Thursday, April 16, 2015

IN MEMORY OF MY FATHER, MASTER PHOTOGRAPHER HEINRICH RICHTER



I have written on several occasions that I received my first Leica, a model II with 50mm f/2 Summar for my 5th birthday from my father.  That was only the beginning.  Over the following years I learned many of my photography skills from him.  He was a Forografenmeister (Master Photographer), and it was through his influence and teaching that I set out on a career as a professional photographer myself.  To this day I am still influenced by what I learned from him.  Even this blog most likely would not have materialized without him.

 
Heinrich Richter
Photograph by daughter Marlies Amling


Thus I hope the readers of this blog will allow me this moment of personal reflections.

My father always encouraged me to take pictures, to experiment, to find my own way.  For that reason he gave me that Leica.  This used to be his personal camera and some of the photographs in this article were taken with that camera.

He attended the Hamburg School of Photography.  After graduating he worked as an apprentice with several different photographers and finally earned his degree of Fotografenmeiser (master photographer).

 
St. Pauli Landungsbrücken Subway Station in Hamburg

 


 Hamburg Harbor

Throughout his career, he never specialized, instead his work ranged from portraits and weddings, via architectural work to product photography.  That is something I am quite thankful for because it allowed me to do the same in my own life.

Unfortunately, cancer took him from us much too early.  I frequently reflect on the fact that I am now a couple of years older than he was when he died, and on all the conversations we could have had, had he only lived longer.

 

 
Two photographs that my father took of me

My sister followed his footsteps also.  She is now a very successful photographer in Germany.  We often talk about what could have been.  For instance, our dad was an incredibly skillful retoucher.  It still amazes me what he was able to do with a brush and some retouching colors.  We will never know what he would have thought of Photoshop, but we are convinced he would have taken to it quite readily.  As a matter of fact, I am sure he would have readily embraced digital photography as well, but I am also convinced that he would have missed the skills that used to be necessary to be a successful professional photographer before the digital age.

 
Photograph of my mother
from a paper negative



I have several of his cameras in my own camera collection.  Just the other day I marveled once again at his Plaubel Peco Universal view camera and it occurred to me that the majority of photographers today probably have no clue how to operate such a piece of equipment.  Digital photography, combined with computers and software programs like Photoshop have virtually eliminated the need for such camera equipment.  Yet I am very thankful that I still learned to use cameras like it, as well as most of the other, “old” skills that were necessary to succeed in the field of professional photography.  For that I am forever thankful, dad.

Suburbian Hamburg

Rothenbaumchaussee, Hamburg

 
Boltergasse, Barntrup, Germany
I helped my father to take this photograph in my hometown


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11 comments:

  1. Were all the pictures taken with Leica cameras?

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    Replies
    1. I am sure they were not. Besides Leica cameras, my dad also used medium format and large format cameras. However, I am quite sure that the picture of the little boy climbing the steps and the one with the broken doll were taken with Leica cameras, most likely the Leica III that my dad gave me for my fifth birthday. By the way, the little boy is me.
      The picture below the one with the broken doll is of my mother. It was taken with a 6x9 cm (4x5 inch) camera using a paper negative. At the time, film material was quite scarce and my dad often used single weight photographic paper to make paper negatives instead.

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  2. Where was your father's business located?

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    Replies
    1. Foto Richter
      Bahnhofstraße 6
      Barntrup
      Germany

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    2. Never heard of Barntrup. Where in Germany is it?

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    3. Barntrup is 150 miles south of Hamburg, or 50 miles south west of Hanover, or. to be more specific, it is about half way between Detmold and Hameln (Hamelin), or half way between Lemgo and Hameln.

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  3. You mentioned your father using paper negatives. Don't enlargements show the texture of the paper?

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    Replies
    1. Yes, they would if the paper had a course texture. However, the paper my dad used had a very fine texture which did not show up even when enlarged. The photograph of my mother in this article was scanned from an 11x14 inch enlargement which was made from a 4x5 inch paper negative.

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  4. Your father was indeed a master photographer. You are lucky to have learned from him

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  5. It looks like a paradox but, in my opinion, photographers of today should go back to masterpieces of “old” photography like these, to learn a lot and especially to find a new, stronger motivation and enthusiasm for the practice of this great art.

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    Replies
    1. I totally agree. One part of my photography involves taking photographs of models. Most photographers use the same approach to gain a "modern Look", and by doing so create a certain sameness in all the photographs. To set my work apart, I have for a long time emulated the hard lighting as used by Hurrell, for instance, in his still photographs of movie stars from the 20s, 30s and 40s. Similarly, I use often the posing and lighting of masters like Yousuf Karsh, for instance, for my portrait work. I have been quite successful with that. It definitely sets my work apart.

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