Helmut Gernsheim

In response to Marina Vaizey’s comments about Helmut Gernsheim and the fine photographs he took during the war of details of the fabric and tombs of Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s (and 10, Downing Street) for the National Buildings Record, he is indeed a fascinating figure:  trained as an art historian and then, at the suggestion of his older brother, who was an art dealer, at the Bavarian State School of Photography, he came to Britain, where he worked as a commercial photographer, in 1937.   On the outbreak of war, he was interned, sent to Canada, but the ship was diverted to Australia where he was again interned at a camp on Hay.   He was only released by volunteering to work for the National Buildings Record, where he pioneered a new approach to photography, based on his book New Photo Vision.   It was the product of lectures he had given to his fellow interns.

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2 thoughts on “Helmut Gernsheim

  1. marinavaizey says:

    is there a biography? Again he was in some respects a prophet without enough honour in the UK as this country did not manage to retain the Gernsheims’ collections. The ‘first photograph is displayed very prominently – or perhaps a facsimile thereof – at the Harry Ransom Center in UT (which also has so much English material, from – say – Evelyn Waugh etc). I think the Gernsheims were really the instigators and initiators of much of the amazing interest and scholarship around photography in the anglophone world but are perhaps curiously forgotten today? Charles, the C SS blog remains itself an inspiration as we trot after you down all your highways and byways! The Gernsheims – I had their Thames and Hudson publications somewhere, and had not thought about their amazing contributions for decades. very timely as the V and A new Centre for Photography opening next month.

    • Yes, they clearly were amazing pioneers, Alison bringing historical research skills to the writing of the books; and definitely way ahead of their time in their appreciation of the historical value of photograph collections. Charles

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