Alfred Ehrhardt & Rolf Tietgens: The Port of Hamburg and the Northern Coast of Germany

Alfred Ehrhardt & Rolf Tietgens: The Port of Hamburg and the Northern Coast of Germany

MonoVisions Black & White Photo Contest 2024

Rolf Tietgens (1911–84) is regarded one of the most important photographers of the 1930s, but only a handful of people in Germany are familiar with his oeuvre. His work fell into obscurity after he emigrated to New York at the end of 1938, threatened with persecution as a homosexual artist in Germany. Since he never returned to his homeland, his body of work remained forgotten for quite some time. Today his book Der Hafen (The Port), published by the renowned Heinrich Ellermann Verlag in 1939 to mark the 750th anniversary celebrations of the port of Hamburg, has to be considered one of the preeminent photo books of the 1930s. It can be regarded as the most sophisticated elaboration of this subject matter in the history of German photography.

Tietgens confidently employs the vocabulary of Neues Sehen to lend his images a symbolic dimension with a personal touch. The port appears as a multifaceted, archaic setting where humans have impacted and defined the transition from water to land. Shipping traffic and the associated technical processes are only one part of a complex organism encompassing the spheres of architecture and work as well as those of commerce and nighttime entertainment. In an unpublished promotional text, Rolf Tietgens described his aesthetic concept as follows: “We sought to capture aspects of the port’s fluctuating appearance, whose overall impression nevertheless remains the same, and to link these with other captured moments. The result is a book of images that can perhaps convey what PORT means; moreover, it seeks to depict the life and unique spirit of the port of Hamburg.”

Since both the original prints and negatives from Tietgen’s port book are lost, the images are presented based on the book’s original concept of carefully composed double-page spreads. Also featured are original prints of the northern German coast and banks of the Elbe, where the interplay of light, shadow, sky, water, and sand offered up photographically appealing motifs.

Alfred Ehrhardt’s (1901–84) singular images of the port of Hamburg are also being presented for the first time in this two-person exhibition. Ehrhardt’s photographs from the 1930s are more objective. The port is depicted here less as a metaphorical space, and more as a dynamic setting of the industrial age, which gave rise to a specific maritime technology. To a certain extent, Ehrhardt creates a kind of inventory of its elements, documenting various types of ships, loading bridges, cranes as well as characteristic details such as ship propellers and anchor chains. He managed to create particularly striking photographs of the seasonal forces of nature where these exert a visible impact on harbor operations, including when boats have to make their way through the ice. Evident in these images is Ehrhardt’s fondness for motifs that cemented his status as a nature photographer.

Photographers have always been drawn to the poetry of the port and its immense variety of ever-changing impressions. Beyond the documentary value of both photographers’ images, the timeless poetry of the maritime world can be experienced in their work. Their thematic overlaps and the photographs themselves, which are equally devoted to the visual rhetoric of avant-garde photography, have prompted contemporary critics to recognize the Hamburg photographers Alfred Ehrhardt and Rolf Tietgens as peers.

Curated by Prof. Dr. Eckhardt Köhn

Alfred Ehrhardt & Rolf Tietgens
The Port of Hamburg and the Northern Coast of Germany
13 April 2024 – 7 July 2024

Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung
Auguststr. 75
10117 Berlin, GERMANY
https://www.aestiftung.de

Alfred Ehrhardt, Hamburger Hafen, 1930er Jahre, Silbergelatinepapier, 49 x 32,5 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Hamburger Hafen, 1930er Jahre, Silbergelatinepapier, 49 x 32,5 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Am Hamburger Hafen, 1930/40er Jahre, Modern Print 2024 vom 6 x 6 cm Negativ © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Am Hamburger Hafen, 1930/40er Jahre, Modern Print 2024 vom 6 x 6 cm Negativ © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Segelschulschiff der Kriegsmarine „Horst Wessel“, Hamburg, 1936, Silbergelatinepapier, 24,0 x 15,8 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Segelschulschiff der Kriegsmarine „Horst Wessel“, Hamburg, 1936, Silbergelatinepapier, 24,0 x 15,8 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Spiegelung im Fleet, Hamburg, 1930/40er Jahre, Silbergelatinepapier, 23,7 x 17,3 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Spiegelung im Fleet, Hamburg, 1930/40er Jahre, Silbergelatinepapier, 23,7 x 17,3 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Blick vom Turm der Katharinenkirche auf den Zollkanal im Hamburger Hafen, 1928, Silbergelatinepapier, 12,8 x 15,0 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Alfred Ehrhardt, Blick vom Turm der Katharinenkirche auf den Zollkanal im Hamburger Hafen, 1928, Silbergelatinepapier, 12,8 x 15,0 cm © Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung

Rolf Tietgens, Schiffs-Steven, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Schiffs-Steven, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Bug der "Patria", aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Bug der “Patria”, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Schraube und Steuerruder eines Dampfers, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Schraube und Steuerruder eines Dampfers, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Takelage eines Australienseglers (Petersenkai), aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Takelage eines Australienseglers (Petersenkai), aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Fischmarkt Altona am Sonntagmorgen, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens

Rolf Tietgens, Fischmarkt Altona am Sonntagmorgen, aus: „Der Hafen“, Rolf Tietgens, Heinrich Ellermann Verlag Hamburg, 1939 © Rolf Tietgens


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