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Dr. Paul Wolff & Tritschler. Light and Shadow – Photographs from 1920 to 1950

Opening exhibition from 28 June 2019 – 20 September 2020
© Dr. Paul Wolff Tritschler

This first major retrospective covering the life and work of Dr Paul Wolff (1887–1951) and Alfred Tritschler (1905–1970) rediscovers two of the most culturally and historically significant German photographers of the first half of the 20th century. Even today, Wolff & Tritschler are renowned as outstanding pioneers of Leica photography, outstanding technicians and pioneers of a vibrant style of illustrative photography and reportage. Their estimated 700,000 pictures reflect all significant trends in photographic modernism, from the movements known as ‘Neues Sehen’ (New Vision) to ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (New Objectivity). Active from the middle of the 1920s, Wolff & Tritschler accompanied key events and developments of their times with their cameras – the building of the autobahns, steamship cruises, the fascination of the Zeppelins, architectural modernism and the Olympic Games of 1936. Not least this broad thematic spectrum, in combination with their eye for the moment, a passion for seeing and showing, and a clear commitment to the camera as a medium for communication in the age of technology, made their oeuvre so exceptional.

Wolff & Tritschler never saw themselves as artists, but rather as reliable providers of a service whose company in Frankfurt embraced all genres of contemporary photography – from idealising calendar pages to modern advertising of consumer goods and from dynamic sports photos to stringently precise architectural photographs. In 1923, Paul Wolff’s photography made an essential contribution to the campaign to preserve the historic centre of Frankfurt and thus gave us a lasting impression of the city as it was in the Middle Ages. At the same time, Wolff & Tritschler stand for iconic images of the New Frankfurt, such as the ‘Zig-zag Houses’, the Great Market Hall or the headquarters of I.G. Farben that are still regularly reproduced in printed form today. Wolff & Tritschler were pioneers in the fields of both emerging colour photography and industrial reportage. As a well-organised part of an age of modern media, the company placed an emphasis on the printed image: in fact, there was hardly a magazine or illustrated periodical around 1930 that did not publish pictures by Wolff & Tritscher. Their bibliography runs to more than 300 titles, with translations into English, French, Italian or Japanese. In summary, the lifework of Wolff & Tritschler is not uncontroversial, which the richly orchestrated exhibition of around 400 items – including previously unseen vintage prints, posters, documents, magazines and books – sees more as an opportunity to present Wolff & Tritschler as a ‘phenomenon’ embedded in the history of Germany around 1930.

The extensive exhibition catalogue features contributions by Sabine Hock, Randy Kaufman, Hans-Michael Koetzle, Kristina Lemke, Günter Osterloh, Tobias Picard, Gerald Piffl, Shun Uchibayashi, and Thomas Wiegand.

Hans-Michael Koetzle (ed.): Dr. Paul Wolff & Tritschler: Light and Shadow – Photographs from 1920 to 1950, 464 pages, approx. 1,000 illustrations, hardcover, Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, 78 EUR. ISBN 978-3-86828-880-3 (German edition) / ISBN 978-3-86828-881-0 (English edition)

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