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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Alfred Ehrhardt

Dates:  1901, 5 March - 1984, 28 May
Born:  Germany, Thuringia, Triptis
Died:  Germany, Hamburg
Active:  Germany / Portugal
German artist, photographer and documentary filmmaker - his landscape photographs are deeply spiritual. He also explored micro and macro photography of natural forms.
Alfred Ehrhardt (1901-1984) was church organist and choir leader, composer, painter and art teacher before he became photographer. After studies at the Bauhaus Dessau in 1928/29, where he visited the class of Josef Albers and assisted to Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Schlemmer, he established the first so called “Vorkurs” for material studies outside the Bauhaus at the Academy of Fine Arts in Hamburg.
Being too modern for the National Socialists, he was dismissed in 1933. Thus he discovered that he could continue his artistic research without getting in trouble with the German Nazi-regime by using a camera. With the publication of his photographs in more than twenty photo books and many journals he is supposed to be one of the most successful photographs of the former Bauhaus. For his more than fifty cultural and documentary films that he mainly produced after World War II he won four of the best reputed German “Bundesfilmpreise” and several international prices.
Alfred Ehrhardt’s photographs are mainly pictures of nature. He was interested in the abstract patterns in the sand of the North Sea and in the Dunes of the Kurische Nehrung in former Eastern Prussia, he photographed crystals, shells, corals and swamps. With the microphotography he entered a cosmos remaining invisible for the human eye. Further he specialised into photography and film about medieval sculpture and historical architecture.
With his straight and abstract style, his severe compositions and his view at the serial rhythm of the structures of nature, Ehrhardt combined the two main avant-garde movements of the twenties in photography: the New Objectivity and the New Vision. Like many other photographs of his time he was mainly influenced by Karl Blossfeldt and Albert Renger-Patzsch. But his style which is very much related to the tradition of natural philosophy in German Modern Art is not sufficiently explained by photo historic analysis. His earlier studies before 1933 of abstraction, the original form, archaic patterns and the characteristic of material, or, related to his background as a musician, to rhythm and dynamics, brought him to a very specific and independent style that is unique within the German Photography of the 30s. The metaphysical dimension of his photographs testifying a religiously motivated sight on nature was an outlet more of modern painting than of modern photography.
Courtesy of Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung
Auguststr. 75, 10117 Berlin, Germany

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Unidentified photographer
Alfred Ehrhardt 
1940 (ca)
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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website

Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Coke, Van Deren with Diana C. Du Pont 1986 Photography: A Facet of Modernism (New York: Hudson Hills Press, The San Francisco Museum of Art) p.172 
• Fernandez, Horacio (ed.) 2000 Fotografía Pública: Photography in Print 1919-1939 (Aldeasa) p.90 [This Spanish exhibition catalogue is one of the best sources for illustrations of photomontage and book design for the period between the two World Wars.] 
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