miércoles, 18 de abril de 2018

MICHAEL KOLLMANN : DAS FOTOBUCH ALS LEBENSLANGE LEIDENSCHAFT

ENGLISH
                                                                                                                                             
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Schon während seiner Jugend zeigte Michael Kollmann (gegenwärtig Chefkurator der Photobücher der Westlicht- und Ostlicht-Galerien für Fotografie in Wien, Österreich) eine Vorliebe für Photobücher, die sich schnell zu einer vollen Leidenschaft entwickelte.

Als international anerkannte Autorität im Bereich des Fotobuchs hat Michael Kollmann während seiner rund zwanzigjährigen beruflichen Laufbahn den ständigen Wandel erlebt, den dieser Sektor mit der Entwicklung neuer Technologien, Ideen, Materialien, Designs, Layouts, Texte, Bildreihen und Typografien erfahren hat, bis sie sich zu einer multidisziplinären Einheit verwandelten, worin jeder Aspekt wichtig ist, die guten Fotografien natürlich inbegriffen.

In Bezug auf das Gebiet des Fotobuches und seiner Transformation hat er es zu einer Schaffung eines neuen Qualitätsstandards innerhalb eines dynamischen und entwickelnden Formats gebracht, und zwar mit der Erschließung neuer Interpretationsarten von Bildern als eines seiner grundlegenden Ziele.

Das Ergebnis davon ist, daß das traditionelle Konzept des Fotobuches als haptische Einheit mit Bildern, die auf Papier gedruckt wurden (genau wie beispielsweise Drucke auf Barytpapier für Ausstellungszwecke), sehr weise durch eine Anzahl neuer bahnbrechender Fortschritte zu einer ausgezeichneten Druckqualität, zur hervorragenden Bindung, zum hochwertige Papier und zu detaillierten handgefertigten Produktionsstufen verbessert wurde, ohne die grenzenlose Möglichkeiten bezüglich Größen, Formate, Typen, Qualität und Grammatur des Papiers, sowie einfacher und intuitiver Buchmacher-Software zu vergessen, die eine eigene Ausgabe mit einer  umfassenden Auswahl an Möglichkeiten bieten, usw.

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Natürlich gehören die Fotobücher der weltweiten Referenzklasse zum Bereich der hochspezialisiertern Verlage, wie Pepperoni Books, Mack, KWY Books, Steidl, Aperture, Thames & Hudson, Phaidon usw.

Aber jetzt sehnen sich professionelle Fotografen, Künstler, Schriftsteller und eine breite Palette von Menschen danach, ein Buch mit eigenen Bildern oder Erfahrungen zu schaffen,  ihre eigene Fotobücher zu erarbeiten und sie unter Hinzufügung von Texten und vieles mehr zu personifizieren, und zwar mit einer Anzahl, die zwischen 28 und 160 Seiten liegt, unter Befolgung der Grundprinzipien nach dem neuen Modell des Fotobuchstils, das Andrew Roth 2011 mit seinem Buch „The Book of 101 Books“ (das Buch der 101 Bücher) sowie Martin Parr und Gerry Badger im Jahre 2004 mit deren dreibändigen Serie „The Photobook“ (das Fotobuch) ins Leben gerufen hatten. Eine Geschichte (von Phaedon veröffentlicht).

Ein eindrucksvolles Beispiel für diese beeindruckende Wiederbelebung des Fotobuchs auf Papier ist das Wiener Fotobuch-Festival, zu dessen Mitbegründern Michael Kollmann zählte (zusammen mit Regina Anzenberger, Direktorin der Anzenberger Agentur und Galerie, und Peter Coeln, Direktor der Wetslicht Galerie und der Ostlicht Gallerie) und treibende Kraft der Veranstaltung und der fünf aufeinander folgende Ausgaben ab 2013 war,

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all dies mit großem Publikumserfolg, dank seinem bemerkenswerten Wissen innerhalb seiner Arbeitsumgebung, seinem tiefen Einblick in den Marktumständen, seiner Bescheidenheit (er ist eine hochprofessionelle und bescheidene Person, die Freundlichkeit und Kameradschaft ausstrahlt), seinem unerschütterlichen Engagement und seiner enormen Arbeitskapazität.

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Es kann nur als eine Heldentat bezeichnet werden, etwas wirklich Heroisches: daß innerhalb  einer weit verbreiteten und weltweiten Wirtschaftskrise mit der Kraft der Liebe zu den Fotobüchern, der sorgfältigen Aufmerksamkeit für jedes organisierte Detail, der bestmöglichen Koordination der verschiedenen Vorträge und Gespräche mit renommierten Gästen aus den Bereichen der Fotografie, der Kunst, der Kuratierens, des Verlagswesens und der Fotobuchherstellung entlangführt, um sie geradezu wohl fühlen zu lassen.

Daher war die Anwesenheit von prestrigeträchtigen Persönlichkeiten wie William Klein, Bruce Davidson, Josef Koudelka, Michel Auer, Martin Parr, Olivia Arthur, Chien Chi Chang, Hans Michael Koetzle, Carolyn Drake, Nikolay Bakharev, René Groebli, Michael Mack, Walter Bergmoser, Peter Sramek, Michael Mack, Ania Nalecka, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Magali Avezou, Gerry Badger, Krass Clement, Colin Pantall, Christina de Middel, Hannes Wanderer, David Campany, Thomas Bonfert, Stefan Olah, Leon Kirchlechner Anastasia Koroschilova, Christoph Schaden, Michaela Bosákova, Horacio Fernández, Manfred Heiting, Michael Hagner, Corinne Noordenbos, Betien van Manen, Martin Kollar und viele andere, das Ergebnis einer sehr harten Arbeit und monatelanger Vorbereitungen vor jeder Ausgabe, was es möglich machte, daß die Fotobücher niemals zu einem Massenprodukt werden (wie es bei der digitalen Bilderflut der Fall ist) und  das Interesse für dieses sehr interessante, wunderschön gestaltete und kunstvoll bedruckte Objekt mit Genuß in Ihren Händen stetig wächst.

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Michael Kollmann ist ein echter Experte im Gebiet der Fotobücher, er kennt ihre Geschichte  und ihre bedeutende Rolle in der zeitgenössischen visuellen Kultur und ihr Vermächtnis seit Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts, als die Netzätzung zu einer Druckgrafikmethode wurde, die den gleichzeitigen Druck von Bildern und Texten den Weg bereitete. Nicht zu vergessen das Erscheinen eines Paradigmenwechsels in den 1960er Jahren mit den neuen elektronischen Drucktechnologien, den Meisterwerken sowie den Künstlerbüchern von Ed Ruscha, Hans Peter Feldmann und andere.

All dies bleibt dem unerschütterlichen Bauelement des Fotobuchs als Werk selbst treu, ein Buch in dem Bilder die Erzählung aufbauen und auf ein originelles Konzept reagieren.

Außerdem sind in den letzten Jahren die Fotobücher, die derzeit in einer zentralen Position  der modernen Fotografie stehen, in einem solchen Ausmaß gewachsen, daß heutzutage mehr Bücher als jemals zuvor produziert, gekauft und verkauft, ausgetauscht und gesammelt werden und zwar im Rahmen eines Nischenprodukts hohen Niveaus.

Es ist wirklich faszinierend, daß wir vor allem dank der Digitaltechnik eine Rückkehr zum gedruckten Objekt ausmachen, ein Format, das für viele Künstler und Fotografen nicht nur ein nützliches Mittel ist, um ihre Bilder zu zeigen, sondern auch um einen gut geeigneten  Raum zum Experimentieren und für die Kreativität vorfinden.

Andererseits hat Michael Kollmann immer die Auffassung vertreten, daß es seine Aufgabe als Fotobuch-Kurator ist, diesem Medium die Anerkennung zu verleihen, die es als eine der wichtigsten Säulen der Fotografie und einer eigenständige Kunstform von selbst verdient.

Auf diese Weise wird die Suche nach Lösungen für die zeitgerechte Präsentation von Fotobüchern in den dafür vorgesehenen Räumen zu einem zentralen Anliegen. So hat er das Projekt "Publisher in Residence" (etwa Sitz des Herausgebers) in Angriff genommen und entwickelt, mit dem ein einzelner Verleger, Fotobuchkünstler oder Fotograf die Gelegenheit hat, sein eigenes Repertoire an Werken für die Dauer von drei bis vier Monaten zu präsentieren; mit dem zusätzlichen Vorteil, daß sich eine Marke mit einer innovativen Kampagne der Verkaufstechnik als weitere Ergänzung bei den Buchhandlungen mit den neu definierten Werkzeugen zeigen kann, die solche selbstpublizierende Ideen, die in den sechziger Jahren entstanden sind und Endprodukte von beispielloser Qualität hervorgebracht haben und sowohl in den als Treffpunkt dienende Westlicht- als auch in den Ostlicht-Galerien höchst wirksam präsentiert werden können.

Michael Kollmann hat seine wahre Freude beim Betrachten verschiedener Fotobücher, die sich auf einem Tisch des Wiener Fotobuch-Festivals 2015 befinden. © jmse

Und zu seinen unzähligen wertvollen Eigenschaften gehören seine Selbstlosigkeit, seine unerschöpfliche und diskrete harte Arbeit, seine hervorragende Professionalität und seine ständige Bereitschaft, jedem zu jeder Zeit zu helfen (es gab wie am 22. September 2015 viele Beispiele dafür, als damals während der Premiere von Elliott Erwitts Pariser Ausstellung in der Leica Galerie von Wien, der vorher angekündigter Sprecher Erich Lessing sein sollte, der aber am Ende nicht teilnehmen konnte; so ersetzte ihn Okky Offerhaus, Assistent von Elliott Erwit in der ersten Hälfte der sechziger Jahre und hielt eine Rede über die Magnum-Fotoagentur, während Michael Kollmann sich der Aufgabe widmete, so viele Kopien wie möglich vom Buch EE & OO von Okky Offerhaus "Aber eine Plastikrose währt immer" zusammen mit Elliott Erwitt's Katalogbuch zu verkaufen, während der Rest der Teilnehmer die Veranstaltung genoß).

Darüber hinaus hat Michael Kollmann als Redakteur einige Streifzüge unternommen, mit Werken wie:

- Summer into Winter (Vom Sommer in den Winter), ein Fotobuch mit dem Format 20 x 25 cm und 120 Seiten  erzählt eine Reise in das Herz Europas, eine Rückblende zu seiner Herkunft, wo seine Vorfahren vor mehr als 300 Jahre lebten, bevor der Exodus stattfand und Millionen von Menschen in die großen Städte zogen.

- Das Posterfotobuch von Ren Hang, herausgegeben von Michael Kollmann und Calin Kruse, bietet 96 Seiten im Format 28 x 40 cm und weist 60 Farbabbildungen auf.

Und nicht genug damit: er ist auch ein großer Fan und Sammler von Fotobüchern und Vintage-Magazinen und hat obendrein einen Dokumentarfilm über Allan Porters

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sagenhaftes Fotomagazin „Camera Swiss“ gedreht.

Text und Fotos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

sábado, 7 de abril de 2018

MICHAEL KOLLMANN : THE PHOTOBOOK AS A LIFETIME PASSION

DEUTSCH
                                                                                                                           




Since his teenage years, Michael Kollmann (current Chief Curator of Photobooks at Weslicht and Ostlicht Photo Galleries in Vienna, Austria) felt a penchant for photobooks which quickly evolved to a full-fledged passion.

A recognized international authority in the sphere of photobook, Michael Kollmann has seen throughout his professional career of roughly twenty years the constant changes experienced by this sector with the development of new technologies, ideas, materials, designs, layouts, texts, sequence of the images and typographies, until becoming a multidisciplinary entity in which every aspect is important, including of course the good photographs.

It has resulted in the setting up of a new standard in quality regarding the photobook scope and its transformation in a dynamic and evolving format, with the opening up of new ways of interpreting images as one of its fundamental aims.

And thanks to the integrated design and order workflow, hardcover bound photobooks with customized pictures and text can be produced very cost-effectively.

The upshot of it is that the traditional concept of photobook as a haptic entity with images printed on paper (in the same way as for example prints on baryta paper for exhibitions) has been preserved while simultaneously being very wisely enhanced by a number of new breakthrough advancements as to stellar print quality, superb binding, high quality papers and detailed handmade production stages, without forgetting the boundless possibilities in terms of sizes, formats, types, quality and grammage of paper, easy and intuitive bookmaking softwares enabling the self edition with a hugely comprehensive choice of options, etc.

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Obviously, the worldwide reference-class photobooks belong to the realm of highly specialized publishers like Pepperoni Books, Mack, KWY Books, Steidl, Aperture, Thames & Hudson, Phaidon, etc.

But now, professional photographers, artists, writers and a wide range of people yearning for creating a book with their images or experiences, can beget their own photobooks and personalize them adding texts and many more things, with a number of pages between approximately 28 and 160, following the basic principles and new model of photobook genre set up by Andrew Roth in 2011 with his The Book of 101 Books and Martin Parr and Gerry Badger in 2004 with their three volume series The Photobook. A History (published by Phaedon).

A meaningful example of this impressive revival of the photobook on paper has been the Vienna Photobook Festival, of which Michael Kollmann was one of its co-founders (along with Regina Anzenberger, Director of the Anzenberger Agency and Gallery, and Peter Coeln, Director of Wetslicht Gallery and Ostlicht Gallery) and key driving force of the event and its five consecutive editions held from 2013 hitherto,

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with great success of public, thanks to his remarkable knowledge of his work environment, deep insight of market circumstances, humbleness (he´s a highly professional and unassuming person oozing kindness and comradeship to spare), unswerving commitment and a tremendous working capacity.

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It can only be defined as a feat, something really heroic which has been achieved in the middle of a widespread worldwide economical crisis, by dint of love for the photobooks, painstaking attention to every organizing detail, giving his best to strengthen its unique position as a market place for independent publishers, artists, collectors and rare photobook dealers, as well as coordinating the different lectures and talkings held by prestigious guests from the photographic, artistic, curating, publishing and photobook making realms, to make them feel at ease straightaway.

Therefore, the presence in the Vienna Photobook Festival of such prestigious figures like William Klein, Bruce Davidson, Josef Koudelka, Michel Auer, Martin Parr, Olivia Arthur, Chien-Chi Chang, Hans Michael Koetzle, Carolyn Drake, Nikolay Bakharev, René Groebli, Michael Mack, Walter Bergmoser, Peter Sramek, Michael Mack, Ania Nalecka, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Magali Avezou, Gerry Badger, Krass Clement, Colin Pantall, Christina de Middel, Hannes Wanderer, David Campany, Thomas Bonfert, Stefan Olah, Leon Kirchlechner, Anastasia Koroshilova, Christoph Schaden, Michaela Bosákova, Horacio Fernández, Manfred Heiting, Michael Hagner, Corinne Noordenbos, Betien van Manen, Martin Kollar and many others, stems from very hard work and months of arrangements previous to each edition, which has made possible that interest for photobooks is growing geometrically as a very interesting, beautifully crafted and elaborately printed object to relish in your hands.

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Michael Kollmann is a real pundit on photobooks, knowing their history, as well as utterly grasping their significant role in contemporary visual culture and their legacy harking back to late XIX century when the autotype became a printmaking method pioneering the simultaneous printing of images and texts, without forgetting the great remarkable influence of Shinzo Fukuhara with his photobook Paris and the Seine (made in 1922 and featuring twenty-four unique black and white pictures resembling the impresionist painting, giving great importance to luminic gradations and the tones of light and dark they deliver as a means of expression) and the arrival of a paradigm shift during the 1960s with the new electronic printing technologies and masterpieces like the artist´s books of Ed Ruscha, Hans Peter Feldmann and others.

It all staying true to the unwavering keynote of photobook as a work in itself, a book in which pictures construct the narrative and respond to an original concept.

In addition, recent years have seen a period of great expansion for photobooks, which are currently placed in a central position in modern photography, to such an extent that today, more books are produced than ever, being bought and sold, swapped and collected, within the frame of a top level niche product.

It´s really fascinating that mostly thanks to digital technologies, we are seeing a return to the printed object, a format that for many artists and photographers is not only a useful means to show their images, but also a very adequate space for experimentation and creativity.

On the other hand, Michael Kollmann has always deemed that his mission as a photobook curator is to bestow this medium the acknowledgement it deserves as one of the most significant pillars in photography and an autonomus art form in itself.

This way, finding solutions for a timely presentation of photobooks in specific spaces intended for it becomes top priority, so he incepted and developed the " Publisher in Residence " project, through which a single publisher, photobook artist or photographer is offered the oppotunity to present his/her own repertoire of works for a period of three or four months, with the added advantage that a brand can show itself framed within an innovative drive in sales technology, as a further choice complementing the bookshops and using the new tools that have redefined the self-publishing ideas that emerged in the sixties, getting final products of unprecedented quality that can be highly efficiently displayed at both Westlicht and Ostlicht galleries, which also work as meeting places.

Michael Kollmann revelling in the viewing of different photobooks in one of the tables of the Vienna Photobook Festival 2015. © jmse
                                                                                                                                  
And among his vast array of valuable qualities stand out his unselfishness, his steady discreet hard work, his outstanding professionalism and his constant availability to help everybody at any moment (there have been a lot of examples of it throughout years, as happened on September 22nd, 2015 during the premiere of Elliott Erwitt´s Paris Exhibition at the Leica Gallery in Vienna, whose previously announced speaker was to be Erich Lessing, who finally couldn´t attend, so Okky Offerhaus, Elliott Erwit´s assistant during the first half of sixties, occupied his place and pronounced a speech on the Magnum photographer, while Michael Kollmann devoted himself to the task of selling as many copies as possible of Okky Offerhaus book EE & OO  " but a plastic rose is forever " along with Elliott Erwitt´s catalogue book, while the rest of attendees enjoyed the event ).

Furthermore, Michael Kollmann, a man able to elaborate on photobooks for hours, has made some forays as an editor with works like:

- Summer into Winter, a 20 x 25 cm format and 120 pages photobook telling a journey into the heart of Europe, looking back where he came from, the place where his ancestors had a home for more than 300 years, before the exodus which took millions of people to the great cities. The author was eight years working on this project, from 1992 to 2010.

- Ren Hang Poster Photobook, edited by Michael Kollmann and Calin Kruse. It features 96 pages in 28 x 40 cm format and 60 colour illustrations.

And if that weren´t enough, he is a great enthusiast and collector of photobooks and vintage magazines, having made a documentary film on Allan Porter´s mythical

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Camera Swiss photo magazine.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

domingo, 18 de febrero de 2018

U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, photographed by Lisl Steiner inside the U.N Building in New York on December 1, 1964


December 1, 1964 inside the great hall of the United Nations General Assembly, where its 19th session ( in which three new members — Malawi, Malta and Zambia — are going to be admitted as full members ) is about to begin.

In the rostrum, from left to right are sitting: U Thant (General-Secretary of the United Nations since November 30, 1961), Carlos Sosa-Rodríguez (President of the previous 18th Session of the General Assembly of United Nations, who will open the session) and C.V.Narasimhan (Chief of Cabinet of United Nations since 1961 and Vice General-Secretary of the organization).


The presidential table is already surrounded by professional photographers and movie camera operators huddling to get pictures of the sitting three men and the U.N ambassadors from different countries.


Alfred Eisenstaedt has already placed himself in the best feasible position to get pictures of U Thant (Secretary-General of the United Nations) who is looking at him smiling, while the author of ninety covers in Life illustrated magazine stays put and keeps a lookout for him, with two cameras hanging at mid height under his waist: a Leica M3E-1 (which was presented to him by Ernst Leitz III in 1960 and first prototype of the later Leica MP) coupled to a 8 elements in 6 groups Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 1st Version and a Leica M3 connected to a 5 elements in 3 groups and 12 blade diaphragm Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 original chromed version, designed by Walter Mandler at the Ernst Leitz Midland, Ontario, Canada factory.



Lisl Steiner, a photojournalist working for Keystone Press Agency, Life, Time Inc and O Cruzeiro is on far right of the image, turning the toothed focusing wheel of her black Nippon Kogaku S3 rangefinder camera with a Nikkor-P.C 8,5 cm f/2 (the reference-class lens in its focal length and luminosity at the time, delivering great image quality and which such as proved eleven years before during the Korean War by world-class photojournalists like David Douglas Duncan, Miki Jun, Horace Bristol, Carl Mydans, Margaret Bourke-White, Hank Walker and others, outperformed the excellent Carl Zeiss Jena 5 cm f/1.5 lens designed by Ludwig Bertele very slightly as to resolving power and clearly regarding contrast and sharpness, as well as boasting a top-notch simple coating, getting a superb printed quality in the photomechanics of the best illustrated publications from the original black and white negatives) just before laterally photographing U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations, who is sitting at a distance of roughly five meters from her, having chosen a horizontal framing in which both the face and shoulders of the Burmese dignitary appears inside the 24 x 36 mm Kodak Tri-X 400 b & w film.

The Austrian-American photographer is utterly focused on what she is doing during an instant before the photographic act, and the absence of a swivelling mirror in her Nikon S3 rangefinder camera enables her not to need any flash, being able to succesfully shoot handheld under available light and with no trepidation whatsoever, using the highly versatile Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white 24 x 36 mm format film.



On the other hand, the display of professional photographic and cinematographic cameras is truly impressive:


The camera operator being standing on far left of the image is filming with an Arriflex 16 ST from 1952, the first professional 16 mm cinematographic camera with a reflex viewing system and one of the best and most successful movie cameras ever made by the Munich based German firm.

A real workhorse featuring a 3-lens turret, it became the cinema industry standard for movie makers with 16 mm film throughout fifties and sixties.


The camera is fitted to a shoulder steady support to fully enhance the shooting stability,



while the other movie camera operator, placed very near him, is using a spring-wound Bell & Howell 70DR 16 mm motion picture camera with a 3-lens turret to allow for instant lens change and matching viewfinders, in addition to a speed selector between 8 and 64 frames per second.


On his turn, the most nearby photographer to Lisl Steiner has two Leica IIIF screwmount rangefinder cameras: one of them is coupled to a 50 mm f/2 Rigid Version 2 with which he is getting pictures, whereas the other one is linked to an 8 elements in 6 groups Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 1st Version.


The photographer located in the middle of the image (being standing just behind Carlos Sosa-Rodríguez, is using three cameras: a Nikon F with FTN finder (with which he is photographing) , a standard Nikon F with a Nikkor-P.C 105 mm f/2.5 hanging at the height of his chest, and just on its left (as seen in the image) there is a third camera: an M37 mount Asahiflex IIb Tower 24 ( manufactured betwen 1954 and 1956 ) coupled to an Asahi Kogaku 58 mm f/2.4 lens and with its waist level viewfinder folded.


The photographer wearing glasses and being just behind U Thant is using a Nikon F with Nikkor-S 55 mm f/1.2 lens.


And the photographer on far left of the image is using a Leica IIf LTM39 mount rangefinder camera with Leitz Summaron 28 mm f/5.6 in LTM39 mount and an external Leitz SLOOZ 28 mm finder.

Throughout sixties, seventies and eighties, vast majority of professional photographers often used two cameras (one for black and white film and a second one for colour emulsion) and even a third one (for colour slides) coupled to lenses featuring different focal lengths and maximum apertures, which is highly apparent in the image, in the same way as the noticeable significance bestowed upon churning out a slew of meaningful and historical images about the sessions and events inside the New York United Nations building designed by the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemayer.


José Manuel Serrano Esparza

domingo, 5 de noviembre de 2017

Lisl Steiner in Bratislava: Opening Day of " Portraits from Paradise " Picture Exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum



The premiere event of Lisl Steiner´s " Portraits from Paradise " Picture Exhibition featuring 20th Century black & white historical and defining images took place at the Austrian Cultural Forum located at Hodzovo Namestie 1/A in Bratislava (Slovakia) on November 3, 2017 at 17:00 h, and will be held until December 5, 2017.


Lisl Steiner in Bratislava (Slovakia). Throughout a career spanning 68 years as a professional photographer, this brave woman was a witness of many major worldwide developments of 20th Century, having got pictures of the relevant men and women who were their main driving forces, so her collection of images is currently a full-fledged trove for any enthusiast of Photojournalism History.


From left to right, three of the forty highly representative pictures made by Lisl Steiner:

- Senator Robert Kennedy inside the Carlyle Hotel in New York with some Irish children. 1967


- Times Square (New York). Woman mourning the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy on November 22, 1963.


Times Square (New York) on November 22, 1963, a few hours after being known that JFK had been slain in Dallas (Texas), which prompted the launching of a number of special editions by the most significant newspapers and illustrated magazines of the time. 


This gorgeous exhibition encompassing a painstakingly chosen assortment of 40 black and white images made by the Austrian-American photographer, photojournalist and documentary film maker between 1950 and early nineties of 20th Century had already raised high expectation since its very announcement some weeks before.



As a matter of fact, though the opening of the exhibition was slated to begin at 17:00 h in the afternoon, there were visitors from roughly 15:00 h watching Lisl Steiner´s vast array of pictures making it up.


Katarína Lesná (Public Relations and Marketing Officer of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Bratislava) and Wilhelm Pfeistlinger (Head of the Austrian Cultural Forum Bratislava) watching one of the photographs of Lisl Steiner´s " Portraits from Paradise " exhibition beside the Austrian-American acclaimed photojournalist.

Lisl Steiner delivering the welcoming speech to the abundant audience inside the Astoria Palace Rakúske Kultúrne Forum (Austrian Cultural Forum) at Hodzovo Namestie 1/A in Bratislava (Slovakia). Next to her is Branislav Stepanek, Curator of Lisl Steiner´s " Portraits from Paradise " Picture Exhibition.

And it truly came up to scratch.


Nobody was let down throughout this unforgettable opening day which became not only an exceedingly beckoning experience for lovers of black and white classical photography belonging to the halcyon days of the medium, but also a venue in which emotions skyrocketed when the more than 300 attendees ( a remarkable figure for an event like this held inside a relatively small location on a Friday evening) who crammed the facilities were quickly entranced by the fascinating personality, humbleness, experience, unique sense of humour and courage of this 90 year old woman who proved her mettle once and again during the second half of 20th century photographing many of the most important and powerful figures of politics, arts and sports shaping the world in that time, but simultaneously never letting success go to her head, in spite of having worked for many decades as a photojournalist for a number of internationally prestigious magazines, newspapers, and picture agencies like Life, The New York Times, Newsweek, Keystone Press Agency, Time, O Cruzeiro and others, as well as having published her portfolios in such top-notch illustrated publications like Leica World, Black + White Photography, LFI, etc.

Moreover, there was a substantial presence of recognized professional photographers, documentary filmmakers and personalities of the photograpy scope like Clemens Kneringer, Vivian Winther, Markus Oberndorfer, Ágnes Bihari, Meinrad Hofer, Robert Baldridge, Alexander Peter Schummel and others, in addition to the attendance of Helfried Carl (Austrian Ambassador to Slovakia).



The Curator and Project Manager Branislav Stepanek with Lisl Steiner, who came from New York (United States) to be present at the event.


Marcela Mokranova (officer at the Austrian Cultural Forum Bratislava) and Wilhelm Pfeistinger (Head of the Austrian Cultural Forum Bratislava) presenting Lisl Steiner to the scores of visitors having a penchant for true top-notch black and white photography on paper.


Wilhelm Pfeistinger (Head of the Austrian Cultural Forum Bratislava) during his introductory speech presenting Lisl Steiner.


Marcela Mokranova (officer at the Austrian Cultural Forum Bratislava) during her introductory speech presenting Lisl Steiner.


Lisl Steiner strolling while watching some of her pictures a few minutes before the opening of " Portraits from Paradise " exhibition at the facilities of the Austrian Cultural Forum in Bratislava (Slovakia).


Lisl Steiner walks past a picture of United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger she made within the U.N building in New York in 1975.


                                                 André Kertész inside the International Center of Photography in New York. 1980


Lisl Steiner talking to Helfried Carl (Austrian Ambassador to Slovakia) while there´s being a bursting into applause after having unravelled some of her photographs to a group of relishing visitors.


Three further pictures made by Lisl Steiner. From left to right:

- Norman Mailer and his mother at Miami Airport. 1968


- The terrible image of Julia Friedmann, " Mother Goose ", Robert Capa´s mother, visiting his son´s grave for the last time at Amawalk Cemetery (New York). 1961.


Julia Friedmann, the all passion and huge working capacity woman, who cooked by the piece —specially Krautfleckerln in Hungarian Káposztás tésztastyle — from 1937 in the brownstone of West-eighty ninth Street of New York, where she lived with Cornell Capa (who worked as a printer at the laboratory of Pix Agency, founded in Manhattan in 1936 by Leon Daniel, Celia Kutschuk, Alfred Eisenstaedt and George Karger and would quickly become a Life magazine darkroom expert, and after working in the photo intelligence unit of the U.S Air Force during the Second World War, turned into a Life staff photographer in 1946) and his wife Edie, preparing meals not only for them but also for many future great pros then still fledging photographers beginning their careers like Ralph Morse (who went to see Mother Goose, Cornell and Edie after finishing his photography classes in the City College of New York) , Eileen Darby (who worked in Pix laboratory in the same way as Cornell Capa and subsequently founded her own agency Graphic House in 1941)), Yale Joel, Phil Schultz and others (including Ruth Orkin from 1943), is now perceives the proximity of death and sits by the grave of her son Robert Capa, doing it in such a way that she can´t see the inscription with his name on the stone slab, because she can´t stand the sorrow.


Julianna Henrietta Berkovits is 73 years old. She is visibly aged and very worn out by suffering. The great health, strength and stamina she always featured have significantly waned, and the warmhearted and beloved Mother Goose is almost without energy to go on living. The death of his beloved son Robert Capa seven years before shattered her.


She is immersed in her own thoughts, with an almost lifeless gaze, and it is at this moment when Lisl Steiner, the woman who has accompanied her to the Amawalk cemetery, gets her last picture.


A few seconds later, a terrible and heart-rending scene happens when suddenly Robert Capa´s mother bursts into tears and throws herself on the grave of his son, yelling: Bob, Bob, Why are you here? !


- B.B King sitting in bed. 1968



Scads of visitors paid heed to Lisl Steiner´s explanations about her photographs. The American-Austrian photographer does remember with awesome accuracy every detail of the appearing people, year and moment in which she got each picture.


Three more well-known images made by Lisl Steiner.

From left to right:


- Duke Ellington during his concert at the Madison Square Garden of New York in 1960.


- Carmen Amaya, Goddess of Flamenco Dance, during her legendary performance in the Village Gate Club of New York (located at the corner of Thompson and Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village) in 1962, one year before her death.


Lisl Steiner got this great picture shooting from a very near distance to the stage, and remembers the breathtaking speed, accuracy and coordination of movements, along with the tremendous strength and fury she displayed (to such an extent she was defined as ´A Human Vesuvius´ by Walter Terry, dance expert of the New York Herald Tribune), it all combined with phases in which she resembled a hummingbird when moving her arms.


The queen of tablaos achieved among others huge international successes like her also mythical performances at the Carnegie Hall of New York in 1941 (being invited by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to a party in the White House a few days later), the London Princess Theatre in 1948 and at the Westminster Theatre of London in 1959.


Shortly after her first appearances in New York in 1941 hired by the Newcomber Manhattan Night Club (where she attained a colossal success throughout three months, with sold out flamenco shows every day, raising the audiences from their seats and earning 82,000 dollars a week with her Flamenco Troupe of Gypsy Dancers and Musicians) she had already been featured by Life magazine with a great reportage on her inside its number of March 10, 1941 with wonderful pictures made by Gjon Mili, who also captured masterfully the unutterable tremendous passion and fire displayed by Carmen Amaya, a woman who could dance flamenco inside her mother´s womb before being born on November 2nd, 1913.


- Pete Seeger singing with children. 1968



On construing her images oozing meaningful captured instants and depiction of very special atmospheres of those times to the attendees to this unforgettable exhibition, the American-Austrian photographer placed them in context, making them think about the pictures and the fleeting split seconds turned into everlasting defining moments with her Leica rangefinder cameras.


                                                                                                           Oscar Niemayer in Brasilia. 1957


Girl in an asylum for insane patients in Buenos Aires (Argentina). 1956. During fifties, Lisl Steiner was one of the pioneering photojournalists making picture essays with 24 x 36 mm format cameras inside mental hospitals, along with Alfred Eisenstaedt´s reportage within the Pilgrim State Psychiatric Hospital in Long Island (New York) in 1938 for Life, Esther Bubley´s photo essay on mental illnesses for Ladies Home Journal in 1949, Eve Arnold´s work in loony bins of Haiti in 1954 and Eugene Smith´s Madness Project also in Haiti in 1958 and 1959.

Already then, the  " I know that inside the sylum you didn´t live, you survived " staple keynote set forth by Alex Majoli thirty-eight years later in 1994 while fulfilling his Leros island reportage, prevailed.



The 90 year old photographer was very active inside the Austrian Cultural Forum gallery during the whole opening day of her " Portraits from Paradise " exhibition, answering every question asked by the plenty of lovers of black and white photography who steadily huddled beside her and revelled in the manifold anecdotes, experiences and stories related with the pictures that Lisl Steiner told them with lavish description.


Aside from her photographic essays and portraits regarding important personalities of politics, arts and sport sphere along with the events in which they performed the main roles, Lisl Steiner also excelled at the genre of social, ethnographic and documentary reportage, as proved by these three pictures in which he managed to go unnoticed while creating the images:

- Yanomami tribe boy smoking in the Amazonian jungle. Manaos (Brazil). 1960


- Hasidic Jew boy in Brooklyn, New York. 1964


- Boy in sportswear with football boots. New York, 1973.



Eleven years old Fidelito, Fidel Castro´s son, inside a classroom at the Havana Military School. 1961.

The photojournalist made a wise use of the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 DR lens attached to her Leica M3 rangefinder camera to get the picture from a near distance, getting advantage of the true short tele nature of the standard highly luminous lens to create a commendable image in which she has managed to go unnoticed, in spite of the great proximity to the subject, who has been photographed engrossed in his thoughts and with very natural proportions lacking distortion.


This is a remarkable image also revealing that Fidelito — in the same way as his father — is a left-handed person, and very significant in terms of the meaningful instant captured, because it is a quite frontal shot in which the lens is aiming at the boy in an almost utterly perpendicular way, with a second classmate in the background rendered slightly out of focus to highlight the Cuban leader´s offspring.


It´s a very similar shooting angle to the one existing in the photograph of a Japanese boy (with a girl on his right) within a Kyoto school classroom writing with a pencil on a paper sheet while looking at the blackboard (out of image) made by Werner Bischof ten years before with his 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 (6 x 6 cm) Rolleiflex Automax X Model K4/50 TLR medium format camera and its Zeiss Tessar 75 mm f/3.5 lens.



Inevitably, a question arises: Why Lisl Steiner´s pictures bring about such unutterable high levels of collective enthusiasm and interest, often dumbfounding the observers and getting them hearkened to her explanations ?

That´s not an easy question to answer, but there are a number of key factors making possible to properly grasp the weightiness of these images:


a) They are photographs in which the technical excellence of the images in terms of sharpness, contrast, direction and quality of light, etc, play second fiddle, the main goal being to capture exceedingly meaningful instants conveying messages, special moods and atmospheres of the moments or unveiling the main personality traits of the photographed human beings.


On the other hand, these were times in which most photographers calculated the proper exposure through estimation, without any light meter.


b) To get the picture is by far the most important thing, to such an extent that being at the adequate place at the suitable instant becomes the cornerstone of a kind of photography in which the maximum feasible proximity to the subject is also fundamental, along with the ability of the photojournalist to spawn a rapport with the photographed people.


c) To constantly strive after going unnoticed, since discretion is essential to be able to create this type of pictures getting the subjects unaware, with respect and without disturbing them any way.


It is the dream of every full-fledged photojournalist: to become invisible just at the moment in which he or she is getting a good picture.


And this concept is powerfully reinforced by the whispering almost imperceptible noise of the rubberized cloth shutter release curtains of Leica M rangefinder cameras, together with the brightline frames for different focal lenses projected through metallic masks enabling to see what is happening outside their limits in the moment of getting the pictures.


d) Lisl Steiner made a very high percentage of her photographs with 24 x 36 mm format analog Leica rangefinder cameras (Leica M2, Leica M3, Leica M5, Leica M6 and Leica M7) lacking swivelling mirror, enabling the photographer to shoot handheld with available light at much slower shutter speeds (sometimes even at 1/8 s and 1/4 s without almost any trepidation) than with a single lens reflex camera, with the added bonus of an incredibly short shutter lag (ranging between 10 ms and 12 ms for the M2, M3 and M6, the models most used by the Austro-American photographer and far better in this regard than the cream of the crop of current professional full frame dslr cameras like the Nikon D850, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, Canon EOS 5DS, Pentax K-1 and Sony A7RII) resulting in an almost non existent delay between the pressing of the shutter release button and the creation of the image.


e) Lisl Steiner´s images on paper exude the mythical Leica hallmark aesthetic appearance of the photojournalism heyday: in many of them the focus is not absolutely 100% accurate, grain is visible but it doesn´t matter at all, particularly as to the all-around performer Kodak Tri-X 400 (the main black and white film used by Lisl Steiner), a chemical emulsion whose impressive versatility, great exposure latitude and oustanding acutance makes possible to the observers, many decades after the images were created, to enjoy wonderful levels of sharpness visual perception.


f) The non aspherical Leica M lenses used by Lisl Steiner (Summicron DR 50 mm f/2, Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 Version 3, Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 First Version SAWOM, Super Angulon-M 21 mm f/3.4 and Tele-Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8 with scalloped focusing ring) don´t deliver stratopsheric levels of resolution and contrast typical in the modern aspherical Leica M lenses, but boasted awesome mechanical construction as well as rendering second to none image quality in their time and above all great character and distinctive image appearance, particularly Walter Mandler´s 35 mm wideangle and 90 mm compact tele lens designs conceived in Midland, Ontario (Canada) and optimized for photojournalism as well as yielding superb bokeh in the out of focus areas, often attained through the intentional preservation of some specific optical aberrations.


g) The accuracy of the timing when pressing the shutter release button of the camera is a further pivotal factor to get good photojournalistic pictures, and it is pretty apparent in many of Lisl Steiner´s images, captured with a shooting quickness and precision conceptually linked to Dennis Stock´s tenet " The photographic decision, like the jazz decision, must be instantaneous ".



From left to right:

- Shoeshine boys in Copacabana beach, Rio do Janeiro (Brazil). 1957. They had no childhood and Lisl was with their mothers, who lived in favelas and were prostitutes. Image belonging to her Children of the Americas Project.   


- Girl in the dining wagon of a train. Brazil. 1968. This is the second picture of this girl made by Lisl Steiner going unnoticed from a very near distance with her Leica M2 and a Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 First Version Sawom. In the second one, the girl was photographed with the five fingers of her right hand stretched and three standing people in the background.


- Bathing Child in Pound Ridge (New York). 1970



Franz Beckenbauer signing an autograph on a ball to a young fan in the locker-room of Cosmos New York Soccer Club. 1977


Lisl Steiner is congratulated and supported by one of the attendees to the exhibition. In the background can be seen other two pictures made by her:

- The pianist Friedrich Gulda in Buenos Aires. 1949


- The British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham at the piano. 1963



Fidel Castro at his uncle´s home in Buenos Aires.

Picture made by Lisl Steiner on May 2, 1959. It is an exceedingly interesting double exposure in whose center can be seen Fidel Castro standing beside his uncle Gonzalo Castro Argil — brother of his father Angel María Bautista Castro Argil — just after having had lunch inside the house located at the Street Cabello 3589 where the 79 year old man has lived in Buenos Aires since 1913.


The day before, Fidel Castro had promised his uncle Gonzalo to have lunch at his home, on the condition of being offered a caldo gallego.


The Cuban revolutionary leader kept his word and went to this house located in the Palermo neighbourhood of the Argentinian capital to have lunch on Saturday May 2, 1959, after delivering his speech at the modern building of the Secretary of Commerce where he explained his planning of economical development for Latin America, focused on a financial boost of 30,000 million dollars in a ten years period.


Lisl Steiner had previously taken a picture of people standing outside this house, and subsequently went into it to cover the meeting of Fidel Castro with his uncle, but after taking out the Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white 35 mm film from her Leica rangefinder camera, she inadvertently put it inside it back again, so a double exposure happened and in the image there are people from the previous picture she got in front of the house and other people who had just had lunch inside Gonzalo Castro´s home.


Though this image was created unintentionally, exposing the same 35 mm film roll twice in this frame, it is a riveting picture.




Lisl Steiner´s " Portraits from Paradise " picture exhibition at the Austrian Cultural Forum in Bratislava (Slovakia) has proved that the photographer´s eye and sight along with his/her gleaned experience, intuition and emotional connection with the subjects are the most important aspects when it comes to getting good pictures.

Not in vain, her images belong to a golden era of photojournalism in which cameras didn´t feature autofocus or a host of technologically advanced electronic and automatic functions whatsoever.


But in spite of it, the photojournalists managed once and again to create a very high percentage of the best and most iconic images ever made in the whole History of Photography.


Suffice it to say that two years before his death, Alfred Eisenstaedt (one of the greatest photojournalists ever, who got 90 covers in Life magazine and was friend of Lisl Steiner, who photographed him a lot of times) made the Clinton family portraits at the Granary Gallery in West Tisbury on Martha´s Vineyard (Massachussets) in 1993 with a LTM39 Leica IIIa rangefinder camera lacking any electronic device and coupled to a manual focusing Leitz Summitar 5 cm f/2 Number, using only one 35 mm format roll film.


Whatever it may be, this event has gone far beyond the photographic realm, reaching a remarkable human dimension in which the gist has been the sincere appreciation and love given to Lisl Steiner by the great numbers of people who came to watch this unique image display epitomizing the reference-class haptic experience of black and white true photography on paper and thanked her effort to be present during this opening day.


Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza