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Photo artist Erwin Quedenfeldt - pioneer of the photograph

"Erwin Quedenfeldt is Düsseldorf's first internationally renowned photographer.

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Photo artist Erwin Quedenfeldt - pioneer of the photograph

"Erwin Quedenfeldt is Düsseldorf's first internationally renowned photographer." With this statement, the detailed biography that has just been published about the photo artist, as he called himself, is astounding. Because already at the beginning of the 20th century, decades before the stars of the so-called Düsseldorf School of Photography such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth and Candida Höfer, Quedenfeldt had great recognition for his landscape and architectural photographs, his portraits and not least his abstract photographs, explains the author Irmgard Siebert in the 778-page and excellently researched book.

Quedenfeldt, who was born in Essen in 1869, first became known in the Rhineland for his extensive documentation of historical buildings. He was primarily concerned with the aesthetic appreciation of everyday architecture, of houses, gables and streets. He took around 2000 photos on the Lower Rhine alone between Düsseldorf and the Dutch border area, between Zons and Kleve, Aachen and Cologne - an inventory of the building culture of an entire region. The background to his commitment was the increased demolition of old houses, which were to make way for more representative ones at the beginning of the new century.

What was unusual about the Quedenfeldt method was that he worked systematically, in series, such as on house doors or archways. He did this more than half a century before Bernd and Hilla Becher, who achieved world fame with their photographic series of industrial buildings threatened with demolition and decay.

Erwin Quedenfeldt was not a trained photographer, but a doctorate in chemistry, specializing in the field of photochemistry. After developing several patents for flashlight equipment, he set up his own business in Duisburg in 1901. Two years later he moved to Düsseldorf and founded a successful photography school there. From then on he worked tirelessly to ennoble photography as an art. For him, photography was more than a mechanical, imitative activity, it was an "oasis for the free and creative".

This also applied to his own photographic work. He experimented with new forms of expression, inspired by the visual arts of his time such as those of the Expressionists, Futurists and Cubists. From then on, Quedenfeldt dealt with surfaces, ornaments and patterns. He even developed his own process: Erwinographics. He prepared the photograph in such a way that it could be reworked with a pen and brush.

Quedenfeldt was a pacifist, the First World War was a turning point for him. He left his family to live ascetically and concentrate on his art. Until 1938, Irmgard Siebert researched whereabouts in Hannoversch Münden, Vienna and Munich, among other places. Where the left-wing artist lived during the National Socialist era has not yet been finally clarified. In 1948 he died in Bischofswiesen, Bavaria.

For a long time, the history of German art and photography had a hard time acknowledging the avant-garde nature of this approach and Quedenfeldt's pioneering role in the field of abstract photography, writes Siebert. Your biography should now change that.

"Erwin Quedenfeldt. From Photography to Photographic Art”, Klostermann/Nexus-Verlag, 99 euros

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