Chasing Stories: ‘Eyes wide open! 100 years of Leica photography’ featuring F. C. Gundlach The stories behind the images, by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle at Eyes Wide Open! in Madrid

Following its enormous success in Germany, Austria, Belgium and Portugal the spectacular exhibition ‘Eyes Wide Open! 100 years of Leica photography’ is now visiting Spain on the next stop of its tour and can be seen in Madrid from May 11th to September 10th, 2017. More than 400 original prints are being shown in Madrid. Photographs by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nick Út, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Robert Lebeck, Julia Baier and François Fontaine document significant moments in the history of art and culture from 1914 to the present day. The exhibition showcases significant moments of the past century of Leica photography. Chasing Stories are written by curator Hans-Michael Koetzle and the exhibition will take place at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Madrid.

© F.C. Gundlach, „Reportage for Nino“, Hamburg, St. Pauli 1958
© F.C. Gundlach, „Reportage for Nino“, Hamburg, St. Pauli 1958

F.C. Gundlach: Reportage for Nino

Hamburg, St. Pauli, 1958

The initial concept behind fashion photography was to inform us of fashion trends. Dresses, coats, and garments were to be depicted precisely and in as much detail as possible. Readers of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar had to be able to copy the patterns for themselves, and fashion photos were largely taken for that purpose. “Buttons and Bows” was the motto, meaning that buttons and seams needed to be both visible and plausibly presented. Pictures were taken in the studio with unwieldy plate cameras, resulting in rather anaemic, static, and aesthetically-weak images. Everything changed with the advent of prêt-à-porter, or off-the-rack fashion. Once copying couturiers was no longer the aim, the focus of fashion photography shifted radically. The new objective was to convey emotions, atmosphere, mood, and a certain life style. Born in 1926, photographer F.C. Gundlach thrived on this fresh, new modus operandi; so he decided to capture garments by fashion label Nino on a rainy day in Hamburg. The handy Leica offered unencumbered, dynamic photographing on the streets, or in dingy interiors – as in this picture. Little can be seen of the black raincoat; so there is no question of copying it. That, however, was no longer the point. What the picture intended to say was that a raincoat by Nino will make you feel comfortable, ensure you have a good time, and facilitate a carefree life. The fact that a young woman would be out drinking and smoking without an escort was unusual in 1950s Germany. In that sense, the image also conveyed a promise of freedom: a message of emancipation delivered by the simple means of fashion and commercial photography.

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