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Otto Steinert

1915 Saarbrücken
1978 Essen

Otto Hugo Wilhelm Steinert, born in Saarbrücken on July 12, 1915, was the father of "subjective photography". Steinert studied among other things medicine in Munich from 1934-1939. In 1937, he was a cornet in the medical corps of the armed forces, and during the world war he was primarily deployed as a physician.
After the war, he first continued to work as a doctor in Kiel, but he returned after two years to Saarbrücken and worked as a portrait photographer. In 1948 he took over leadership of a photography class at the State School for Art and Handcrafts there.
From 1949-50, together with Reisewitz, Keetman, Lauterwasser, Schneiders and Windstoßer, he was a charter member of the group "fotoform", which advocated for a new artistic conception of photography.
In the following year, the first exhibit of "subjective photography" in Saarbrücken took place under Steinert’s leadership. The exhibit included over 700 works by international photographers and had the goal of reforming art photography. According to Steinert, subjective photography should form a framework "that includes all areas of personal photographic creation, from non-representational photograms to psychologically in-depth reportage in picture form".
Steinert’s own work is very multifaceted. The autodidact experimented with different photographic techniques (movement blurriness, montage, solarization, etc.). Among his best known works are "Ein-Fuß-Gänger" [A Pedestrian/One-Footed Walker] (1950) and "Maske einer Tänzerin" [Dancer’s Mask] (1952). Steinert varied not only his technique, but also worked on a broad range of subjects and worked with portrait and landscape photography, advertising photography and reportage.
In 1952 he became a principal in Saarbrücken, and two years later he was appointed professor. In the same year, the exhibit "subjective photography 2" took place, while in 1958 a third and final one followed. In 1959, Steinert took a position in Essen at the Folkwang School, where he organized numerous exhibits, was responsible for the "Photographic Collection of the Folkwang Museum", and taught as well. Steinert’s teaching career shaped an entire generation of photographers.
Otto Steinert died on March 3, 1978, in Essen.

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