A prolific artist whose career spanned over 45 years, Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897–1966) was a leading pioneer of photography and of New Objectivity. Creating a new photographic realism characterised by extreme simplicity and originality, the German image-maker lead a revolution in seeing that remains influential today.
Now a new retrospective at the Jeu de Paume, Paris, is celebrating his legacy by showing 154 photographs taken from the breadth of his career. Many were shot in the 1920s and 30s, or are rooted in his work from that time, and reflect an era in which industry was thriving and technology becoming widespread.
“To do justice to modern technology’s rigid linear structure, to the lofty gridwork of cranes and bridges, to the dynamism of machines operating at one thousand horsepower – only photography can do that,” he wrote in an essay featured in Das Deutsche Lichtbild [The German Photograph] in 1927. “…The absolutely correct rendering of form, the subtlety of tonal gradation from the brightest light to the darkest shadow, impart to a technically expert photograph the magic of experience.”
But Renger-Patzsch was also a talented nature photographer, writing a book in 1923 called Pflanzenaufnahmen [Plant photographs] outlining his views on shooting the natural world, and the importance of formality, structure and neutrality when doing so. Later, in 1928’s Die Welt ist Schön [The World is Beautiful] – a book he originally wanted to title Die Dinge [Things] – he explored photography’s capacity to capture immanent substance of an object or subject.
Things is on show at Jeu de Paume, Paris until 21 January 2017. The curator, Sérgio Mah, will give a tour of the exhibition on Tuesday 28 November at 6pm www.jeudepaume.org