Light and Shadow: Dr. Paul Wolff & Tritschler

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A new book marks the rediscovery of the work of two of the most famous German photographers of the 1930s

Light and Shadow is the first comprehensive retrospective of the work of Dr. Paul Wolff and Alfred Tritschler. Tracing their photographs from 1920 to 1950, the book explores Wolff and Tritschler’s roles as pioneers of the Leica, as forerunners of illustrative photography, and as creators of an extensive archive of work that documents several chapters of German history.

Wolff and Tritschler are known for photographing the years of the Weimar Republic – Germany’s government from 1919 to 1933 – through to the rise of Nazi Germany, and in the devastation of the Second World War. Encompassing around 70,000 images, their work has established them as the two most significant photographers of this period in German history. Light and Shadow features 1,000 of their photographs shot during this time, and in the years following the war.

Although now considered pioneers of the artform, the pair did not approach photography in a way that was typical of the time. Wolff formally studied medicine and became a physician in Strasbourg, but when his practice was restricted by the French controlling the area after the first world war he turned to photography, and established the publishing firm Wolff & Tritschler with Alfred Tritschler. In 1926, he won a Leica camera at the Frankfurt Photography Exhibition, which he then used to illustrate several books with Tritschler, each popularizing new techniques using the small-format camera.

Light and Shadow, as the name suggests, draws on the contradictions that characterizes the pair’s work. The images span industrial reportage, news coverage, advertising campaigns and films. Among them are snapshots of the 1936 Olympics, a colour photograph of the after effects of the war, and portraits taken in the early 1930s. Beyond the photographs, the book acknowledges Wolff and Tritscher as businessmen and their extensive artistic skill.

Dr Paul Wolff & Tritschler: Light and Shadow – Photographs 1920 to 1950 is published by Kehrer Verlag, and is out on the 28 June 2019, alongside an exhibition of the work at Ernst Leitz Museum, Wetzlar, Germany.