Category Archives: History



New Visions – The Avant-Gardes and After

Germany: The Weimar Republic


German photographic production of the twenties expanded into new fields of application and market outlets.

August Sander accepted commissions from the industry stemmed in part with the ‘Weltanshauung’ then undergoing transformations which regarded technical progress as holding the seeds of a better society.

Photography was more than a simply medium through which to prove the existence of this ‘new world’ of architecture and industry, with all its new products and new means of production; it was a technical process increadingly used in new, expanding markets andit thus became an item of merchandise with a thousand possible applications.

Photography’s new clients included editors of illustrated magazines, designers and industrial business.

Germany enjoyed a relative economic stability in the 20’s; first due to the London Convention in 1924 when revised the German monetary system and securing reparation payments in accordance with the Dawes Plan. During this phase of relative stability, Germany was able to regain a footing in the fields it used to dominate, such as the chemical and the electrotechnical industries.

‘The export offensive rested to a large extent upon the activity of large concerns such as I.G., Farben, Siemens, AEG … in which a large measure of economic power was concentrated’.  By the mid twenties this power was reinforced by concentrations of capital. The mergers that took place engendered concentrations of interests and alliances with other branches of industry with banks.

Industry businessman helped contemporary artists by giving them advertising work. The photograph was utilised as an element of montage, as a photogram, or as a documentary shot in their advertising work.

The following business made use of photography to produce advertisement: Kaffee-Handel AG, Breme (Kaffee Hag), Gunter Wagner Hanovre (Pelikan) Bahlsen, Hanover (Bahlsen Kekse), Rosenberg and Hertz, Cologne (Forma Miederwaren (Forma Corsets, and Bochumer Verein, Bochum (Bergbau und Gusstahlfabrikation (mining industry and cast steel manufacturing).

Gallery Tschichold: Advertising brochure designed by Jan Tschichold, 1929

Published in 1928, Tschichold's The New Typography became one of the most significant books in its field, enshrining his philosophy of sans-serif typography, photography and asymmetrical layout. This is an advertising brochure designed by Tschichold the following year Photograph: Max Burchartz


Max Burchartz.

Book imageBook image

Book image

Book image

wilhelm engstfeld ag, heiligenhaus, 1937 printer: w. girardet, essen size: 21 x 15 cm designer: max burchartz


El Lissistzky

"Composition" (1929) de Maurice Tabard

 (350x549, 35Kb)

Maurice Tabard

Max Burchartz, El Lissitzky, Richard Errell, Albert Renger-Patzstch and Maurice Tabard all worked in advertising photography.

Max Burchartz also a designer, painter and photographer wrote about advertising techniques.  ‘The basic principle of advertising is invariably one of an active willing, using paricular methods of suggestion, all of which proceed in fundamentally the same fashion, in order to guide other wills -in fact, the greatest possible number of wills- towards a particular well-defined action .. “

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August Sander / Landscape

A comment on August Sander’s landscape photographs can be found on this blog.

‘While for me his portraits haven’t lost any actuality, his landscapes I find something for photo historians. The range of his images goes from pure romanticism up to sober landscape documentation.’

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‘The New Objectivity’

++ From Ute Eskildsen a History of Photography

Germany: The Weimar Republic.

1918, the end of Kaiser Wilhelm’s empire.

With the new republican government universal suffrage was introduced. Radical social changes along with increased unemployment after the First World War (cessation of armament production), inflation and insecurity.

Workers needed protection, trade unions and commitees alarmed the bourgeoisie .

Artists in the early twenties rejected the past; the Kaiser’s time. Aiming for a ‘New World’ toward the future.

‘New Objectivity’

Quest for a new perspective in photography expressed as ‘a new point of view’ – ‘Sachlichkeit’ (objectivity)

Aiming at exactitude in reproduction and precision and a refusal to mask the technical nature of their means.

‘Neue Sachkichkeit’ defined in 1925 by G.H. Harlaub; a characteristic of the realist techniques used in the twenties by painters and applied by photographers.

‘Neue Sachkichkeit’ – desire for impartial analysis with hope that its objectivity would prove positive, clarifying effects.

The changes in Germany’s social structure brought also changes in the attitud towards technical progress. Looking with great interest towards the United States, technical achivement became a determining factor in social evolution but also the solution to all current politico-economic problems.

Two major tendencies emerged:

Albert Renger-Patzch; who selected subjects from the natural world and from the industrial sector.

Lazlo Moholy-Nagy; master at the Bauhaus and the most fervent advocate of photography as means of expression. Also most influential theoretician of the twenties.  Moholy-Nagy defineds this technical medium in terms of its interdependence with light: luminosity was the key to widening man’s field of perception.

Both trends: the exactitude of photography as a technical means of expression.

These positions gave rise on one hand to abstract realism and on the other, a type of realist photography modelled on the commercial exploitation found in illustrated magazines. Between these two were the ‘new observers’.

++By Sauer-Thompso: Australian modernism

German photography in the 1920’s and 1930’s (ie., New Photography) evolved through two highly articulated but divergent approaches: the school of objectivity (Albert Renger-Patzsch, Werner Mantz; Karl Blossfeldt; and August Sander) and the New Vision school of experimental possibilities (Laszlo Moholy-Nagy) that strongly emphasized the unity of all applied arts.
The Neue Sachlichkeit” (New Objectivity) movement was an outgrowth of, and an opposition to, expressionism, and it avoided painterly effects of pictorialism which lead photographers to abandon the unique qualities of the medium. This machine aesthetic bought a sharply focused, documentary quality and a matter-of-fact style to art photography and was focused on form and design. It concentrated on the exact appearance of objects — their form, material, and surface and rejected any kind of artistic claim for the photographer since the photographer should strive to capture the “essence of the object”.

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