History of Photography



Introduction  
History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary









 

 


THE STORY BEHIND THE PICTURES 1827-1991

 

 

1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991

 

see also:

ZILLE HEINRICH




Chapter 11

 


1898
 


Heinrich Zille
 

 

The Wood Gatherers
 

Lumber Sale in

Crunewald
 

Heinrich Zille, the well-known graphic artist who depicted proletarian conditions of life around 1900, was also a photographer, but his camera work was not discovered until the mid-1960s. His ceuvre of more than 400 photographs is now appreciated as an important contribution to modern photography.

 

Autumn in Charlottenburg, a small town outside Berlin. Two women, possibly mother and daughter, are pulling a cart loaded high with brush-wood across the sandy ground typical of the region, one woman with the right hand, the other with the left clasped around the shafts of the simple vehicle whose left wheel seems to be set none too surely on its axle. The two wood gatherers have in addition yoked themselves with a shoulder band to distribute the load and are literally putting themselves in harness to bring their harvest home quickly. Home - it may be Charlottenburg itself- whose western outskirts are recognizable to the left in the picture as a lightly sloping stripe between the grassy fields and the sky. In 1900, the city with its approximately 190,000 inhabitants is still an independent community; it will not be incorporated into Greater Berlin for another two decades.

The two wood gatherers have already put a few kilometers between themselves and the forest of Grunewald. Their clothing, consisting of skirt, blouse, and apron, indicates their status as peasants. "In Grunewald, in Grunewald there's a wood auction" -the popular old street ditty looks back to the days when the forest, then located far to the west of Berlin, was an important source of natural raw materials for working-class families. Wood was used not only for heating, but also in cooking stoves, for which brushwood and sticks were the cheapest form of fuel - as dramatized by the important role such wood plays in Gerhard Hauptmann's comedy The Beaver Pelt.

Rudolf Heinrich Zille
(January 10, 1858 - August 9, 1929)
The Wood Gatherers
 

 

Eyes to the ground and swinging their arms

 

Although they constitute the central theme of the picture, which presumably was taken in 1898, the two women are not the only persons in the oblong-format photograph. Between the smaller woman in the background and the wagon with its high load we recognize, half hidden, a baby carriage typical of the times, which is also loaded with wood and a jute sack. And yet a further person intrudes into the picture: the photographer himself, whose long shadow stands out clearly in the bottom right against the bright dune. Somewhere in the background, but not visible in this photograph, there must be the Ringbahn, or circular railway around the city, which in those days more or less functioned as the boundary between city and countryside, that is, between Charlottenburg and Grunewald. Somewhat further to the right, one can imagine today's radio tower and the Berlin exhibition centre. The goal of the two women may well be the Knobelsdorff Bridge. From this point the path leads across the track into the western end of Charlottenburg. It is evident that the photographer is wearing a hat, but whether or not he is using a camera stand for his work cannot be determined. What is certain is that he is looking eastward; the sun must therefore be standing in the west, indicating that the time of the photograph is late afternoon or early evening. The two women are thus making their way back from a daytime outing, which indicates the completely legal nature of their undertaking. In reality, women collecting wood must have been a part of daily life in western Berlin, a situation which explains why none of the court or amateur photographers active in or around the Reich's capital hit upon the idea of capturing a scene such as this, without at least an attempt at idealizing the 'simple life'. But in this picture, there is no trace of romanticism. The women are pulling with their full strength against the harness to keep the wagon rolling, and in the process are swinging their free arms strongly, their eyes to the ground.

Rudolf Heinrich Zille
(January 10, 1858 - August 9, 1929)
The Wood Gatherers.
Third series from The Wood Gatherers.
 

 

Max Liebermann as engaged patron and friend

 

Heinrich Zille was neither a professional photographer nor an amateur in the sense of being merely a hobby photographer with artistic pretensions, a type that was occasioning much international discussion around 1900. Born in 1858 in Radeburg in Saxony, Zille was primarily a graphic artist known for his tragicomic sketches of simple people. His work appeared

in various magazines and newspapers beginning in 1903, and five years later, was also published in book form. Zilie had already achieved popu-larity within his own lifetime - but his was a controversial fame. Kaiser Wilhelm II, for example, discredited Zille's work, oriented as it was toward the naturalism of the age, as "gutter art." The Berlin Secessionists on the other hand valued his drawing. Particularly in Max Liebermann the train-ed lithographer found both a prominent and engaged patron and friend. Zille never made a secret of his photographic activity; at the same time, he did not emphasize it. Like many artists of the turn of the century - Stuck, Lenbach, and Munch are perhaps the best known - Zille also drew from photographs that he had taken himself. Unlike his famous colleagues, however, he seems to have followed this practice, commonly employed by painters and graphic artists of the day, rather rarely. Also of note are the intimacy of Zille's gaze, his particular mode of perception, and his joy in experimentation, all of which are far removed from any kind of commercial photography. One may rest assured that for Zille, the camera served primarily as a means to assimilate reality in a new way. His contemporaries were aware of Heinrich Zille's work with the camera. Nevertheless, by the time of his death in 1929, this aspect of his work had sunk into oblivion. Not until 1966 was a cache of somewhat more than four hundred glass negatives and approximately one hundred twenty ori¬ginal prints discovered in his estate, out of which a selection was offered to the public for view for the first time by the Berlin Theater critic Friedrich Luft in 1967. The legacy indicates that after 1882, Heinrich Zille photographed exclusively with large-format glass-plate cameras which he may have borrowed from the Photographic Society, his employer of at the time. Surviving are also 4 3/4 x 6 1/4, 51/2 x 7-inch, and 7 x 91/2-inch negatives, along with positives in the form of contact prints.

Rudolf Heinrich Zille
(January 10, 1858 - August 9, 1929)
The Wood Gatherers.
Woman with child pushing a pram loaded with brushwood, with Knobek dorff Bridge in the background.
 

 

Interest in banal, everyday life

 

The spectrum of Zille's themes was remarkably broad, even if the majority of his ceuvre, which was largely concerned with the realities of daily life among the simple working class, consists of views of old Berlin - rear courtyards, alleys, narrow houses reached by high staircases, shops and stores. In addition, Zille's legacy contains portraits and self-portraits, family pictures, nudes, scenes of fairgrounds and beaches, and - oddly enough - trash dumps, which Zille photographed a number of times.

Practically absent in Zille's work are panoramic views of the quickly growing Wilhelmine Berlin, such as those produced by contemporary photographers such as Max Missmann, Waldemar Titzenthaler, and Hermann Ruckwardt. Similarly, photographs of the German Reichstag, the Victory Column, or the Brandenburg Gate constitute the exception in an ceuvre centered on paradigms of daily life.

In keeping with his interest in banal, everyday life, Zille often made wood-gathering women the object of his lens. All in all, it Is possible to distinguish four cycles, in the first o which, taken in 1897, Zille would still have had to combat the inconveniences that were a part of short-exposure photography. The pictures are not sharp, and the framing unsatisfactory - or the women are looking toward the camera, a circumstance that Zille, who strove for 'discretion', always sought to avoid. In this area, Zille, still very much the amateur, worked to refine his techniques, rubbing his nose in his chosen theme, which clearly interested him until 1898. Precisely why Zille specifically made the theme of daily female labor the center of his cycle, we don't know. One thing is certain: the wood gatherers had become a more or less daily sight for Zille after he moved from Rummelsburg to Sophie-Charlotte Street in 1892, where such women passed every evening on their way back from collecting wood. "A tranquil peace settled on the street," according to Zille's son Hans, describing his parents' new apartment. "From the apartment windows, one's gaze ranged into the open land. On the other side of the street, the sandy soil was cultivated; in the middle, there was a large area for drying laundry that was ringed with bushes and trees. Behind the Ringbahn stretched fallow land, partially covered with low-growing pines, and finally came the first trees of the Crunewald and the outskirts of the suburban villas of the West End."

From the open window of his apartment, Heinrich Zille had photographed the grounds of the Ringbahn with the Knobelsdorff Bridge to the southwest as early as 1893. Four years later, he went out into the fields and turned his camera onto the women returning home from picking wood, almost as if looking over the same scene from the other direction. Only a few pictures show them at rest. All his later pictures also avoided the direct gaze into the camera. Zille photographed the women from behind, thus making them 'faceless' but lifting their personal trials and tribulations onto the level of a generalizable condition.
That Heinrich Zille used the photographs from his series on wood gatherers as illustration models does not diminish their value as independent artistic achievements. Already in 1903, his drawing Wunsche (Wishes) appeared in Simplizissimus, which an editor, referring to Zille's origin, probably supplied with a text in pseudo-Saxon dialect: "If ony I hadda won big time, jist oncet! I woulda had myself a fine cart and then I coulda carried that brush wood back home right comfortable." Today, the completely unsentimental directness of the photograph lends it credibility, in contrast to the drawing. Zille's radical gaze bluntly captures the essential, and he intuitively applies photography in terms of its intrinsic characteristics. Decades before the proclamation of the New Objectivity, Heinrich Zille was pursuing the idea of photography as unembellished documentation with his Wood Gatherers. In this sense, he is properly seen as an ancestor of the modern spirit in photography.

Mein Photo-Milljoh: the book publication edited 1967 by the Berlin theater critic Friedrich Luft first drew attention to Heinrich Zille as a photographer.

Mein Photo-Milljoh: the book publication edited 1967 by the Berlin theater critic Friedrich Luft first drew attention to Heinrich Zille as a photographer.

 

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