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.

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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)https://i2.wp.com/static.livre-rare-book.com/pictures/RLI/img1901_1.jpg

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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On New Objectivity . . .

quote from Mrs Deane  nothing is too amazing to be true

I fur­ther main­tain that an appre­cia­ble part of the so-called left-wing lit­er­a­ture had no other social func­tion than that of con­tin­u­ally extract­ing new effects or sen­sa­tions from this sit­u­a­tions for the public’s enter­tain­ment. Which brings me to the New Objec­tiv­ity. It launched the fash­ion for reportage. Let us ask our­selves whose inter­ests were advanced by this technique.

For greater clar­ity let me con­cen­trate on pho­to­graphic reportage. What­ever applies to it is trans­fer­able to the lit­er­ary form. Both owe their extra­or­di­nary devel­op­ment to pub­li­ca­tion tech­niques — radio and the illus­trated press. […] What do we see? It has become more and more sub­tle, more and more mod­ern, and the result is that it is now inca­pable of pho­tograph­ing a ten­e­ment or a rubbish-heap with­out trans­fig­ur­ing it. Not to men­tion a river dam or an elec­tric cable fac­tory: in front of these, pho­tog­ra­phy can now only say, ‘How beau­ti­ful.’ [ital­ics added] The World is beau­ti­ful — that is the well-known pic­ture book by Renger-Patzsch in which we see New Objec­tiv­ity pho­tog­ra­phy at its peak.

Here we have an extreme exam­ple of what it means to sup­ply a pro­duc­tion apara­tus with­out chang­ing it. […]  pho­tog­ra­phers pro­ceed in order to make human mis­ery an object of con­sump­tion. Turn­ing to the New Objec­tiv­ity as a lit­er­ary move­ment, I must go a step fur­ther and say that is has turned the strug­gle against mis­ery into an object of con­sump­tion . In many cases, indeed, its polit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance has been lim­ited to con­vert­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary reflexes, in so far as these occured within the bour­geoisie, into themes of enter­tain­ment and amuse­ment which can be fit­ted with­out much dif­fi­culty into the cabaret life of a large city. The char­ac­ter­is­tic of this lit­er­a­ture [and this pho­tog­ra­phy, we may add] is the way it trans­forms a polit­i­cal strug­gle so that it ceases to be a com­pelling motive for deci­sion and becomes an arti­cle of com­fort­able con­tem­pla­tion; it ceases to be a means of pro­duc­tion and becomes an arti­cle of con­sump­tion [ital­ics added].


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