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The Bieber Family
A study in studio dating

Three generations of photographers from the family Bieber worked in the German cities of Hamburg and Berlin from 1852 until 1933.
In 1852, Ms. Emilie Bieber (1810 - 1884) opened a daguerreotype atelier in Hamburg. It was among the earliest daguerreotype business in the city. The business nearly failed and was almost sold, but with the advise of friends the atelier was relocated to 26 Gross Backerstrasse an area of the city known for its bakeries and it thrived. Emilie Bieber operated a successful portrait atelier which specialized in hand-coloring.
Prince Friedrich of Prussia honored the Bieber Portrait Atelier by selecting it as the official "Hofphotograph" to serve the royal family.
In 1872, Emilie Bieber introduced her nephew, Professor Leonard Berlin (1841-1931), to the business and he became her successor. Under the name Berlin-Bieber he became a yard photographer for several of the kings palaces; making portraits of the royal household, princes and dukes. By 1855, Bieber photography studio gained world fame. Kaiser Wilhelm II‘s household utilized the studio for their personal portraits.
A cholera epidemic attributed to immigrant sojourners broke out in Hamburg in 1892, where over 8600 people died. The economic impact caused by the cholera epidemic upon the city of Hamburg was major. Merchants took their losses and were not quick to recover. Professor Berlin-Bieber relocated his family and business to Berlin in 1892. August "Emil" Julius Bieber (1878-1963) became a partner in the business, and was appointed the head of the Hamburg Atelier in 1902. The combined Hamburg and Berlin ateliers employed more than forty workers in 1902.
Professor Berlin-Bieber operated the Berlin Portrait Atelier located at Leipzigerstrasse 124-128 until the end of World War I. The atelier was sold to a group of Berlin citizens following World War I.
Emil Bieber‘s Hamburg Portrait Atelier remained prominent, attracting the famous and not so famous to its two locations, Neuer Jungfernstieg 20 and Alter Jungfernstieg 8 & 9. The business celebrated a 75 year anniversary in 1927 concentrating upon portrait and advertising photography.
In 1933, Emil Bieber and his family emigrated to Cape Town, South Africa and opened a portrait studio there. The Biebers were Jewish and the rise of Nazism forced many families to flee Germany. During the 1950‘s, Emil Bieber returned twice to Hamburg to visit friends. On one of these visits he arranged to donate his photographic archives to a library in Hamburg. It is unknown whether these archives still exist in Hamburg. Emil Bieber died in 1963, bringing an end to the lineage of family photographers.
A recent exhibition at Altonaer Museum in Hamburg featured the photographs of Jewish exile Hamburg photographers, Emil Bieber, Max Halberstadt, Erich Kastan, and Kurt Schallenburg. The exhibit was titled: "Verdrangt, Vertrieben, aber nicht Vergessen" (Displaced, driven out, but not forgotten). The exhibition was organized from the collection of author, Wilfried Weinke and others, a catalog in German text was written by Weinke to accompany the exhibit.
T. Max Hochstetler (September 2006)
Understanding the significance of this exhibition
The exhibition examines in detail the chronology of German Bieber family with their photographic studios in Hamburg and Berlin from late nineteenth into the first decade of the twentieth century. The backs of the carte de visite and cabinet cards included here provide examples of the many clues that assist in dating photographs. The key elements are:
  • Studio names
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Names of photographers
  • Engravings of medals won at competitions along with their dates
  • Studio blind stamps
  • Typographical changes and font styles
  • Date of a theatrical performance or other event
  • Fashions worn by the sitters
  • Artifacts in the photographs (for example medals worn by the sitter)
  • Inscriptions
  • The approximate age of the sitter
  • Type of photograph - the popularity of different styles varies over time.
The studios and names in the Bieber family are:
  • Emilie Bieber in Hamburg
  • Emilie Bieber & Professor Leonard Berlin Bieber in Hamburg
  • Leonard Berlin Bieber in W. Berlin
  • Leonard Berlin & Emil Bieber in W. Berlin
  • Emil Bieber in Hamburg & W. Berlin
Alan Griffiths (July 2007) 



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