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The German Photographic Annual 1960 (Book Review)

The German Photographic Manual 1960

Opportunity shops and antique shops are well worth digging around in for photography books. For example, I paid a whopping AUD$5.00 at a local antique shop for The German Photographic Annual 1960 (in German published as Das neue deutsche Lichtbild 1960) edited by Wolf Strache and Otto Steinert. Wolf Strache edited the annual publication from 1955-1979 and from 1960 co-edited with Otto Steinert. This 1960 edition was the first year Steinert was brought into the editorial team.

There are four interesting essays in this book that reflect onto 1960: This Photographic Age by Oliver Storz, The Questionable Nature of Color Photography by Hermann Speer, The Epic of Everyday Life: Trends in the Development of Documentary Photography by E. J. Klinsky and Turntable of Photography by Wilhelm Schoppe. Each essay offers insight into contemporary thoughts on German photography in 1960, but remain more than valid within contemporary photography today.

Oliver Storz took the opportunity to look at the photographic age of 1960. A time when cameras were ubiquitous and people were spending holidays looking through their camera lens, rather than enjoying the holiday. He writes “Today if a man all but trips over a beggar he scarcely sees him, but to the same man the photo of a beggar is food for thought.” I wonder what he’d say of our iPhone connected world with billions upon billions of images across an Internet connected landscape? In the same manner, Storz writes about truth in photography and that “extra something” that makes a good photograph.

Hermann Speer’s essay on the nature of colour photography in 1960 looked at the advances in colour technology, the evolution of how we think about colour from fine art painting into the field of photography and the inability of 1960 colour film to represent the perceived colours of a human reality. Speer calls colour “questionable” in the sense that there is an “atmosphere of artificiality” to the picture.

E. J. Klinsky drew to what he called “The Epic of Every-Day Life” where photography seemed to have stopped looking for new boundaries to smash and began looking at “the old familiar things through new eyes.” He discussed the amateur photographing the mundane and the movement within documentary photography away from the mere representation of things. Even in journalism there had been a move toward representations of the photographer’s personal agenda.

William Schoppe, in the final essay of this book, described the decimated German photographic industry at the end of World War 2. The result of trade bans, removal of intellectual property protections and being conquered and divided into East and West. In 1946, Dr. Bruno Uhl pushed to set up “The Association of Manufacturers of Photographic Products” and then in 1949 industry representatives voted to have the “first independent German Photo and Cine Exhibition, the 1950 photokina.”

This book, published ten years after the first photokina, offers 112 photographic plates that cover a wide range of photographic genres, including a small amount of colourist work. This is an impressively sturdy hardcover beautifully printed on high quality paper. I paid $5 and you can buy these annuals at around $10 on eBay. Well worth the investment. And, honestly, some of the work in there is crazy-good. It’ll be staying on our bookshelf alongside Cartier-Bresson and Rennie Ellis.

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Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark and I live in the Derwent Valley in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a mazer & a yeast farmer (making beer, fruit wine and mead as by-products of continuous improvement in my farming practices). I'm a photographer, although my film cameras are currently silent. I do not tolerate idiots. I do not tolerate bigotry. I do not tolerate excuses. Let's be clear, if you sit with my enemies you my are my enemy for life.

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