Robert Lebeck, born in Berlin on March 21, 1929, is considered one of the most significant photo journalists of the post-war era. At 15 years of age, Lebeck had to serve in the war and was briefly an American prisoner of war. After the war, he studied folklore in Zurich, later in New York. Afraid of being drafted into military service again, Robert Lebeck moved back to Germany.
At 23 years of age, he began to occupy himself autodidactically with photography. His first photographs were soon published in newspapers, and Lebeck began to work for the Heidelberg papers. Beginning in 1955, he worked for the magazines Revue and then Kristall. In 1960, he produced his famous reportage, "The Sword of the King in the Black Hand", which helped him achieve an international breakthrough. The centerpiece of this reportage was a photograph in which the procession of the Belgian King Baudoin I, who up until that day had been the colonial ruler of the Congo, was seen together with the new Congolese President Kasavubu.
Robert Lebeck photographed a young Black man who, in the moment the open coach went by, stole the sword of the Belgian king. The picture became a symbol of newly-won independence in the Congo. This is however only one example of the many important societal events that Lebeck captured with his camera. Photos such as "Jackie Kennedy and Her Sister Lee Radziwill Mourn Robert Kennedy" (1968) and "Mother Theresa’s Home for the Dying Destitute, Calcutta" (1971) prove that Robert Lebeck had the luck to always be at the right place at the right time.
However, his photographs also distinguish themselves through their outstanding quality.
In 1962, Robert Lebeck’s first individual exhibit took place in Hamburg. Beginning in 1966, he worked for eleven years for Stern, and worked then briefly for Geo; however, he eventually returned to Stern. Lebeck was not only successful as a photo reporter, but also as a portrait photographer. He made portraits of writers and artists such as Dürrenmatt, Beuys and Hitchcock. In addition, he produced a large collection of historical photographs, which are kept in the Agfa Photo-Historama today. Robert Lebeck lives in Berlin.