-Wedding)
1976-78
From Berlin-Wedding
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Berlin-Wedding' 1976-78

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Berlin-Wedding
1976-78
Silver gelatin print
24 x 30cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Jeu de Paume in Paris is the second venue of the major retrospective of Michael Schmidt’s work. Michael Schmidt (1945-2014) occupies a unique position in contemporary German photography and internationally. Born in Berlin and with no formal training in photography, he discovered the medium as a mode of artistic expression in the mid-1960s. For each of his themes he developed his own approach to reality. His oeuvre owing to continual exploration and innovation has been seminal for a younger generation of photographers. The exhibition, the most comprehensive to date, offers a complete overview of his oeuvre from 1965 to 2014.

After the presentation at Jeu de Paume, Paris (2021) and Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwartskunst Berlin (2020), the exhibition will be on view at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (September 22–February 28, 2022) and the Albertina Museum in Vienna (March 24–June 12, 2022).

Michael Schmidt (1945-2014) occupies a unique position in contemporary German photography. Born in Berlin, he was self-taught, adopting photography as his artistic medium in the mid-1960s. For each of his themes, he developed his own approach to reality. The Michael Schmidt retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, the most comprehensive to date, offers a complete overview of his oeuvre from 1965 to 2014.

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

“At the end of the 1970s, with the series ‘Berlin-Wedding’, Michael Schmidt imposed a very rigid set of rules on himself in order to achieve a form of neutrality, if such a thing is possible… He later said he felt like he had pushed himself into a corner with these rules, and in the early 1980s he struggled to relax them. He went back to shooting spontaneously, camera in hand and no longer on a tripod. This led to “Waffenruhe (Ceasefire),” where he broke free from those rules. It became less a question of delivering a precise description than of communicating a feeling.”

~ Thomas Weski quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

“Every time he finished a series, he went through periods of turmoil where he looked for new ways to approach reality… He described himself as a “dead-end photographer” who would get into one lane and needed a long time to get out of it. ”

~ Thomas Weski quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

“Michael Schmidt’s raw, harsh, and fragmented photographs of Waffenruhe are less documents of the existing situation at that time than they are creating a certain dark atmosphere, which echoed the ‘no future’-feeling of my generation.”

~ Thomas Weski

 

“Man is at the centre of the environment. He is shaped by it and he shapes it… As such, I don’t want to show him isolated, but in his environment, I want to show how he lives, where he works, what he does in his free time.”

~ Michael Schmidt quoted in Laure Etienne. “Michael Schmidt: A New German Perspective,” on the Bind Magazine website 17 June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

 

Berlin nach 1945

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Berlin nach 1945' (Berlin after 1945) 1980

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin after 1945)
1980
Silver gelatin print
23.4 x 29.2cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

In 1980 Michael Schmidt photographed his series “Berlin after 1945”. West Berlin already had a reputation as a young and rebellious city. Schmidt portrayed his hometown quite differently: grey on grey, barren, if not dreary. With his approach of portraying the human-shaped living environment instead of untouched nature, Schmidt became a representative of the New Topographics movement, which had recently emerged in the USA: these photographers no longer focused on an ideal conception of landscape, but rather on human intervention.

Google translated from Michael Schmidt. “So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Berlin nach 1945' (Berlin after 1945) 1980

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin after 1945)
1980
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Berlin nach 1945' (Berlin after 1945) 1980

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Berlin nach 1945 (Berlin after 1945)
1980
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Berlin-Kreuzberg 1969-1973

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

How Schmidt broke away from the strict image structure of his photographs can be seen in his series “Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder 1981-82”. The camera moves closer to the sitter and no longer locks them in a strict composition.

Google translated from Michael Schmidt. “So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views) 1982

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1982
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder' 1981-82

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder (Berlin-Kreuzberg. Urban views)
1981-82
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

The bulk of Schmidt’s work in the 70s and early 80s was commissioned by local authorities, and served as a survey of West Berlin’s crumbing Wall-side districts. If they wanted straightforward documentation, they should have turned elsewhere. In Kreuzberg, Schmidt captured two tree trunks rising from the ground as if a pair of legs, and in Wedding an empty phone box, the pages of its directory left open. Schmidt’s Berlin is riddled with holes. We see a row of tenements from behind, naked and exposed by the loss of their adjoining street. A similar – or perhaps the same – row is glimpsed diagonally through a gap in a scaffolding platform. This is a city scrambled, quite unlike the straight-ahead perspectives of Struth’s near-contemporaneous Unconscious Places series. When we see council employees, the walls of their chintzy apartments and spartan offices seem like armour against the bleak outside.

Text from Joe Lloyd. “Michael Schmidt Retrospective: Photographs 1965-2014,” on the Studio International website 12/10/202 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg' (Berlin-Kreuzberg) 1969-1973

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Berlin-Kreuzberg (Berlin-Kreuzberg)
1969-1973
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Foreword

Michael Schmidt (1945-2014) occupies a unique position in contemporary German photography. Born in Berlin, he was self-taught, adopting photography as his artistic medium in the mid- 1960s. For each of his themes, he developed his own approach to reality. The Michael Schmidt retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, the most comprehensive to date, offers a complete overview of his oeuvre from 1965 to 2014.

Schmidt initially focused on Berlin in his work, receiving commissions in the early 1970s from district offices and from the Berlin Senate on districts such as Kreuzberg and Wedding and on social themes. The Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) book and exhibition project, a visually stunning psychological study of the still divided city, which was shown in Berlin for the first time in 1987, brought Schmidt international renown. With Ein-heit/U-ni-ty, a group of works examining the unification process, he shifted his focus away from the world of his native city.

Schmidt’s oeuvre comprises portraits, self-portraits, landscapes and still lifes. His work highlights the importance of urban space, the continued relevance of history, female identity, the role of the province and the significance of nature. In his last project, he highlighted the contemporary food industry.

In addition to providing a glimpse of sometimes very rich ensembles through original prints, this retrospective also includes work prints, book projects and archive documents. As far as possible, it respects Schmidt’s own approach to presenting and displaying his works. His career was exemplary for the way he endlessly refined his photographic practice and explored new publication formats. The exhibition thus reveals a unique approach to photography in the context of German post-war and contemporary photography, at odds with the Subjective Photography of Otto Steinert and the Düsseldorf School centred around Bernd and Hilla Becher. Schmidt’s oeuvre is now seen as one of the outstanding pillars of photography in the history of German twentieth-century art. As well as celebrating the work he produced in the course of his lifetime, the exhibition seeks to cover the development of photography as a mode of artistic expression since the 1970s.

Thomas Weski, curator of the exhibition

 

Introduction

On the occasion of the reopening, Jeu de Paume offers for the first time in France a large dedicated exhibition to photographer Michael Schmidt, considered one of the major figures of 20th century German art. This large chronological retrospective pays tribute to the artist through original prints, unpublished works and a vast corpus of archives that illustrate the evolution of his work spanning nearly five decades.

A Model

Michael Schmidt wrote a section of the history of photography. Through his work as a photographer and teacher he notably influenced artists like Andreas Gursky, with whom he befriends at the end of the 1970s. He is still a model for a whole generation of young photographers.

West Berlin

Self-taught photographer born in Berlin in 1945, Michael Schmidt devoted most of from his photography to his hometown, more particularly in West Berlin, where he will live until his death in 2014. The districts of Kreuzberg and, more particularly Wedding, were his favourite places. Initially portrayed in a purely documentary style (most often of order), Schmidt will detach himself from traditional visual language and in the 1980s look for a more daring vocabulary.

Postwar

Beginning in the middle of 1960s the postwar work of Michael Schmidt can be considered as a process of the quest for artistic identity, and also as an illustration of the development artistic photography in postwar Germany.

Grey

In the late 1970s, grey becomes the chromatic element central to the photographer’s work, which he considers a full colour. Wishing to describe the world around him, the artist cannot be limited to the use of black and white, who are too Manichean for his taste. The world is undefined, not so neat and clear. Schmidt is looking for more nuance, he has need a wider palette. He draws, then, in these grey tones that we find in the skies of Berlin, the cityscapes and interior views where characters appear weakly illuminated.

 

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the birth of Michael Schmidt, Jeu de Paume presents a large retrospective of this artist, considered one of the major pillars of the history of 20th century German art.

A tribute to a great photographer, this exhibition will present originals, unpublished work prints, book projects and other archives illustrating the evolution of his artistic work. The exhibition also highlights the process of recognising photography as a form of artistic expression in Germany and Europe from the 1970s.

Like Bernd and Hilla Becher, Michael Schmidt is among the most influential post-war photographers. He tirelessly developed his work for five decades. Through the publication of his work in the form of books and installations, always in dialogue with their place of exhibition, he developed different types of innovative presentation. By the incessant renewal of its formal language and by the choice of its themes, Michael Schmidt wrote a part of the history of photography and is today a role model for a whole generation of young photographers.

Born in Berlin on October 6, 1945, it was in this city that he lived and worked until his death in 2014. This autodidact works as a photographer from the mid-1970s, initially exclusively in his hometown. This is where the series dedicated to Kreuzberg and Wedding saw the light of day, – two districts of West Berlin –, which already go beyond the simple description of a neighbourhood, taking on a broader meaning. It is with the project, book and exhibition developed in collaboration with the director and playwright Einar Schleef, Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), first presented in Berlin in 1987, that Michael Schmidt does undeniably artistic work.

This series is made up of raw images with a loaded atmosphere, which draw a very personal portrait of the city near the end of the cold war – and of its youth – a city still cut in half, shortly before the change of epoch.

Michael Schmidt abandons this focus on the thematic universe of Berlin with the series Ein-heit (Uni-té), in which he explores the visual languages ​​of the different forms of society and different political systems that marked Germany in the 20th century. He uses on this occasion already mediatised images that he mixes with photographs taken by himself, publishing everything in a book without text. The first exhibition of this series is in 1996 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Schmidt was thus the first German photographer for decades to have personal exposure in this place. Subsequently, he devotes other work to the image of the woman, to the role of regions and the importance of nature. His last big series, Lebensmittel (Foodstuffs), in which he explores contemporary food production, has earned him the Pictet Prize just a few days before his death.

 

The exhibition

First photographs, commissioned works and series, 1965-1985

Michael Schmidt discovered an interest in photography when he was working in the West Berlin police force. Although he joined amateur photography clubs, he was chiefly self-taught, working hard to improve his technique. In the mid-1960s, he took the first photographs that he did not reject later on. Although the motifs in these early photographs vary greatly, they all defy the quick readability that is usually associated with the medium.

From his earliest photographic work of the mid-1960s to Germany’s reunification, Schmidt chose his native city of Berlin as his main subject, examining it from various angles. By 1973 he was working as a professional photographer, having been commissioned by the district office in Kreuzberg to do a book on the neighbourhood. It was published in the same year, with a second edition being printed almost immediately. It was followed by commissions from other city districts and Berlin’s Senate. In Die berufstätige Frau in Kreuzberg (The Working Woman in Kreuzberg) he depicted a typical day in the life of two women juggling work and leisure.

In the early 1970s he began teaching photography courses at colleges of further education. In 1976, he founded the Werkstatt für Photographie (Workshop for Photography) at the Volkshochschule Kreuzberg, which continued until 1986. Works by contemporary American photographers were exhibited there that had not previously been accessible to the German public. From 1976 to 1978, he photographed the Berlin-Wedding district and its inhabitants in a strictly documentary style. He made prints in rich shades of grey and published the series in 1978.

Between 1978 and 1980 he photographed Berlin’s Friedrichstadt neighbourhood in the south of the city, which was badly damaged during the Second World War. These photographs capture the mood of post-war West Berlin, a city scarred by gaps between buildings, brownfield sites and fire walls. Dominant motifs include urban wastelands and utility buildings, which he photographed in diffuse light using a large plate camera. In these works, Schmidt found pictorial solutions that straddle the boundary between documentation and abstraction. His Berlin nach 45 (Berlin after 1945) was not published until 2005, twenty-five years after the photographs were taken.

In 1980 in another project funded by the Berlin Senate he documented the everyday lives of four people dealing with chronic illness or disability. This work was published under the title Benachteiligt (Disadvantaged).

With the photo book Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder, published in 1983, he began turning away from the traditional documentary idiom, experimenting with a more subjective approach.

In the mid-1990s, Schmidt identified his archive as a potent new source for reinterpreting earlier work. It assumed growing importance for him and he returned to it with increasing regularity in order to subject his early work to a critical re-examination and to make new prints. In the late 1990s, for example, for his project Menschenbilder (Ausschnitte) (Pictures of People (Excerpts)), he presented re-framed versions of an older series of portraits. Divorced from their previous context, the portraits became emblems of the human condition.

At that time, Schmidt also published Selbst (Self), a series of self-portraits dating from the mid-1980s, in which he appeared directly and unsparingly, in a self-critical attitude.

 

Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), 1985-1987

Unlike the studiedly sober photos of his earlier series, the portrait of the still divided city that Schmidt created in the mid-1970s in the book and exhibition project Waffenruhe, with its condensed, fragmentary, strongly contrasting black and white photographs, is highly subjective and multifaceted. With this work group, the photographer used a more evocative approach to convey the complex and moribund political situation in Berlin.

Here Schmidt eschewed a documentary approach in favour of unexpected pictorial sequences that express the dystopian attitude of a generation living before the fall of the Wall. Schmidt creates a picture of a world marked by fragmentation and discontinuity which remains open to interpretation. The photographs in the artist’s book are interwoven with a text by theatre director and writer Einar Schleef, which offers a very personal and uncompromising take on the fragility of human existence.

The project, funded with public money as part of the celebrations marking Berlin’s 750th anniversary, was first shown in the Berlinische Galerie at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in the immediate vicinity of the Wall. When the Waffenruhe series was included in a group exhibition at MoMA in New York, in 1988, it brought Schmidt immediate international notoriety.

 

Portraits, 1987-1994
Natur (Nature), 1987-1997
89/90, 1989-1990
Architektur (Architecture), 1989-1991

In between his major series, Michael Schmidt created work of more modest scope, which afforded him more artistic freedom and enabled him to hone his photographic method and pictorial language. The works that followed Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) are characterised by their tight framing, shallow depth of field and formats that were unusually large for the time. In them Schmidt focused increasingly on architecture and portraiture, unrestrained by any concern for intelligibility. Motifs became detached from their urban or personal contexts, functioning as emblems of metropolitan life, history and society. The series Architektur (Architecture) and Portraits are distinguished by the presence and materiality of their objects and the immediacy of encounter.

In 1989, Schmidt turned his attention to his native city for one last time, recording visual traces of German unification. He found many of his motifs in what used to be the border zone between the wall and no man’s land. This work, entitled 89/90, was not published until 2010.

Similarly, the photos he was taking around the same time of the rural landscape near his second home in Lower Saxony were not published until much later, when he assembled them in the artist book Nature shortly before his death. The book testifies to the importance he attached to landscape during this part of his life.

 

Ein-heit (U-ni-ty), 1989-1994

This series, which took shape during reunification, is concerned with history and the universal symbolism of the dominant social systems in Germany since 1933: National Socialism, Socialism and Democracy. This is the context for the photographer’s examination of the individual’s essential role in society and the stand they choose to take.

For Schmidt, a published image was an integral part of objective reality and no less worthy of being photographed than, say, a person or a building. In Ein-heit/U-ni-ty, he took this approach further. His photographs of photographs, which account for roughly one third of this series, comprise severely cropped and occasionally inverted photographs together with straightforward renderings of existing photographic material, which he typically combined with his own photographs. In so doing, Schmidt reformulates the content of the original photographs for his own purposes, depriving them of their unambiguousness and added further layers of possible meaning. He also used the technique of repeating and varying motifs he had deployed in some of his early works. Arranged in this way, the photographs form the grammar of a unique visual idiom, one that is challenging for viewers, but rich in associations. Ein-heit/U-ni-ty premiered in 1996 at MoMA in New York, where it was the first solo exhibition devoted to a German photographer for several decades.

 

Frauen (Women), 1997-1999

In the late 1990s, Michael Schmidt embarked on a series of portraits of young men and women. He eventually focused on women from the younger generation, shooting portraits and photographs of their bodies, both fully dressed and in the nude. In Schmidt’s view, these young women’s own sense of self-worth was increasingly reflected in their relationship to their own bodies. His photographs examined how a sense of individuality was being affected by socially mediated norms and ideals. The phenomenon made itself felt in a wide range of spheres, from the choice of outer garments and underwear to the stylisation of the body, even the private parts. He reveals the traces left by this growing imposition of uniformity on physical appearance in the form of posture and bearing, scars and lesions.

Schmidt interpreted these phenomena as the formative collective experience of an entire generation, as was evident in his exhibitions of the Frauen group of works. He presented the works as a block or tableau, emphasising what this age group had in common instead of the individual. Closer inspection reveals that this group of works added another facet to the photographer’s preoccupation with the role of the individual in society.

In 2000, Schmidt published the Frauen series in an eponymous artist’s book. At the 6th Berlin Biennale in 2010, he showed extracts in the form of full-page ads in a national newspaper and as posters in public spaces.

 

Irgendwo (Somewhere), 2001-2004
Lebensmittel (Foodstuff), 2006-2010

Following Germany’s reunification, Michael Schmidt never photographed Berlin again. Instead, he developed an interest in provincial scenes, as these were in his view both interchangeable and conducive to a sense of identity. Having acquired a caravan, he and his wife set off on tours across Germany – sixteen in all. He published the resulting images in an artist’s book entitled Irgendwo (Somewhere). They were exhibited outside Germany’s big cities. The experiences he gained on these trips and his increasing interest in eating and drinking, mirroring that of German society as a whole, led to a series entitled Lebensmittel (Foodstuff). For this, Schmidt carried out research in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy and Spain, where he visited sausage, pasta and cheese factories, fish farms, fruit and vegetable farms, fattening farms and abattoirs, green houses, olive plantations, insect farms and food processing plants.

In Lebensmittel (Foodstuff), Michael Schmidt used colour for the first time in his work, in addition to his customary black and white. The pictures are untitled and make no reference to location, making it impossible to pin them down geographically. Schmidt developed further the method he first used in Ein-heit/U-ni-ty, creating unsettling works that sometimes fuse two different halves or contain repeated images or shapes, or else variations of motifs. The result undermines belief in the documentary power of photography and the universal validity of the isolated shot.

Often it remains unclear what foodstuff is actually being presented. Both failsafe identification and seasonality have become things of the past, with production now oriented towards standardisation, alienation and globalisation rather than individuality, transparency and regional context. Schmidt critiques the excesses of an economic system that is notorious for its wastefulness. Today’s crises make it clear that we have arrived at the limits of agricultural growth. Schmidt’s photographs reflect this fact and the loss of confidence in the idea of permanent growth.

For this series, he was awarded the prestigious Prix Pictet only a few days before his death in 2014.

 

Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), 1985-1987

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Waffenruhe (Ceasefire) (1985-87), inaugurated the second act of Schmidt’s career. It remains his masterpiece, and one of the most intoxicating photographic projects of the late-20th century. Laying aside the realism of his first two decades, Schmidt instead shot voraciously without quarter, before embarking on an intensive process of editing and ordering. The final works were then exhibited like a continuous reel, a sequence whose parts combine in the mind to construct a place, an atmosphere and narratives. …

This is the Berlin of Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire, except without that film’s passage to hope. Schmidt’s greyscale world never erupts into technicolour. It is difficult to imagine a future for these anxious youths, whose lives are encircled by an evil empire on the cusp of dissolution. The Berlin Wall appears on the verge of subsiding. Vegetation grows unbidden, new life to replace the old. Schmidt turns his camera on the city’s insignificant minutiae, a shadowy realm between the sights and, in doing so, captures its liminality.

Text from Joe Lloyd. “Michael Schmidt Retrospective: Photographs 1965-2014,” on the Studio International website 12/10/202 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

“This is the strength of Michael Schmidt’s work. An ability to transcend the present – its present – and to fragment it in order to better represent it. Creations with shallow backgrounds, which play with nuances and break free from simple black and white to offer a shade of grey, evoking the rainy sky of Berlin. A true love letter, tortured, raw, deep and complex, to the city where it was born, grew and disappeared.”

Lou Tsatsas. “Michael Schmidt décompose Berlin au Jeu de Paume,” on the Fisheye Magazine website June 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

With “Waffenruhe” from 1985-87, Schmidt moved away from the documentary and found a new photographic language. He blocked the viewer’s view of the subject – here with a black line – and made the visual obstacle itself the motif. Schmidt continued to take photos in Berlin, only that his photographs increasingly irritated the view of the city.

Google translated from Michael Schmidt. “So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Schmidt also revised the imagery of his portraits in the “Ceasefire” series: the surroundings disappear, and the direct expression of the sitter takes its place. The blurring reinforces the impression that this is a spontaneous snapshot.

Google translated from Anonymous. “Michael Schmidt. So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Schmidt increasingly photographed surfaces and materials such as the many graffiti that have long characterised Berlin’s aesthetics. He was interested in how people and time inscribe themselves on it.

Google translated from Anonymous. “Michael Schmidt. So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

“Through Schmidt’s dramatic perspective and keen eye for telling details and subtle nuances, he creates an air of inconsolable emptiness in his images of the Wall and those affected by it. These photographs will leave you speechless.”

.
Martin Parr. The Photobook: A History Volume 2 2006

 

 

In the following decades, his approach became more impressionistic. He would shoot thousands of frames for each project without thinking too much about the end result, which would emerge later out of rigorous editing. Increasingly, he was drawn to series over single images, atmosphere over documentary representation. The Berlin that emerges out of Waffenruhe is a darkly atmospheric place, where nothing is quite what it seems and everything – a bandaged tree, a bank of earth beneath a wall, a stuffed toy criss-crossed by barbed wire – is loaded with ominous suggestion. The Wall is a looming presence, but there are images that evoke an altogether more intimate kind of dislocation, not least the stark portraits of Schmidt’s sad-looking daughter – in one, she has a bandaged wrist.

Sean O’Hagan. “Michael Schmidt obituary,” on the Guardian website 29 May, 2014 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
90 x 69.6cm
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Waffenruhe swerved any explicit documentation of West Berlin’s political stasis for haunting photographs of its dilapidated buildings, unkempt nature, a defaced Swastika, the inside of a watchtower, cityscapes obscured by shadowy figures, and portraits of disillusioned young people. While the wall is occasionally present, its presence is unwavering. Waffenruhe was a collaboration with Einar Schleef, a playwright and theatre director who left East for West Germany in 1976. For his part, Schleef penned the inner thoughts of a divorced man living with his estranged daughter’s rabbit in the now-empty family house. As historian and fellow photographer Janos Frecot writes in the book’s closing pages: “The text itself does not simply tell a story, but instead narrates a finding, a wounding, a consciousness of a dully nagging pain in an apparent stillness: Berlin 1987.” Structured as one long-running paragraph, Schleef’s text cuts through the book’s centre, like the wall itself. The lack of white space around the text is oppressive, almost suffocating.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'Untitled' from 'Waffenruhe' (Ceasefire) 1985-87

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
Untitled from Waffenruhe (Ceasefire)
1985-87
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Portraits 1987-1994

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Portraits' (Portraits) 1987-1994

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Portraits (Portraits)
1987-1994
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Schmidt’s portraits from the 1980s are reminiscent of private photos. Their meaning does not arise from complex picture contexts, but from the direct expression, the presence of the portrayed and the associations of the viewers.

Google translated from Anonymous. “Michael Schmidt. So fühlte sich das Leben in Berlin an,” on the Zeit Online website 17 October 2020 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021.

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Portraits' (Portraits) 1989

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Portraits (Portraits)
1989
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Architektur 1989-1991

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Architektur' (Architecture) 1989-1991

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Architektur (Architecture)
1989-1991
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Ein-heit (Uni-ty) 1991-94

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit' (Uni-ty) 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

For U-nit-y, made between 1991 and 1994, Schmidt turned his eye on his newly reunited city, this time using found images from newspapers, magazines and propaganda material from Nazi and communist pamphlets alongside his own photographs. The end result is a highly personal evocation of a reborn city still haunted by unresolved issues from the recent past and a collective anxiety about the future. His images evoke both the weight of history and the pulse of the everyday, summoning up a Berlin of the imagination that is both solid and dreamlike.

Sean O’Hagan. “Michael Schmidt obituary,” on the Guardian website 29 May, 2014 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Although unforeseen at the time, two years after Waffenruhe was published, the Berlin Wall was torn down. For Schmidt’s next book, he explored East and West Germany’s reunification in Ein-heit (or U-Ni-Ty) – signalled to in its split title. The country was beginning to heal from its deep and bloody ideological divisions, five decades after the Nazis took power in 1933. Ein-heit, made between 1991 and 1994, surveyed the relationship between the individual and the state, and the grappling of national identity. For the first time in his career, Schmidt moved beyond Berlin and reckoned with Germany’s past and present through found and new photography (around half of the Ein-heit‘s 163 images were repurposed from old newspapers, propaganda materials, and magazine clippings).

Ashleigh Kane. “Why Michael Schmidt is the perfect photographer for our dystopia,” on the Highsnobiety website February 2021 [Online] Cited 12/08/2021

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014) 'No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)' 1991-94

 

Michael Schmidt (German, 1945-2014)
No title, Ein-heit (Uni-ty)
1991-94
Silver gelatin print
© Michael Schmidt, Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive

 

 

Biography

1945

Born in Berlin-Kreuzberg on 6 October.

1950

His family moves several times between West Berlin and Erkner, which is near East Berlin.

1963

Joins the West Berlin riot police.

1965

Starts taking photographs.

1969

Teaches a photography course at the Volkshochschule Kreuzberg, a local adult education centre.

1970

Teaches photography courses at adult education centres, with an emphasis on encouraging personal expression in his students.

1973

Leaves the police force and starts working as a freelance photographer while continuing to teach at various adult education centres. His exhibition Kreuzberger Motive is organised by the Berlin Museum and the Bezirksamt Kreuzberg (district office). His book Berlin Kreuzberg is published.

1974

He organises the exhibition Ausländische Mitbürger (Foreign Fellow Citizens in Kreuzberg), which features his own work together with photographs submitted by Kreuzberg residents from migrant backgrounds. Commission for a book on his hometown, which is published in 1978 under the title Berlin. Stadlandschaft und Menschen (Berlin. Urban Landscape and People).

1975

Exhibits his series Senioren in Berlin (Senior Citizens in Berlin), commissioned by the Berlin Senate, in a U-Bahn station. Develops the concept for his Werkstatt für Photographie (Photography Workshop) in West Berlin. He is assigned by the Senate to photograph Die berufstätige Frau in Kreuzberg (The Working Woman in Kreuzberg), which is exhibited at the Rathaus Kreuzberg.

1976

Stops working in the field of applied photography in order to focus on his own photographic projects. Opens the Werkstatt für Photographie at the adult education centre in Kreuzberg, taking over artistic and organisational management. With its intensive programme of exhibitions, workshops and specialised courses, the Werkstatt achieves international renown. It would host the first solo exhibitions in Germany, and in some cases Europe, of American photographers like Robert Adams, Diane Arbus, Lewis Baltz, Larry Clark, William Eggleston and John Gossage.

1977

Quits as director of the Werkstatt für Photographie, but continues to teach and give advice there.

1978

His series Berlin-Wedding is shown at the Rathaus Wedding, in conjunction with the release of his book Berlin-Wedding. 1979 Teaches courses in documentary photography at the University of Essen. 1980 He applies to the Senate to photograph people with disabilities and is accepted. The series is published in a small book titled Benachteiligt (Disadvantaged). Photographs post-war architecture in the area around Anhalterbahnhof, West Berlin, which suffered massive destruction in the war. The topic would be the focus of the Internationale Bauausstellung (International Building Exposition) in 1984. Berlin nach 45 would not be published until 2005.

1981

Stops his activities at the Werkstatt für Photographie, which closes in 1986.

1984

Receives the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach – Foundation Grant for Contemporary Photography.

1985-88

Teaches at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Academy of Fine Arts), Berlin.

1987

His book Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), a collaboration with theatre director and writer Einar Schleef, is published and the work group is exhibited at Martin-Gropius-Bau as part of the 750th anniversary celebrations of Berlin.

1988

Waffenruhe is shown as part of the group exhibition New Photography 4 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

1989

He starts working on a project, in which he examines the repercussions of reunification and which he later titled Ein-heit/U-ni-ty.

1995

First retrospective of his photographic career at the Museum Folkwang, Essen. He uses the exhibition to go through his archive spanning his life’s work and selecting works that are of particular importance to him. In the future, he returns regularly to his archive in order to generate new works.

1996

Ein-heit/U-ni-ty is exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and published as an artist’s book. It is the first solo exhibition of a German photographer at MoMA for several decades.

1999

Appointed to the Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts), Berlin. He co-founds the Foundation for Photography and Media Art with the Michael Schmidt Archive.

2000

Publishes his portrait series Frauen (Women).

2005

Exhibits and publishes Irgendwo (Somewhere), which he photographed on 16 trips across Germany examining the relevance of the provinces.

2006

Takes part in the 5th Berlin Biennale and shows Ein-heit at Kunst-Werke, Berlin.

2010

Is invited to participate in the 6th Berlin Biennale and shows Frauen in public and in the media in the form of placards and full-page advertisements. Major exhibition Grau als Farbe. Fotografien bis 2009 (Grey as colour. Photographs until 2009) at the Haus der Kunst, Munich.

2013

Exhibits Lebensmittel as part of the main exhibition Il Palazzo Enciclopedico at the Venice Biennale. After returning to Berlin, he is diagnosed with cancer. While receiving treatment he edits and designs the artist’s book Natur (Nature).

2014

Wins the Fifth Prix Pictet Award, the prestigious international award for photography and sustainability. Michael Schmidt dies on 24 May in Berlin.

 

 

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26
Oct
19

Exhibition: ‘Wolfgang Schulz and the Photography Scene around 1980’ at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

Exhibition dates: 14th June – 24th November 2019

Featured photographers: Wolfgang Schulz, Hans Christian Adam, Dörte Eißfeldt, Verena von Gagern, André Gelpke, Dagmar Hartig, Andreas Horlitz, Reinhard Matz, Angela Neuke, Heinrich Riebesehl, Wilhelm Schürmann, Holger Stumpf, Petra Wittmar, and Miron Zownir

 

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) 'Michael' 1980

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944)
Michael
1980
Silbergelatine | Gelatin silver paper
24 x 30 cm
Privatsammlung | private collection
© Wolfgang Schulz

 

 

I love this gritty, inventive, subversive German photography from the late 1970s – early 1980s. Challenge me. Take me bleak places. Tell it like it is, baby…

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) 'Selbstportrait' | 'Self-Portrait, Riesweiler' 1978

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944)
Selbstportrait | Self-Portrait, Riesweiler
1978
Silbergelatine | Gelatin silver paper
24 x 30 cm
Privatsammlung | private collection
© Wolfgang Schulz

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) 'Ohne Titel' | 'Untitled' um | c. 1980

 

Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944)
Ohne Titel | Untitled
um | c. 1980
Silbergelatine | Gelatin silver paper
24 x 30 cm
Privatsammlung | private collection
© Wolfgang Schulz

 

 

As part of its exhibition series Reconsidering Photography, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg is undertaking a survey of the German photography scene around the year 1980. The springboard for the examination is the journal Fotografie. Zeitschrift internationaler Fotokunst, published by Wolfgang Schulz (b. 1944) between 1977 and 1985. On the occasion of the exhibition, MKG is inviting photography experts Reinhard Matz (Cologne), Steffen Siegel (Folkwang University Essen), and Bernd Stiegler (University of Konstanz) to relate their research project on the 1980s to the historical photographs in the MKG collection. The aim of the collaboration is to create a historical archaeology of German photography around 1980 based on the example of the journal Fotografie and its protagonists. The exhibition will show some 150 photos by Wolfgang Schulz, Hans Christian Adam, Dörte Eißfeldt, Verena von Gagern, André Gelpke, Dagmar Hartig, Andreas Horlitz, Reinhard Matz, Angela Neuke, Heinrich Riebesehl, Wilhelm Schürmann, Holger Stumpf, Petra Wittmar, and Miron Zownir, together with the journal itself, accompanied by a series of interviews conducted with contemporary witnesses expressly for the exhibition.

Something remarkable happened in the field of photography between 1975 and 1985: important galleries were established and photography increasingly became a coveted item on the art market. Suddenly, collecting and exhibiting photographs in museums was no longer the exception. Photography really stepped into the limelight in style at the so-called Mediendocumenta in 1977. Basic academic reference books were published and a large number of journals were founded. These include both periodicals that since that time have dominated the scholarly discourse, such as History of Photography and Fotogeschichte, as well as magazines designed for the broader public with an interest in photography, including Camera Austria, European Photography, Volksfoto, and Fotokritik.

Among this second group was a journal that was published between 1977 and 1985 with a total of 40 issues, for which its editor, Wolfgang Schulz, who had studied physics and then taught himself photography, chose a name that was as concise as it was ambitious: Fotografie. Zeitschrift internationaler Fotokunst (later Fotografie: Kultur jetzt). Today, this journal seems to have been almost completely forgotten. And yet the achievements of the editor and the contributing authors and photographers surely deserve a closer look. The mix of images and texts they came up with is an important resource for exploring a photography scene that, around 1980, was working hard to establish the medium as an independent art form. At the same time, the 40 issues of Fotografie exude the charm of the open-ended and were shaped by the personal predilections of their editor. An in-depth study of the journal lets us return to the origins of recent photographic history in Germany, which today – surprisingly enough – seem largely to have been buried in the dust of the past.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. It pays tribute to the photographic work of Wolfgang Schulz from the period around 1980, presents works by photographers that for the most part found their way into the MKG collection during that era, displays all 40 issues of the journal Fotografie (unfurling an impressive creative panorama), and lets contemporary witnesses have their say in video interviews as a kind of “oral history.”

Wolfgang Schulz was not merely one of the first journal editors to set himself the task of presenting “a complete overview of contemporary photography with a focus on German photography” but also a notable photographer in his own right. In his photography, as in his editorial work, Schulz tried to evade established norms, while also trying his hand at different styles and subjects. In his Ireland pictures, for example, he followed the narrative tradition of pictorial reportage but simultaneously created a strictly documentary-seeming typology of barns and their various manifestations. With a series of shots of undergrowth, he turned his attention to the unspectacular, and he also portrayed the protagonists on the photography scene who crossed his threshold. For the first time ever, the exhibition is showing his photographic works from the period around 1980.

The images in the MKG collection give an idea of the broad scope covered by art photography in the 1980s. The selection is based on the photo spreads published in Fotografie and thus undoubtedly reveals the preferences of its editor, who seems to have been interested neither in the circle around Bernd and Hilla Becher nor in Michael Schmidt, and who deliberately set out to provoke his readers. Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) explored the North German landscape in his documentary series Agrarlandschaften (Agricultural Landscapes). In a similarly factual style, Wilhelm Schürmann (b. 1946) devoted himself to a highly subjective theme: his childhood surroundings on Steinhammerstrasse in Dortmund. These images are supplemented by his photographs of urban landscapes and residential architecture. Riebesehl and Schürmann both sought their motifs in the realities of life in West Germany that confronted them everywhere they looked. André Gelpke (b. 1947) for his part explored Hamburg’s St. Pauli entertainment district for an independent series he called Sex Theater. He conveys here his view of erotic theatre as a mirror of society that tellingly reveals the audience’s double standards. Wolfgang Schulz also printed Miron Zownir’s pictures of New York’s underground SM, queer, and transsexual scene. These photo spreads reflect the editor’s interest in non-establishment subcultures and in people living on the margins of society.

The photography scene around 1980 was predominantly male: of 147 portfolios published in Fotografie, only 24 presented female photographers. One of the privileged few, Dörte Eißfeldt (b. 1950), combined in her work Große Liebe (True Love, 1980) photographic montage techniques with the serial principle, creating in the darkroom photograms with motifs from her own daily life. Her approach might be dubbed “poetic photography,” the term used by photographer Verena von Gagern (b. 1946) to describe the “representation of private realities.” Von Gagern made pictures in the late 1970s within the “emotional realm” of her own family, among them the image Barbara (1978). Petra Wittmar (b. 1955) pursued by contrast a stricter documentary concept. In her series Spielplätze (Playgrounds, 1979), she takes a critical look at the dreary world of the modern metropolis.

Press release from the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg

 

André Gelpke (b. 1947) 'Pulverfaß' | 'Powder Keg III' 1978

 

André Gelpke (b. 1947)
Pulverfaß | Powder Keg III
1978
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
22 x 32.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© André Gelpke

 

Miron Zownir (b. 1953) 'New York' 1983

 

Miron Zownir (b. 1953)
New York
1983
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
23.2 x 15.4 cm
© Miron Zownir

 

Verena von Gagern (b. 1946) 'Barbara' 1978

 

Verena von Gagern (b. 1946)
Barbara
1978
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
29 x 19.8 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Verena von Gagern

 

Reinhard Matz (b. 1952) 'Blutwurst' | 'Blood Sausage' 1981

 

Reinhard Matz (b. 1952)
Blutwurst | Blood Sausage
1981
Aus der neunteiligen Serie “Wurst” | from the nine-part series “Wurst”
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
22.5 x 27 cm
© Reinhard Matz, Köln

 

Hans-Christian Adam (b. 1948) 'Unterwasser-Gruppenportrait' | 'Underwater Group Portrait' 1985

 

Hans-Christian Adam (b. 1948)
Unterwasser-Gruppenportrait | Underwater Group Portrait (Salzburg College Photo Students)
Vigaun bei | near Hallein, Salzburg, 1985
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
19.2 x 26.5cm
© Hans Christian Adam

 

Angela Neuke (1943-1997) 'US President Ronald Reagan visiting Germany for the NATO Ministerial Conference in Bonn on June 9 and 10, 1982'

 

Angela Neuke (1943-1997)
Deutschlandbesuch von US-Präsident Ronald Reagan in Zusammenhang mit der NATO-Ministerkonferenz am 9. und 10. Juni 1982 in Bonn, 1982 | US President Ronald Reagan visiting Germany for the NATO Ministerial Conference in Bonn on June 9 and 10, 1982
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
18,6 x 28 cm
LVR Landesmuseum Bonn
© L. Lutz, 2019

 

Andreas Horlitz (1953-2016) aus der Serie | from the series "Essen, Frühling 1981" 1981

 

Andreas Horlitz (1953-2016)
Aus der Serie | from the series “Essen, Frühling 1981”
1981
C-Prints
40.3 x 59.4 cm + 13.9 x 59.4 cm
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

Dagmar Hartig (b. 1952) 'Ohne Titel' | 'Untitled' 1981

 

Dagmar Hartig (b. 1952)
Ohne Titel | Untitled
1981
Aus der Serie | from the series “Plastic World”
C-Print
20.3 x 30.2 cm
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

Dörte Eißfeldt (b. 1950) Aus | from "Dunkelrücken" 1986

 

Dörte Eißfeldt (b. 1950)
Aus | from “Dunkelrücken”
1986
Dia-Installation mit 170 Kleinbilddias und Tonspur | Slide installation with 170 35mm slides and soundtrack
© Dörte Eißfeldt

 

Holger Stumpf (b. 1953) 'Planetarium, Stadtpark' | 'city park Hamburg' 1979

 

Holger Stumpf (b. 1953)
Planetarium, Stadtpark | city park Hamburg
1979
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
16 x 23.5 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Holger Stumpf

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) 'Schillerslage (Hannover), Okt. 78' 1978

 

Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010)
Schillerslage (Hannover), Okt. 78
1978
Aus der Serie | from the series “Agrarlandschaften” (Agricultural landscapes)
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
22.6 x 35.9 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

 

Wilhelm Schürmann (b. 1946) 'Kohlscheid' 1978

 

Wilhelm Schürmann (b. 1946)
Kohlscheid
1978
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
21.4 x 28 cm
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
© Wilhelm Schürmann, Herzogenrath

 

Petra Wittmar (b. 1955) Aus der Serie | from the series "Spielplätze" 1979

 

Petra Wittmar (b. 1955)
Aus der Serie | from the series “Spielplätze” (playgrounds)
1979
Silbergelatinepapier | Gelatin silver paper
17 x 26 cm
© Petra Wittmar

 

 

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Steintorplatz, 20099 Hamburg

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 10 am – 6 pm
Thursday 10 am – 9 pm
Closed Mondays

Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg website

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09
May
18

Exhibition: ‘Balthasar Burkhard’ at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 10th February – 21st May 2018

 

Balthasar Burkhard

Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

As is so often the case with an artist, it is the early work that shines brightest in this posting.

The works from On the Alp possess an essential power; the daring capture of actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day make you wish you had been there; and the installation photograph of ‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 (below) makes me want to see more of his 1980s installations, with their shift in scale and repetitive nature. There are no more examples online, but a couple of photographs can be seen in the first installation photograph below.

I can leave the underwhelming aerial, cloud and landscape work well alone. There are many people in the history of photography who have taken better photographs of such subject matter. His life-sized photographs of animals again do nothing for me. They possess a reductive minimalism riffing on the canvas backgrounds of Avedon blown up to enormous size (as in most contemporary photography, as if by making something large the photograph gains aura and importance) but they lead nowhere. Perhaps in their actual presence (the physicality of the print) I might be transported to another place, but in reproduction they are a one-dimensional non sequitur.

From the energy of the earlier work emerges “a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot”, scrupulous studio photos that demand to be taken seriously, but mean very little. Here, passion has lost out to rigorous and deathly control.

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz will showcase the oeuvre of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) in a major retrospective. Burkhard’s work spans half a century: from his early days as a trainee photographer with Kurt Blum to his seminal role in chronicling the art of his time, eventually becoming a photographic artist in his own right who brought photography into the realms of contemporary art in the form of the monumental tableau. More than 150 works and groups of works chart not only the progress of his own photographic career, but also the emergence of photography as an art form in the second half of the twentieth century. An exhibition in collaboration with Museum Folkwang, Essen, and Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, Lugano.

 

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) from 'On the Alp' 1963

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
from On the Alp
1963
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Urs Luthi, Balthasar Burkhard, Jean-Frederic Schnyder), Amsterdam
1969
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol's Factory), New York' 1972

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Untitled (Jean-Christophe Ammann at Andy Warhol’s Factory), New York
1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Jean-Christophe Ammann. 'oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA' 1972

 

Jean-Christophe Ammann
oT (Balthasar Burkhard), USA
Venice, 1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

Together, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz have launched a major retrospective exhibition dedicated to the lifetime achievement of Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

The exhibition charts the many facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step, from his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum – in which he adhered closely to the traditional reportage and illustrative photography of the 1960s, and undertook his first independent photographic projects – to his role alongside legendary curator Harald Szeemann, and his documentation of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Balthasar Burkhard is the author of many iconic images of such groundbreaking exhibitions as When Attitudes Become Form at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969 and the 1972 documenta 5, capturing radical and frequently ephemeral works, actions and performances by the international avant-garde of the day.

Meanwhile, Burkhard endeavoured to make his mark both as a photographer and as an artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend and colleague Markus Raetz, trying out his skills as an actor in the USA, and ultimately being invited to hold his own highly influential exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel and Musée Rath in Geneva in 1983 and 1984. These enabled him to liberate photography from its purely documentary role by creating monumental tableaux in which he developed the motif of the body into sculptural human landscapes and site-specific architectures.

Throughout the course of his career, Burkhard turned time and again to portraiture. Whereas his early photographs tended to show artists in action within their own setting, his later portraits adopted an increasingly formalised approach. During the 1990s, he transposed this stylistic reduction to a wide-ranging series of animal portraits reminiscent of the encyclopaedic style of nineteenth century photography.

Another milestone of Burkhard’s oeuvre can be found in his vast aerial photographs of major mega cities such as Tokyo and Mexico City. These images, shot from an aircraft, like his images of the earth’s deserts, were destined to become a personal passion. Balthasar Burkhard’s quest for a morphology, for a formula that could encapsulate both nature and culture, is particularly evident in his later work, which ranges from pictures of waves and clouds, Swiss mountains and rivers, to the delicate fragility of plants. His interest was always focused on the materiality of the image. Alongside the highly idosyncratic and somewhat darkly sombre tonality of his prints, Burkhard constantly sought to explore every aspect of photography’s aesthetic and technical potential.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the joint exhibition by Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung not only shows individual works, but also reflects on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented, underpinned by a wealth of documents from the archives of the artist. The exhibition is divided in two parts and shown in parallel in the exhibition spaces of Fotomuseum and Fotostiftung.

Press release

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz. 'The Bed' 1969/70

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) / Markus Raetz
The Bed
1969/70
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Michael Heizer, Berne Depression), Berne
1969
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne' 1969

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Untitled (Richard Serra, Splash Piece), Berne
1969
© J. Paul Getty Trust. Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel' 1972

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
oT (Harald Szeemann, the last day of documenta 5), Kassel
1972
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

With this major retrospective, Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz pay homage to the Swiss artist Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010). His oeuvre is almost unparalleled in the way it reflects not only the self-invention of a photographer, but also the emancipation of photography as an artistic medium in its own right during the second half of the twentieth century.

Together, the two institutions chart the many and varied facets of Burkhard’s career, step by step. Fotostiftung presents early works from the days of his apprenticeship with Kurt Blum and his first independent documentary photographs. The exhibition also traces Burkhard’s role as a photographer alongside the curator Harald Szeemann and capturing images of Bern’s bohemian scene in the 1960s and 1970s. During that time, Burkhard carved his niche as a photographer and artist, developing his first large-scale photographic canvases in collaboration with his friend Markus Raetz and eventually breaking away from the European art world in search of both himself and new inspiration in the USA.

The second part of the exhibition at Fotomuseum shows the work created by Burkhard after his return to Europe, and his exploration of the photographic tableau. It was during this phase that he largely succeeded in emancipating photography from its purely documentary function. Using monumental formats, he translated the motif of the human body into sculptural landscapes and site-specific architectures. He went on to apply his stylistic device of formal reduction to portraits and landscapes. This marked the beginning of a series of experiments in the handling of photographic techniques. From long-distance aerial photographs of mega-cities such as Mexico City and Tokyo to close-up studies of flowers and plants, Burkhard seemed to be constantly seeking a formula that would embrace both nature and culture, encapsulating a sensory and sensual grasp of visible reality.

Encompassing half a century of creativity, the exhibition not only shows individual works, but is also underpinned by applied projects, films and many documents from the archives of the artist. This wealth of material allows a reflection both on Balthasar Burkhard’s own view of how his photographs should be presented in the exhibition space as well as his constant weighing-up of other media.

 

Part I (Fotostiftung Schweiz)

Early photographs

Balthasar Burkhard was just eight years old when his father gave him a camera to take along on a school excursion. Burkhard himself describes this early experience with the camera as the starting point of his career. It was also his father who suggested an apprenticeship with Kurt Blum, one of Switzerland’s foremost photographers, ranking along-side Paul Senn, Jakob Tuggener and Gotthard Schuh. Blum taught the young Balz, as he was nicknamed, all the finer points of darkroom technique as well as the art of large-format photography. The earliest work from Burkhard’s apprentice years is a reportage of the school, in the form of a book, while his documentation of the Distelzwang Society’s historic guildhall in the old quarter of Bern was clearly a lesson in architectural photography. Yet, no sooner had he completed his apprenticeship than Burkhard was already embarking on his very own independent projects inspired by post-war humanist photography, such as Auf der Alp, a study of rural Alpine life, for which he was awarded the Swiss Federal Grant for Applied Arts in 1964.

 

Chronicler of Bohemian Life in Bern

Even during his apprenticeship, Burkhard moved in the Bernese art circles to which his teacher Kurt Blum also belonged. In 1962, he created a first portrait, in book form, of painter and writer Urs Dickerhof. Shortly after that, he became friends with his near-contemporary Markus Raetz, and started taking photographs for the charismatic curator Harald Szeemann, who was director of Kunsthalle Bern from 1961 to 1969. Burkhard immersed himself in the vibrantly dynamic Swiss art scene, documenting the often controversial exhibitions of conceptual art at the Kunsthalle, and capturing the lives of Bern’s bohemian set with his 35mm camera. These visual mementos would later be collated in a kind of photographic journal. Initial collaborative projects with artists included a 1966 artists’ book about the village of Curogna (Ticino) and a window display for the Loeb department store in Bern featuring photographic portraits of the Bernese artist Esther Altorfer, devised in collaboration with Markus Raetz and his later wife, fashion designer Monika Raetz-Müller.

 

Landscapes 1969

Inspired by his friend Raetz, Burkhard photographed bleak and rugged snow-covered landscapes in the Bernese Seeland region. Heaps of earth piled up along the wayside reminded him of Robert Smithson’s Earthworks, which had just emerged in contemporary art. As Burkhard would later explain, “I wanted to leave out everything relating to myself, so that I could truly relate to what remained. I distanced myself from my subject-matter. I succeeded in stepping back both from myself and from my work.”

A close-up of bare agricultural soil, vaguely reminiscent of a lunar landscape, forms the basis for an object with a neon tube created in 1969 for the legendary exhibition When Attitudes Become Form in collaboration with Harald Szeemann, Markus Raetz and Jean-Frédéric Schnyder. In 1969, Burkhard’s brown-toned landscapes were included in the 1969 exhibition photo actuelle suisse in Sion. They were subsequently published as his first independent portfolio by Allan Porter in the May issue of Camera magazine, which was dedicated to avant-garde European photography and its affinity with contemporary art.

 

The Amsterdam Canvases 1969-70

When Markus Raetz took a studio in Amsterdam in 1969, he and Burkhard continued to work on joint projects. Photographs of everyday motifs were enlarged, practically life-sized, onto canvas, and caused a sensation in the spring 1970 exhibition Visualisierte Denkprozesse (Visualised thought processes) at Kunstmuseum Luzern, curated by Jean-Christophe Ammann, who wrote: “On huge canvases, they [Raetz and Burkhard] showed, among other things, a spartan studio space, a bedroom, a kitchen, a curtain. They relativised the purely object-like character by hanging the canvases on clips. The resulting folds enriched the images by adding a new dimension.” In other words, the folds in the canvas created a “quasi ironic and disillusioning barrier.” Burkhard’s large-format works foreshadowed the monumental photographic tableaux that would eventually herald the ultimate march of photography into the museum space some ten years later.

 

Documentarist of the International Art Scene

By the end of the 1960s, Harald Szeemann and his polarising, controversial exhibitions were drawing increasing attention far beyond the boundaries of Switzerland. In particular, his (in)famous 1969 show When Attitudes Become Form unleashed heated debates that ultimately led to Szeemann’s resignation as director of Kunsthalle Bern. Then, in 1970, he shocked the members and visitors of the Kunstverein in Cologne with an exhibition dedicated to Happening & Fluxus. Here, too, Burkhard was on hand with his camera. Jean-Christophe Ammann, with whom Burkhard undertook a research trip to the USA in 1972, photographing many artists’ studios, proved no less controversial a figure. Moreover, Burkhard also photographed artists, actions and installations at the 1972 documenta 5 in Kassel, which was headed by none other than Szeemann himself. Given the expanded concept of art that prevailed at the time, which strengthened the role of performance art and installation works alike, photography, too, gained a newfound core significance. Indeed, it was only through photography that many of these innovative works were preserved for posterity.

 

Chicago and the Self-Invention of the Artist

Following a relatively unproductive period in the wake of documenta 5, during which he worked, among other things, on an unfinished documentary project about the small Swiss town of Zofingen, Burkhard spent the years between 1975 and 1978 in Chicago, where he taught photography at the University of Illinois. It was while he was there that he once again reprised the series of photo canvases he had been working on in Amsterdam between 1969 and 1970. This led to new large-format works portraying everyday scenes such as the back seat of an automobile or the interior of a home with a TV, as well as three now lost photographs of roller skaters and a very androgynous back-view nude study of a young man. In 1977 the Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago presented these canvases together with a selection of the Amsterdam works in what was Burkhard’s first solo exhibition. Critics were impressed by his “soft photographs”. The Chicago Tribune, for instance, enthused: “‘European’ grace is wedded to ‘American’ strength in a supreme artistic fiction that suggests the wide-screen format of film.”

 

Self-Portraits

In Chicago, Burkhard rekindled his friendship with performance and conceptual artist Thomas Kovachevic, whom he had first met at documenta 5 and who now introduced him to the local art scene. At the same time, Burkhard toyed with the notion of trying his chances as a film actor in Hollywood. With Kovachevich’s help, he produced a series of self-portraits, both Polaroids and slides, which he presented in a small snakeskin-covered box as his application portfolio. He approached Alfred Hitchcock and Joshua Shelley of Columbia Pictures, albeit unsuccessfully. His only film role was in Urs Egger’s 1978 Eiskalte Vögel (Icebound; screened in seminar room I). Burkhard later transformed some of his self-portraits into large-scale canvases, through which he asserted his newfound sense of identity as an artist, making himself the subject-matter of his own artistic work. One of these was also shown in the Photo Canvases exhibition at Zolla/Lieberman Gallery.

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'feet 2' 1980

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
feet 2
1980
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Knie', Kunsthalle Basel (installation view) 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
‘The Knie’, Kunsthalle Basel 
(installation view)
1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Study of The Head' c. 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Study of The Head
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Design for Body II' c. 1983

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Design for Body II
c. 1983
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

 

Part II (Fotomuseum Winterthur)

Body and Sculpture

The 1980s heralded the advent of a particularly productive period for Balthasar Burkhard in which he adopted a more sculptural approach to photography, treating his prints as an integral part of the exhibition architecture. Just as he himself had witnessed how the generation of artists before him had called the classic exhibition space into question, so too did his own latest works now begin to take control of that space. Burkhard became one of the foremost proponents of large-scale photographic tableaux, as evidenced by his groundbreaking exhibitions at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983 and Museé Rath, Geneva, in 1984.

It was in the photo canvases he made in Chicago during the late 1970s that Burkhard first turned towards the motif of the body as a sculptural form with which he would continue to experiment over the coming years. Such an overtly sculptural approach to the body and to the nude as landscape soon began to demand a larger format than Burkhard had previously been using. An arm, almost four metres long, framed by heavy steel, or the multipart installation Das Knie (Knee), reflect the very core of his creative oeuvre in all its many facets: monumentality, fragmentation and the breaking of genre boundaries by transposing two-dimensional images into spatially commanding installations.

 

Portraits: Types and Individuals

The increasing formal reduction of Balthasar Burkhard’s images continued in the field of portraiture. He invited fellow artists such as Lawrence Weiner and Christian Boltanski to sit for him. With this series, it seemed that he had finally put behind him his days as a chronicler of the art scene, reliant on the techniques of applied photography.

Portraits of a rather different kind are his profiles of animals, in an equally reduced setting, against the backdrop of a tarpaulin. Redolent of Renaissance drawings or nineteenth century animal photography, his images of sheep, wolves and lions come across as representing ideal and typical examples of their species without anthropomorphising them, while at the same time wrenching them out of their natural environment. These images reached a broad audience through the popular 1997 children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera, which was republished in its second edition in 2017.

 

Architectural Photography

Given his increasing success in the art world, Burkhard could well afford to be selective about his choice of commissioned works. He had already been taking photographs for architects connected with the Bern-based firm Atelier 5 back in the 1960s, and was still accepting commissions in this field in the 1990s. Burkhard’s photographic essay on the Ricola building designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron indicates just how thoroughly his own distinctive artistic syntax permeates his commissioned and architectural photography, right through to the details of fragments and materials. These photographs were shown in the Swiss Pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 1991, having been explicitly designed for this particular exhibition space. As in his artistic oeuvre, Burkhard operates here with spatially commanding installations, skilfully dovetailing the architectural motif with the presentational form.

 

Aerial Photography

In the 1990s, before the art world had even begun to turn its attention to the subject of megacities, Burkhard was already taking a keen interest in the world’s major conurbations. Following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a Swiss airforce pilot, he took bird’s-eye-view photographs from a plane. His panoramic shots of cities such as London, Mexico City and Los Angeles were preceded by small-format studies of clouds: the so-called Nuages series. Having incorporated a study of rural Switzerland into his formative training in 1963 with the series Auf der Alp (On the Alp), he returned once more to focus on the landscape of his homeland in the early 2000s with an entire series of aerial photographs of the Bernina mountain range.

 

Landscape and Flora

In the last two decades of his life, Burkhard concentrated primarily on landscape and flora, turning to historical precedents both in his techniques and in his choice of motif. The desert formations of Namibia, in which all sense of proportion is lost amid the remote and untouched wilderness, set a counterpoint to the sprawling urban expanses of Mexico City and London. The diptych Welle (Wave), by contrast, pays homage to the work of French artist Gustave Courbet, with Burkhard making a pilgrimage to the tide swept shores where the father of Realism had painted in 1870.

In another series, Burkhard adapts the aesthetics of botanical plant studies, which were as widely used around the turn of the twentieth century as the complex photographic process of heliography, and transposes these to larger-than-life formats. Whereas Burkhard, as a young photographer, had captured the exuberant art scene of the 1960s and 1970s, snapshot-style, he later went on, as an artist-photographer, to explore the potential of the photographic tableau, diligently researching near-forgotten techniques and the sensual details of the visible world.

 

Artwork and Commissioned Work

The site-specific installations of his photographs and Burkhard’s own dedicated approach to museum spaces warrant an excursion into the archives of the artist, paying particular attention to four exemplary exhibitions.

One spectacular and iconic show was the Fotowerke (Photo works) exhibition at Kunsthalle Basel in 1983. Curated by artist Rémy Zaugg, the installations can be reconstructed thanks to the catalogue and copious documentation. Contact prints and studies, for instance, help to give an insight into the no longer extant thirteen metre work Körper I (Body I) as well as shedding light on the choice of motif for further body fragments.

A 1984 solo exhibition at the Le Consortium in Dijon, on the other hand, shows how Burkhard responded with his group of works Das Knie (Knee) to an entirely different installation context within the given space. Similarly, at the Musée Rath in Geneva that same year, Burkhard, together with his friend Niele Toroni, instigated a radical juxtaposition of photography and painting based on the pillars of the exhibition venue.

At Grand-Hornu in the Belgian town of Mons, by contrast, his life-sized photographs of animals were mounted at eye level. While Burkhard chose a large format for the exhibition venue, the images in his children’s book “Click!”, said the Camera tell of a beauty contest between animals in a photo-shoot. This apparent discrepancy between artwork and commissioned work never seemed to be relevant to Burkhard. The sheer volume of his studio photos, alone, indicates just how scrupulously precise he was about the way he wanted to be perceived as a serious photographer.

Wall text from the exhibition

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

Installation view of the exhibition 'Balthasar Burkhard' at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February - May 2018

 

Installation views of the exhibition Balthasar Burkhard at Fotomuseum Winterthur and Fotostiftung Schweiz, Winterthur, Zurich February – May 2018

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Balthasar Burkhard in his studio' 1995

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Balthasar Burkhard in his studio
1995
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Camel' 1997

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Camel
1997
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bull' 1996

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Bull
1996
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'The Reindeer' 1996

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
The Reindeer
1996
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Mexico City
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Mexico City' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Mexico City
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Nuages ​​8' 1999

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Nuages ​​8
1999
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Ecosse' (Scotland) 2000

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Ecosse (Scotland)
2000
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Bernina' 2003

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Bernina
2003
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Silberen' 2004

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Silberen
2004
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010) 'Rio Negro' 2002

 

Balthasar Burkhard (1944-2010)
Rio Negro
2002
© Estate Balthasar Burkhard

 

 

Fotostiftung Schweiz
Grüzenstrasse 45
CH-8400 Winterthur (Zürich)
Tel: +41 52 234 10 30

Opening hours:
Daily 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotostiftung Schweiz website

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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10
Jan
18

Exhibition: ‘Albert Renger-Patzsch: Things’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2017 – 21st January 2018

Curator: Sérgio Mah, Universidade NOVA, Lisboa

 

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Stapelia variegata, Asclepiadaceae
1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde. Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Experiencing the image

“[Walter Isaacson] describes the photographs, of which 7200 … miraculously survive today, as the greatest record of curiosity, because his “cross-disciplinary brilliance whirls across every page, providing a delightful display of a mind dancing with nature”. Renger-Patzsch delighted in seeing patterns in nature, so he would juxtapose a photograph of the branching arteries of the heart with the roots of a sprouting tree.”1

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A mind dancing with nature.

Of course, the original quote (which I have altered) was talking about Leonardo da Vinci… but the same enquiring mind, the same display can be seen in the work of Albert Renger-Patzsch. His was a mind entranced by the nature of technology, and the technology, the structure of nature. However, he is ambivalent about the benefits of industrialisation even as he photographed it in ‘New Objectivity’ style – that is, supposedly free from emotion and subjectivity.

No writing about his work can put it better than this quote from when this exhibition was at Fundación MAPFRE in Madrid:

“Technical precision and exact representation of the subject; psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism; a keen sense of composition with attention to details, structures and forms; a sharp and clear construction of the image: these were some of the fundamental premises of a tendency that understands photography as a privileged medium to promote an artistic and simultaneously perceptive shift.

Renger-Patzsch’s work amalgamates a great number of photographic subjects, typologies and genres. In a historical period marked by deep political tension and significant social and economic change, his work allows the viewer to envision a unique worldview, a platform of intersections and re-appreciations between the domains of nature and technology.”

.
The only point I would not support in this quotation are these words, “psychological contention and rejection of pictorial stylization and expressionism.”

Of course, “through the disconcerting simplicity of the photographs Renger-Patzsch highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image,” but he does so not through a REJECTION of pictorial stylization and expressionism (and all the baggage that those words embody), but through an INTENSIFICATION of a different form of pictorial style which forces? the image to emit a new form of expression. That is, the object is just its surface and is captured, instantly, by the camera in this perceptive shift.

Can you imagine seeing these photographs in the 1920s, having never seen anything like them before? They would have been revolutionary, in their rendering of the surface of the object and nothing more. Placing the camera directly before the object which requires nothing else but itself… the eye of the snake, the darkness of a tree trunk, the ordering of shoemakers’ irons. But then he finishes his ode to life, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], with his version of Albrecht Dürer’s Praying Hands (c. 1508). I suspect that the idea the Renger-Patzsch was working with is that beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.

In contemporary society, have we lost the ability to see these photographs as he intended, with a child-like innocence? Was he saying, this is objective, do you agree? Or does the poetic intensity in the life of things refuse to be stilled?

For me, these photographs are not e/motion-less, they are the very essence of a reality rendered wonderful in my eyes.

Marcus

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Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

  1. Paraphrase of Tina Allen. “Prophetic Polymath,” on Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson in Weekend Australian Review January 6-7 2018, p. 14

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966), who produced a huge body of work spanning four and half decades, was one of the most influential photographers of the New Objectivity movement that emerged in Germany in the mid 1920s. His work helped to establish photography as a unique and important medium within modern art. Renger-Patzsch revived realism in photography, adopting an approach that was characterised by formal and technical rigour and a rejection of expressionism and pictorial stylisation. He had a highly developed sense of composition, and his attention to detail, structure and form resulted in images with sharp, clear compositions. For Renger-Patzsch, photography was a medium that made possible new forms of artistic imagery, while being perfectly in step with a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology. By highlighting the medium’s unique properties and the creative possibilities of documentary photography, Renger-Patzsch forged a unique role for photography within the arts of his time.

His original, simple images combine extraordinary realism and documentary value with poetic and phenomenological resonance, giving them great power. Renger-Patzsch was a highly prolific photographer who explored a wide range of subjects and genres. This exhibition highlights the invaluable legacy of this extraordinary photographer, whose work provides an ideal context for reflecting on the specificities and relevance of photography within the field of contemporary art and culture.

– The Design of Nature
– From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City
– The vision of things
– Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation
– Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series
– The Destiny of Nature

Sérgio Mah

 

 

 

The Design of Nature

During the initial phase of his career, Albert Renger-Patzsch produced a series of photographs depicting plants and flowers for the collection Die Welt der Pflanze [The World of Plants], coordinated by Ernst Fuhrmann as part of his biosophical studies.

The first two volumes in the series, both published in 1924, were Orchideen [Orchids] and Crassula. Renger-Patzsch worked within the general parameters of the book, reproducing fragments of nature with as much objectivity and clarity as possible. He produced a large number of photographs distinguished by their great technical and compositional rigour, including systematic close-ups of plants and flowers. In 1923, Renger-Patzsch wrote his first text, “Pflanzenaufnahmen” [Plant photographs], setting out his views on photography and its extraordinary capacity for capturing nature. Among the images and arguments in the text he outlines some of the key principles that would underpin his photography: attention to detail and emphasis on the formal, structural and material aspects of nature, as well as, correspondingly, a reiterative affirmation of the intrinsic qualities of photography – realism, objectivity, neutrality – and its unique role in expanding our perception of reality.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae' 1922-1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Catasetum trindentatum, Orchidaceae
1922-1923
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]' 1923

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Brasilianischer Melonenbaum von unten gesehen [Brazilian melon tree seen from below]
1923
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

From Vernacular Landscape to the Modern City

In 1927, Albert Renger-Patzsch published his most ambitious book to date, Die Halligen [The Halligen Islands], with images of the islands in the Wadden Sea, on the northern coast of Germany.

His photographs featured a number of subjects: landscapes, portraits, architectural motifs and everyday activities. These subjects encapsulated the relationship between local ways of life (genuine, deep-rooted, traditional) and the physical and symbolic characteristics of this peculiar area. This vernacular reality contrasted with the rampant industrialisation that was transforming many of the great urban centres in Germany.

Over the ensuing years, Renger-Patzsch published Lübeck (1928) and Hamburg (1930), books that highlight the emerging characteristics of the modern city, the coexistence of different historic periods and the intersection between historical culture and the impact of industrialisation. In these photographs the photographer’s interest in combining documentary objectives with the creative potential of a modern vision is evident in his use of close-cropped, asymmetrical compositions and innovative perspectives, alternating between general shots and a focus on details. He displays sensitivity to the formal and structural aspects of reality, rejecting the atavistic influence of painting in order to embrace the possibilities of a “new vision” governed by photography.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Krabbenfischerin [Shrimp fisherwoman]
1927
Centre Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. Acquisition en 1979
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

The vision of things

In 1928, Albert Renger-Patzsch’s best-known book was published, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], although the photographer would have preferred the title Die Dinge [Things].

It exemplifies the principles and characteristics of the photographer’s work: a desire to represent the immanent substance of an object/subject while demonstrating photography’s capacity for recording reality. In this respect, representing the unique character of a particular thing was also a way of affirming the unique character of photography.

The book encompasses a wide range of subjects and elements from the photographer’s world. It is an anthology of photographs taken since the beginning of his career, including several images produced for the books Die Welt der Pflanze, Die Halligen and Lübeck. Photographic genres are equally diverse, spanning portrait, landscape, still life and architectural images. The subjects are presented in an evolving thematic and conceptual sequence: first nature, plants, animals, people and landscapes; next, the manmade world of objects, architecture, the city, machines, and industrial structures and spaces. In this way a worldview is organised, a context of intersections and reappraisals, between nature and technology, between the sacred and the profane, between historical heritage and modernity.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ritzel and Zahnräder, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke [Sprockets and gears, Lindener Eisen-und Stahlwerke factory]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch. Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann and Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers' irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers’ irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Like other artists of his time, Renger-Patzsch was especially keen on exploring the formal analogies between the things of nature and industrial things. Industry led to mass production and the manufacture of standardised objects, exemplified in this image. This contrasts with other images from Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], such as Gebirgsforst im Winter [Mountain forest in winter] (below), which capture repetition in nature.

Renger-Patzsch identifies a coherence, a parity, between nature and culture as non-antagonistic doHands. He suggests a measure of naturalness in technology, and a measure of rationality in nature. For the photographer the emphasis on industrial seriality also allowed him to underscore the seriality of photography itself (as a means of technical reproduction), thus demonstrating the unique, mediating condition of this medium for visual reproduction in the connection between the natural world and the world of modern industry.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)' [Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)] 1926

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Gebirgsforst im Winter (Fichtenwald im Winter)
[Mountain forest in winter (spruce forest in winter)]
1926
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Natterkopf [Head of an adder]' 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Natterkopf [Head of an adder]
1925
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

Painstaking attention to detail is a central feature of Renger-Patzsch’s photography, as demonstrated by several images in Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. Resorting to pronounced close-ups or subsequent reframing, the photographer breaks down and isolates the vision of certain things, thereby providing a fresh perspective: in this case, the image of a serpent’s head surrounded by a section of its body.

The close-up framing allows him to accentuate the two-dimensionality of the image, the part being more suggestive than the whole. This is a realistic, objective vision, but one aimed at creating a tension between the concrete nature of the motif and its abstract character.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Hände [Hands]' 1926-1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Hände [Hands]
1926-1927
Collection Ann und Jürgen Wilde
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]

This is the hundredth and last image of Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful]. It shows a pair of hands joined together, isolated from the rest of the body, rising over a black background in a gesture heavy with symbolic, meditative and spiritual fervour.

Aware that photography was increasingly becoming mundane and banal, and that the experience of attention was crumbling in the face of the accelerating transformation of reality, in Die Welt ist schön Renger-Patzsch offers an imaginary world where modern subjects can be reconnected with the things surrounding them via the mediation of a diffuse and calm temporality, the temporality of tradition and myth. A symptom of this vision is precisely the closing image of the book.

 

 

“To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure, to the lofty gridwork of cranes and bridges, to the dynamism of machines operating at one thousand horsepower – only photography can do that. […] The absolutely correct rendering of form, the subtlety of tonal gradation from the brightest light to the darkest shadow, impart to a technically expert photograph the magic of experience.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Ziele”, Das Deutsche Lichtbild, Berlin, 1927

 

“There is an urgent need to examine old opinions and look at things from a new viewpoint. There must be an increase in the joy one takes in an object, and the photographer should become fully conscious of the splendid fidelity of reproduction made possible by this technique.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, “Die Freude am Gegenstand,” Das Kunstblatt, Berlin, 1928

 

“[…] the eye is subjective; it views with pleasure the essential things and completely overlooks what is unimportant. The camera, on the other hand, has to reproduce the entire image in focus and in a particular size. It will see the essential and the inessential with equal clarity.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

“[…] the eye is not isolated in its perception of the world. Rather its connections to the brain and the support of our senses in experience heat, cold wind, noise, smells and so on create an extraordinarily compact image of the world, whose plasticity and density are perhaps intensified by a particularly appropriate emotional state. Photography reduces this colourful world into a black-and-white rectangle. It is obvious that this most unpretentious of art forms requires the greatest reliability of taste, ability for abstraction, fantasy and concentration.”

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Albert Renger-Patzsch, in Meister der Kamera erzählen wie sie wurden und wie sie arbeiten, Halle (Saale), 1937

 

 

The aim of this exhibition is to rediscover and pay tribute to the legacy of this unique photographer in the conviction that his work offers a context for encouraging reflection on the nature and artistic and speculative potential of photography within the framework of contemporary art and culture.

Of enormous simplicity and originality, Renger-Patzsch’s photography is notable for being based on a documentary style that prioritised realist sobriety and frankness as fundamental characteristics of photographic representation. In other words, his work offers a rigorous approach in technical and formal terms, in which the camera is only used to intensify our vision and aware of things. For Renger-Patzsch, this not only explained his photographic procedures but above all the potential for an aesthetic and conceptual identity for photography that visibly distanced itself from the Pictorialist legacy and from the hybrid experimentalism characteristic of the early 20th-century avant-gardes.

Both Renger-Patzsch’s photography and the various texts in which he set out his ideas reveal his determination to exploit the qualities inherent in the photographic medium. He stated that his aim was: “to use photographic means to create a photography that could exist through its own photographic nature.” In another text Renger-Patzsch wrote that,

“the eyes are not isolated from their perception of the world.

On the contrary, they are part of our senses and, by being connected to the brain, allow us to experience heat, cold, wind, noise, smell, and to rapidly construct a remarkably compacted image of the world, the plasticity and density of which also depend on our emotional states.

Photography reduces the world in colour to a rectangle in black and white. And logically, given that it is the least pretentious form of art, it requires rigorous taste, a capacity for abstraction, imagination and concentration.”

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Such statements reveal that the exceptional quality of Renger-Patzsch’s work and thought is also notable for the way it conceives and expands the horizon and scope of the idea of documentary photography. As a result, the descriptive and objective qualities of photography are combined with and articulated by its aesthetic, poetic and phenomenological powers.

This retrospective aims to encompass the principal themes, periods and genres that define Renger-Patzsch’s photographic output through the identification of three moments that are fundamental for an understanding of his career: firstly, his early years, from his photographs of plants taken for Folkwang/Auriga publishers, to the profusion of themes and photographic eclecticism which would be decisive for the creation of his book Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful] of 1928. The period that began after his move to Essen was one of intense photographic creation on the Ruhr area, principally involving subjects associated with places, buildings and industrial objects. Finally, the years after World War II reveal a new interest in the themes of nature and landscape particularly trees and rocks.

Including around 154 photographs, this is one of the largest retrospectives on the artist to date and undoubtedly the one to bring together the largest number of works by Renger-Patzsch from institutional and private collections: the Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde/Pinakothek der Moderne München (Munich), the Museum Folkwang (Essen), the Ludwig Museum (Cologne), the Galerie Berinson (Berlin), the Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris).

Press release from Jeu de Paume

 

Highlights of the exhibition

Author of a monumental oeuvre created over four and a half decades, Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) was the leading photographer of the New Objectivity movement that appeared in German art in the mid 1920s.

Renger-Patzsch was a prolific photographer and his oeuvre encompasses a variety of themes, types and genres. This exhibition covers the most important stages in Renger-Patzsch’s career, from his first photographs of plant details, urban scenes and industrial subjects to his later landscape work. In total the exhibition features more than 150 photographs, mostly vintage prints from the most important collections in Germany.

Renger-Patzsch devoted himself to creating a new photographic realism, characterised by an extreme simplicity and originality. He created a modern visual language that was imbued with a poetic resonance and helped to redefine the photographic image.
For Renger-Patzsch, photography was the most appropriate medium for carrying out a change that was simultaneously artistic and perceptual, i.e., the possibility of a new kind of image that reflected the changes of the 1920s and 1930s, a period marked by industrialisation and the spread of technology.

Albert Renger-Patzsch is the author of one of the seminal books in the history of photography, Die Welt ist schön [The World is Beautiful], which was published in 1928. This work reveals the full scope of Renger-Patzsch’s approach, which was to capture the unique character of each concrete thing in order to affirm also the unique character of photography.

Renger-Patzsch produced an exceptional body of work on the theme of industrial architecture, which he helped to turn into a genre in itself. He exerted a decisive influence on generations of photographers, not least Bernd and Hilla Becher. This exhibition sets out to highlight the vital legacy of this extraordinary photographer. In so doing, it sheds light on the important role of photography within the context of contemporary art and culture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landstraße bei Essen [Country road near Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Landscapes of the Ruhr: the Topography of a Transformation

In 1929, Renger-Patzsch relocated to Essen, in the Ruhr, Germany’s leading industrial region and one the photographer was familiar with.

Two years earlier, he had produced the first images in an ambitious project focusing on the landscapes of the Ruhr, which he would work on until 1935. In this realm of contrasts, he became particularly interested in spaces that were between cities, between the urban and the rural, landscapes that displayed the process of change that the region was undergoing due to industrialisation and the development of public infrastructure.

The works reflect a change in Renger-Patzsch’s photographic vision: the compositions are widened, in some cases into large panoramic views. The images now focus on a multiplicity of elements and explore interpretative relationships and associations. His preference for more open images that include the surroundings of objects, rather than just close-ups, reflects a more inclusive objectivity. Some images include people, usually seen from afar. These figures are set in particular socio-spatial contexts and help to highlight the enormous disparity in scale between the human figure and the new industrial complexes. Vertical and horizontal elements, close up and in the distance, are combined and juxtaposed. The relationship between different planes, between foreground and background, is intensified in order to show how industry has shaped the landscape, turning it into a heterogeneous and paradoxical landscape (in historical and social terms).

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche "Rosenblumendelle" [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche “Rosenblumendelle” [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery]
1928
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Victoria Mathias" in Essen [Colliery "Victoria Mathias" in Essen]' 1929

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Victoria Mathias” in Essen [Colliery “Victoria Mathias” in Essen]
1929
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on the Ruhr

In the photographs of the Ruhr, the landscape emerges as a genre in which disparate elements are combined and contrasted, a way of exploring the boundaries between the rural and industrial worlds, the city and the periphery.

One of the most extraordinary examples from this period is the 1928 image Landschaft bei Essen und Zeche “Rosenblumendelle” [Landscape near Essen with the Rosenblumendelle colliery] (above). This photograph that seems to result from the collage of two layers (two regions, two realities), bringing together the idyllic serenity of the rural world, in the foreground, and the massive and disproportionate character of the new industrial complexes in the background, as the fatal destiny of the modern world.

At the centre is a road, a metaphor for history, mediating two different realities and suggesting the dilemma between tradition and modernity – a dilemma that highlights Renger-Paztsch’s ambivalent and paradoxical stance towards industrialisation.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Kauper, Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck [Cowper, blast furnace Herrenwyk, Lübeck]' 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Kauper, Hochofenwerk Herrenwyk, Lübeck [Cowper, blast furnace Herrenwyk, Lübeck]
1927
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Industrial Objects and Architecture: Geometry and Series

From the late 1920s onwards, Renger-Patzsch produced numerous works following commissions from architects and industrial companies.

At this time, the expansion of the press and advertising, boosted by industry, was having a big impact on art, providing an abundance of work opportunities for artists and photographers.

Photographs of industrial objects and buildings lent themselves to rigorous, carefully calculated compositions. In many cases, the viewer’s perception is guided by planimetric compositions, which are sometimes orthogonal, sometimes diagonal. His architectural photographs combine structural and formal aspects with a desire to record the functional reality of industrial complexes. His images of objects are characterised by their attention to detail and a desire to give aesthetic meaning to each of the objects photographed through meticulous graphic composition.

However, Renger-Patzsch emphasises the repetitive, standardised nature of the objects – aspects inherent to mass production. For him, the theme of technology was further confirmation of how photography differed from painting and provided the most suitable medium for representing the new reality – technical, material and spatial – of modern industrialisation.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Ein Knotenpunkt der Fachwerkbrücke Duisburg-Hochfeld [A node from the latticework bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Ein Knotenpunkt der Fachwerkbrücke Duisburg-Hochfeld [A node from the latticework bridge in Duisburg-Hochfeld]
1928
Vintage gelatin silver print
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / VEGAP, Madrid 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Heinrich-Robert", Turmförderung, Pelkum bei Hamm [Headframe at the Heinrich-Robert colliery in Pelkum, near Hamm]' 1951

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Heinrich-Robert”, Turmförderung, Pelkum bei Hamm [Headframe at the Heinrich-Robert colliery in Pelkum, near Hamm]
1951
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Graf Moltke", Gelsenkirchen-Gladbeck [Graf Moltke colliery, in the Gladbeck district of Gelsenkirchen]' 1952-1953

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Graf Moltke”, Gelsenkirchen-Gladbeck [Graf Moltke colliery, in the Gladbeck district of Gelsenkirchen]
1952-1953
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Zeche "Katharina", Schacht Ernst Tengelmann, Essen-Kray [Katharina colliery, Ernst Tengelmann well, in the Kray district of Essen]' 1955-1956

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Zeche “Katharina”, Schacht Ernst Tengelmann, Essen-Kray [Katharina colliery, Ernst Tengelmann well, in the Kray district of Essen]
1955-1956
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. © Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on architecture

Throughout his career, Renger-Patzsch created a huge number of photographs of industrial architecture. Its emergence as an artistic genre owes much to him, and his legacy exerted a decisive influence on generations of future photographers, including Bernd and Hilla Becher.

The perspective and the composition accentuate the geometry of the vertical, horizontal and diagonal lines. The photographer seeks to highlight the significance of a building designed according to strict functional and rational principles. In doing so, Renger-Patzsch reveals a correspondence between method and object in the sense that precision, objectivity and the documentary value of photography were in harmony with the rationality, coherence and functionality of the new industrial and modern architecture.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Jenaer Glas (Zylindrische Gläser) [Jena glass (cylinders)]' 1934

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Jenaer Glas (Zylindrische Gläser) [Jena glass (cylinders)]
1934
Museum Folkwang, Essen
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on series

For Renger-Patzsch commercial commissions also provided opportunities for a personal and creative approach to photography. This image is part of a commission from the Jenaer Glaswerke Schott company, for whom he photographed several sets of laboratory objects in glass (recipients, flasks, tubes, jars). In this particular image Renger-Patzsch arranges eight glass beakers, all with the same cylindrical shape but of differing dimensions, on a reflecting surface and photographs them from a slightly elevated angle. The larger items are placed to the rear. The objects overlap with each other. The mirroring effect of the base creates the impression that the glassware is floating, especially at the centre of the image where the smaller cylinder (on which the manufacturer’s logo can be read) is the focal point. In their simple, standardised shape, and their transparency, the objects create a choreography of light, shadows and reflections, an experiment with the possibilities of looking at objects and reconfiguring their shapes.

 

 

The Destiny of Nature

In 1944, a large part of his archives at the Folkwang Museum were destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. With his family, Renger-Patzsch moved to the rural area of Wamel, close to Soest. He began to work on a new theme, returning to natural subjects, although now with an emphasis on landscape.

The photographer seemed to find among the trees, forests, rocks and craggy scenes a vital energy. These images suggest a diffuse sense of time contrasting with the linear nature of history and immune to the contingencies of modernity and the devastating consequences of war. In this final phase of his life, Renger-Patzsch published Baüme [Trees] in 1962 and Gestein [Rocks] in 1966, two volumes that exemplify the conceptual and aesthetic bases of this renewed, revitalised view of nature. Both books include essays by the writer and philosopher Ernst Jünger, with whom the photographer maintained an intense and regular correspondence for over twenty years.

The photographs in Baüme and Gestein are the logical corollary to Renger-Patzsch’s extraordinary trajectory. The images are less graphic, in part due to the fact that they depict forms that are apparently disordered, uncontrollable and unpredictable. Nevertheless, through the disconcerting simplicity and sobriety of these photographs, Renger-Patzsch also highlights the phenomenological and psychological aspects that are part of experiencing the image.

Nature can thus be seen as a subject that allows the viewer to experience a primal gaze. This is the condition for a vision simultaneously concrete, poetic and metaphysical that leads to a rediscovery of nature, its destiny, its silence, its rhythms, forms and forces.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Buchenwald [Beech forest]' 1936

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Buchenwald [Beech forest]
1936
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Das Bäumchen [The little tree]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Das Bäumchen [The little tree]
1928
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on vertical landscape

This is one of Renger-Patzsch’s best-known and most outstanding photographs. This landscape with a tree in the middle heralds his later work. Because of its links to the history of painting, landscape was not a central theme of New Objectivity. In this image Renger-Patzsch chose a vertical landscape, a less usual format than the horizontal landscape. It is a hybrid image in the sense that it combines the tree as the central motif (leafless and reduced to its branch structure) with a panoramic view of a vast landscape. Of particular note is the way the photographer explores the different planes within the image, playing with depth and distance, with the foreground, where the tree stands and the background of the endless landscape. The differences between near and far are diluted on the two-dimensional surface of the image.

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Mechanismus der Faltung [Fold mechanism]' 1962

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966)
Mechanismus der Faltung [Fold mechanism]
1962
Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch / Archiv Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / ADAGP, Paris 2017

 

 

Focus on geology

Rocks and geological phenomena became of great interest to Renger-Patzsch in the latter phase of his career as a photographer, during which he travelled to France, Norway, Northern Ireland, Italy, Sweden and several parts of Germany to take the photographs published in Gestein [Rocks]. In the book, the images are strategically interspersed with text by geologist and palaeontologist Max Richter and an essay by writer and philosopher Ernst Jünger.

Renger-Patzsch photographed the rocks and layers of rock as evidence of the slower phenomena of nature, but also as metaphors for time and history. This image, taken on the coast of Brittany, shows a series of geological folds, a phenomenon that occurs when different forces cause the planar rock sheets to curve or fold. The photographic precision and objectivity of the image, along with the stunning (peculiar, expressive, pictorial) appearance generated by tectonic forces on the surface of the rock, create a vision that combines figuration and abstraction.

 

 

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15
Dec
17

Book: Photographs from ‘Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit’ [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] 1928 Part 1

December 2017

Authors: Hermann and Marianne Aubel

Publisher: Karl Robert Langewiesche Vlg. Königstein, 1928. 112 pages, numerous illustrations. Pictures of Isadora Duncan, Nijinski, Anna Pavlova, Alexander Sacharoff, Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff, Die Schwestern Wiesenthal, Tamara Karsavina, La Argentina, Ellen Petz, Niddy Impekoven, Rudolf von Laban, Mary Wigman, Palucca, Harald Kreutzberg, Javanische Tanzgruppe.
Language: German

 

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes c. 2000

 

A performance by the Natural Dance Movement in silk robes, England
c. 2000
Photograph taken by my mother

 

 

I have always loved dancing… it comes from the soul. I have danced since 1975 – pre-disco, through disco, high energy, new romantics, soul, trance, techno and more. I still go out dancing today. While this is a different kind of dance, notably free dance, all forms of dance are a connection to music, earth, cosmos. A connection to the earliest of human beings dancing round an open fire.

This is a book I bought on the Internet for $12. I have scanned the photographs and given them a digital clean. The costumes are fabulous, the poses exquisite, exotic, and joyous. The silhouettes and shapes created are just glorious. The photographs usually have low depth of field, the figures “caught” in front of contextless backgrounds. But as Grete Wiesenthal’s assistant Maria Josefa Schaffgotsch observes, the time freeze of the photograph is the antithesis of free dance:
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“Grete Wiesnethal’s primary concern was to overcome as far as possible the unavoidable static element of classical dance and to dissolve everything that smacked of a pose in a never-ending stream of movement. The flowing, swinging, wavelike three-four rhythm, transforming Strauss’s waltzes into movement – that was her particular art, that was what made her world famous.”1

.
Many of the photographs work against the nature of the medium, and the idea of posing for the camera, to capture the fleeting expressiveness of dance. Just look at the ecstatic shape created in Hugo Erfurth’s Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters] (c. 1928, below). Indeed, the language of spiritual revelation!

My favourites are the photographs of Sent M’Ahesa and Nijinski. But honestly, they are all glorious. The photographs in this book, “The Artistic Dance of Our Time,” represent the cutting edge of dance, art, and photography in 1928. It is so nice to seem them now.

Marcus

 

  1. Andrea Amort. “Free Dance in Interwar Vienna,” in Deborah Holmes and Lisa Silverman (eds.,). Interwar Vienna: Culture Between Tradition and Modernity. Rochester, New York: Camden House, 2009, p. 123.

 

Free dance

Free dance is a 20th-century dance form that preceded modern dance. Rebelling against the rigid constraints of classical ballet, Loie Fuller, Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis (with her work in theatre) developed their own styles of free dance and laid the foundations of American modern dance with their choreography and teaching. In Europe Rudolf Laban, Emile Jaques-Dalcroze and François Delsarte developed their own theories of human movement and methods of instruction that led to the development of European modern and Expressionist dance.

Free dance was prolific in Central and Eastern Europe, where national schools were created, such as the School of Musical Movement (Heptachor), in Russia, and the Orkesztika School, in Hungary. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors) Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher) 'Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]' 1928

 

Hermann and Marianne Aubel (authors)
Karl Robert Langewiesche (publisher)
Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time]
1928
Book front cover

 

 

Elvira (Munich)
Isadora Duncan
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 1
Published 1928

 

 

“Wir sehen das Ziel der Tanzkunst und jeder Kunst darin, eine Sprache geistiger Offenbarung zu sein, aus der Natur heraus sich äubernd und mit ihr verbunden.”

“We see the goal of dance and every art as being a language of spiritual revelation, external to and connected with it.”

.
Hermann and Marianne Aubel

 

 

Vielleicht auf keinem Gebiet kunstlerischer Entfaltung haben die letzten Jahrsehute ein solches Strebennach Weiterentwicklung gebracht, wie auf dem Gebiete der Tanzkunst. Sie ist, als letztes Zile der Arbeit an der menschilchen Bewegung, mehr und mehr mit in den Mittelpunkt des allgeneinen Interesses gerückt und übt so eine gröbere Wirkung auf breitere Kreis aus, als sie es noch vor 20, ja vor 10 Jahen vermochte. Eine neue Form des bewegten Ausdrucks will sich bilden.

Perhaps in no field of artistic development, the last years have brought about such a development as in the field of dance art. It is, as the last part of the work on the human movement, more and more pushed into the centre of general interest, and thus exerts a greater effect on a wider circle than it did 20 or even 10 years ago. A new form of moving expression wants to form itself. (Introduction, V)

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 4
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Schwestern Wiesenthal [Wiesenthal sisters]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 5
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Grete Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Grete Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 6
Published 1928

 

 

Grete Wiesenthal (1885-1970)

Austrian dancer and choreographer. She and her sister Elsa (1887-967) were both dancers with the Vienna Court Opera Ballet but she left in 1904 to choreograph and perform her own work, which was accompanied primarily by waltz music (Chopin and J. Strauss). She proved so popular that her sisters Elsa and Berta joined her in works that communicated a (then) revolutionarily ecstatic response to waltz rhythms. The sisters moved to Berlin where they performed together until 1910, after which Grete worked independently, choreographing and performing in vaudeville, film, and opera around Europe and the US. The Grete Wiesenthal Dance group (1945-56) toured the world and two of its members subsequently staged her dances for the Vienna State Opera Ballet. …

The “ambassador of waltz,” began life as a dancer within the traditions of ballet; entered the corps (1901) and advanced to coryphée (1902); with sister Elsa, began choreographing new ways of movement and expression through dance and allied with Secession circle of innovators; with Elsa and sister Berta, came to prominence as the Wiesenthal sisters at Vienna’s Cabaret Fledermaus (1908); in Berlin, danced with sisters at Max Reinhardt’s Deutsches Theater; danced role of 1st elf in Reinhardt’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Munich’s Artist’s Theater (1909); with sisters, performed at London’s Hippodrome and at Théâtre du Vaudeville in Paris (1909).

Made solo debut in Berlin in pantomime Sumurùn, produced by Reinhardt (1910); made US debut at Winter Garden in NY (1912); created role of Kitchen Boy in Reinhardt’s Stuttgart production of Der Bürger als Edelmann, with music by Richard Strauss; appeared in “Grete Wiesenthal Series” of films (1913–14): Kadra Sâfa, Erlkönigs Tochter and Die goldne Fliege; following WWI, opened dancing school (1919); returned to Vienna stage at Staatsoper (State Opera House), in lead role of her ballet Der Taugenichts in Wien (The Ne’er-Do-Well in Vienna, 1927); remained active professionally, appearing in solo dance concerts and tours, including a return to NY (1933); appointed professor of dance at Vienna’s Academy for Music and the Performing Arts (1934), then served as director of artistic dance section (1945-52).

After WWII, her work enjoyed a renaissance in Austria, especially the dances she created for various Salzburg Festival productions; wrote autobiography, Der Aufstieg (The Way Upwards, 1919), which appeared as Die ersten Schritte (The First Steps, 1947); also published a novel, Iffi: Roman einer Tänzerin (Iffi: Novel of a Dancer, 1951); best remembered for having transformed the Viennese waltz from a monotonous one-two-three movement, performed by smiling dancers laced into corsets, into an ecstatic experience, performed by dancers with unbound hair and swinging dresses.

Text from the Gustav Mahler website

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna) 'Else Wiesenthal' c. 1928

 

Rudolf Jobst (Vienna)
Else Wiesenthal
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 7
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 10
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 11
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa (born August 17, 1883 in Riga as Else von Carlberg – November 19, 1970 in Stockholm ) was a expressive dancer, who worked in Germany until the 1920s. She also wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.

She was portrayed by Max Beckmann, Bernhard Hoetger, Dietz Edzard and Adolf Münzer. The Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis saw her dance in Berlin in 1923 (“She danced only once and then returned to her Munich villa”) and wrote to his wife: “Since I saw Sent M’Ahesa dancing I do not want any other kind of dance, I saw its highest form.” (Wikipedia)

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 12
Published 1928

 

d'Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

d’Ora (Arthur Benda) (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 13
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 14
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 15
Published 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 16
Published 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Franz Löwy (Vienna)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 17
Published 1928

 

 

Sent M’Ahesa

“Such confusion of identity did not apply in the case of Sent M’Ahesa (Elsa von Carlberg 1893-1970), whom audiences persisted in identifying with Egyptian dances (though her dance aesthetic  included images from other ancient o exotic cultures). She performed all her dances solo. Born in Latvia, she went to Berlin in 1907 with her sister to study Egyptology but became so enchanted with ancient Egyptian art and artifacts that she decided to pursue her interest through dance rather than scholarship… Under he name of Sent M’Ahesa, she presented a program of Egyptian dances in Munich in December 1909 (Ettlinger). From then until the mid-1920s, she achieved fame for her exceptionally dramatic dances dominated by motifs from ancient Egyptian iconography. …

Her dances always functioned in relation to intricate, highly decorative costumes of her own design, so that it appeared as if she chose movements for their effect upon her costume.  In her moon goddess (or Isis) dance, she attached large, diaphanous cloth wings to her black-sleeved arms… Sent M’Ahesa often exposed her flesh below the navel, but I have yet to find a picture of her in which she exposed her hair, so keen was she on the use of wigs, helmets, caps, scarves, kerchiefs, tiaras, masks, and crowns. In her peacock dance, she attached a large fan of white feather plumes to her spine. In other dances, she draped herself with tassels, decorative aprons, double sashes, layers of jeweled necklaces, and arm, wrist, and ankle bracelets. Only in her Indian dances did she wear anything resembling pants. …

… her body was wonderfully svelte, and her face displayed a cool, chiseled beauty, I think, rather, that she sought to decontextualise female beauty and erotic feeling from archetypal images of them originating in cultures other than her own or her audience’s; she sought to dramatize a tension between a modern female body and old images of female desire and desirability. Ettlinger, in 1910, was perhaps more accurate when he remarked that

“Sent M’Ahesa’s dance has nothing to do with what one commonly understands as dance. She does not produce “beautiful,” “sensually titillating” effects. She does not represent feelings, “fear,” “horror,” “lust,” “despair,” as “lovely.” Her are requires its own style. Her movements are angular, geometrically uncircular, just as we find them in old Egyptian paintings and reliefs. Neither softness of line nor playful grace are the weapons with which she puts us under her spell. On the contrary: her body constructs hard, quite unnaturally broken lines. Arms and legs take on nearly doll-like attitudes. But precisely this deliberate limiting of gestures gives her the possibility of until now unknown, utterly minute intensities, the most exquisite of refinements of bodily expression. With a sinking of the arm of only a few millimeters, she calls forth effects which all the tricks of the ballet school cannot teach.”

Sent M’Ahesa was similar to Schrenck in one respect, even though Schrenck never performed exotic dances: both project and intensely erotic aura while moving within a very confined space. They showed persuasively that convincing signification of erotic desire or pleasure did not depend on a feeling of  freedom in space, as exemplified in the convention of ballet and modern dance, with their cliched use of runs, leaps, pirouettes, and aerial acrobatics. These dancers revealed that erotic aura intensifies in relation to an acute sense of bodily confinement, of the body imploding, turning in on itself, riddled with tensions and contradictory pressures. They adopted movements to portray the body being squeezed and twisted, drifting in to a repertoire of squirms, spasms, angular thrusts, muscular suspensions. Contortionist dancing is perhaps the most extreme expression of this aesthetic. But Sent M’Ahesa complicated the matter by doing exotic dances – that is, she confined her body within a remote cultural-historical context, as if to suggest that the ecstatic body imploded metaphorical as well as physical space.”

Karl Eric Toepfer, “Solo Dancing,” in Karl Eric Toepfer. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. University of California Press, 1997, pp. 175-179.

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich) 'Sent M'Ahesa' c. 1928

 

Hanns Holdt (Munich)
Sent M’Ahesa
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 18
Published 1928

 

Dührkoop (Hamburg) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Minya Diez-Dührkoop (Hamburg)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 19
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 20
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 21
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 23
Published 1928

 

 

Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff

Clotilde von Derp, stage name of Clotilde Margarete Anna Edle von der Planitz (5 November 1892 – 11 January 1974), was a German expressionist dancer, an early exponent of modern dance. Her career was spent essentially dancing together with her husband Alexander Sakharoff with whom she enjoyed a long-lasting relationship. …

As a child in Munich, Clotilde dreamt of becoming a violinist but from an early age she revealed how talented she was as a dancer. After receiving ballet lessons from Julie Bergmann and Anna Ornelli from the Munich Opera, she gave her first performance on 25 April 1910 at the Hotel Union, using the stage name Clotilde von Derp. The audience were enthralled by her striking beauty and youthful grace. Max Reinhardt presented her in the title role in his pantomime Sumurûn which proved a great success while on tour in London. A photo by Rudolf Dührkoop of her was exhibited in 1913 at the Royal Photographic Society. Clotilde was a member of the radical Blaue Reiter Circle which had been started by Wassily Kandinsky in 1911.

Among her admirers were artists such as Rainer Maria Rilke and Yvan Goll. For his Swiss dance presentations, Alexej von Jawlensky gave her make-up resembling his abstract portraits. From 1913, Clotilde appeared with the Russian dancer Alexander Sacharoff with whom she moved to Switzerland during the First World War. Both Sacharoff and Clotilde were known for their transvestite costumes. Clotilde’s femininity was said to be accentuated by the male attire. Her costumes took on an ancient Greek look which she used in Danseuse de Delphes in 1916. Her style was said to be elegant and more modern than that achieved by Isadora Duncan. Their outrageous costumes included wigs made from silver and gold coloured metal, with hats and outfits decorated with flowers and wax fruit.

They married in 1919 and, with the financial support of Edith Rockefeller, appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York but without any great success. They lived in Paris until the Second World War. Using the name “Les Sakharoff.” Their 1921 poster by George Barbier to advertise their work was seen as showing a “mutually complementary androgynous couple” “united in dance” joined together in an act of “artistic creation.”

They toured widely visiting China and Japan which was so successful that they returned again in 1934. They and their extravagant costumes visited both North and South America. They found themselves in Spain when France was invaded by Germany. They returned to South America making a new base in Buenos Aires until 1949. They toured Italy the following year and they took up an invitation to teach in Rome by Guido Chigi Saracini. They taught at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena for Saracini and they also opened their own dance school in Rome. She and Sakharoff stopped dancing together in 1956. They both continued to live in Rome until their deaths. Clotilde gave and sold many of their writings and costumes, that still remained, to museums and auctions. She eventually sold the iconic 1909 painting of her husband by Alexander Jawlensky. In 1997 the German Dance Archive Cologne purchased many remaining items and they have 65 costumes, hundreds of set and costume designs and 500 photographs.

Unlike her husband, Clotilde had a taste for modern music, frequently choosing melancholic music by contemporaries such as Max Reger, Florent Schmitt and Stravinsky. Her haunting eyes and delicate smiles gave the impression she took pleasure in displaying her finely-costumed voluptuous body, even when she reached her forties. She was particularly effective in interpreting Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune. Hans Brandenbourg maintained her ballet technique was superior to that of Alexander although he did not consider her a virtuoso. Clotilde also moved more independently of the music, dancing to the impression it created in her mind rather than to the rhythm.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 26
Published 1928

 

Hugo Erfurth (Dresden) 'Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff' c. 1928

 

Veritas (Stephanie Held) (Munich)
Clotilde von Derp-Sacharoff
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 27
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 28
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 29
Published 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London) 'Nijinski' c. 1928

 

E. O. Hoppé (London)
Nijinski
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 30
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' From the works "The Russian Theater", Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Aus dem werke “Das Russische Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Wien [From the works “The Russian Theater”, Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna]
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 31
Published 1928

 

'Nijinski' Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin - Wilmersdorf c. 1928

 

Nijinski
Porträt karten verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
Portrait cards Verlag Leiser, Berlin – Wilmersdorf
From Der Kunstlerische Tanz Unserer Zeit [The Artistic Dance of Our Time] p. 32
Published 1928