Masters of Photography: Lothar Wolleh

Hello Photoion students and photography fans, today we have another instalment of our Masters of Photography series for you today.

This series looks at some of the most influential photographers of the last hundred years and examines their life and work.

Today we’re looking at the work of Lothar Wolleh.

Wolleh is a German photographer best known for his portraiture work – capturing portraits of more than 100 artists. Most famously, he captured images of the artist, René Magritte.

(c) Lothar Wolleh

Wolleh was born in Germany during the Second World War, and much of his early life was shaped by conflict. Wolleh spent much of his twenties in a Soviet labour camp in Siberia, after having been accused of being a spy.

Much of Wolleh’s work was black and white and the majority of his images were square, an uncommon format with which Wolleh experimented with to create a distinct and interesting style.

(c) Lothar Wolleh

(c) Lothar Wolleh

Wolleh used composition and framing to make his subjects appear larger than life. This was often achieved by framing his image to have two parallel lines running from the bottom corners of the image out into the distance. This effect gave the impression of great depth in many of Wolleh’s images, making the back of the image look like it was a great distance from the camera.

Wolleh would often place his subject starkly in the centre of the image so that they cut through this elongating effect and the result often made the subject appear smaller than they were.

(c) Lothar Wolleh

(c) Lothar Wolleh

In the later part of his life, Wolleh began working on the series of photographs for which he is perhaps best known for. He captured portraits of more than 100 well known painters. This collection of images was a varied in composition and tone as could be – with some of the images depicting the artists in their work environments as naturally as possible – sitting at their desks or standing among their paintings. But other pictures in this collection see the subject more staged and less personal. One of Wolleh’s images of René Magritte, for example, sees the artist stood next to a window, almost completely silhouetted black against the light.

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