A Passion for photography

„Zeppelin LZ 126“, 1924

Great passions often start small. For me, it was a book…a book given to me by my parents on my tenth birthday. A book about airships, published in 1930 in Berlin. Alone the cover of the book was exciting. The silvery binding shimmered, similar to the hull of an airship. However, the greatest surprise waited inside: The photography. Not only did the depictions of mountainous cloud formations, monumental technology, and breathtaking actions of the crew instill my childish fantasy with wings, but I practically felt the breeze of the wind, and heard the rumble of the motors and the rattle of the aluminum structures. Even the mysterious printing technique of the book (gravure printing with copper plates used into the 1940’s for luxurious photographic publications), which lent the photographs a silvery gloss and a nearly 3-D like depth, supported, with its perfect analogy of material and picture, the illusion of being onboard the airship. The photographic effects of that time, optical stylization, black and white abstracted drama, intentionally distorted perspectives, and the pleasure in technical-factual means, drove the pictures to the peak of artistic expression and craft. These pictures showed what strength and power photographs can develop… not only in the heart of a child.

Many years later when I saw an original airship photograph in large format, in an art exhibition in Berlin, with its vintage-print characteristic fine gray tones and incredible depth, I was captivated by the passion for the art of photography once more. And it has never let me be. I began to study Art History, and from that point delved more intensively into the photographic themes of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, and the theories behind the art movements of “The New Objectivity” and the “New Vision”. Shortly thereafter, I was given the lucky chance to study at the Art School in Hamburg in order to learn the practical side of photography. I spent night after night in the dark room, practicing the tricks and secrets of developing, enlarging, and lighting film. In the end, I made “the visual” my job. For several years now, I have been working in media.

Also, or simply because my own foray into photography was more well intentioned than well received, my respect has grown for the craft and artistic achievement of the photographers of the first half of the last century, each a pioneer of the parameters of modern photography still evidenced today. With a fascinated shiver, I realized what technical and logistical efforts were necessary at that time to shoot a correctly lit, sharply focused, and artistically ambitious photo of a blast furnace, a residential development, an ocean liner, or even an airship. For the Zeppelin photograph from 1930, it meant climbing with a 25 kg heavy plate camera, a large package of 13 x 18, 18 x 24, or even 30 x 40cm mirror-image negatives, a tripod, and phosphor flash, onto the hull of the airship, and then, with an exposure time of 10 or more seconds, and in storm, rain, and full flight, shooting a sharply focused, with cleanly defined gray tones, and least but not last, lighting an artistically persuasive photo-negative. Furthermore, following this difficult work came yet another: that in the dark room. In order to emphasize the drama of the clouds, the sky would be post-exposed to make the fine morning dew visible, an especially soft photo paper would be chosen to make the blacks blacker, even the positive would be retouched to make a reflection more brilliantly leap from the photograph, and finally, it would be magically finished with a sepia tone fixative appropriate for the content.

If only just once, I thought, not only to be able to admire such a photograph in an exhibition or in a museum behind glass, but rather to hold it in ones own hands, or dare to call it ones own. I resolved to collect the enchantingly beautiful technical photographs from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. And immediately I had fantastic luck: At my first auction, one of the photographs on offer was an airship photo from my beloved Zeppelin book! Naturally I bid on the photograph, and like a beginner, I was soundly outbid. At that time I thought I would surely encounter that photograph again, at some point later on, possibly in another auction, but I was mistaken. Never again has it been on offer. Vintage prints, those produced shortly after the exposure of the negatives, positives mainly created by the photographers themselves, are seldom, much more so than etchings, copperplate engravings or lithographs from famous painters. Therefore in the case of the airship photograph from 1930, most likely the photographer would have made one print for his archive, one print for the published book, and possibly one or two more prints for eventual press releases. And how many of those few handmade prints could have possibly made it through the war? Vintage prints are nearly always unique specimens.

Over the years, in order to overcome this shortage, prints have been and will continue to be made occasionally for sales in auctions and galleries from the remaining negatives in the estates of famous photographers. As laudable as it is in this manner to sustain interest in photographic works and their creators, personally I find little comfort in these newly created, rather sterile, and highly circulated prints. Anyone who has had a single opportunity to critically view and consider a vintage print up close and personal, will certainly agree how much more intensely the photographers of the “New Objectivity” art movement were involved in their works, how much more energy they invested in solid, hand crafted implementation, than that evidenced by the developing machines in today’s large photography labs. In vintage prints, the heart and soul of the creator is perceptible, the intensity of the creative process, the instances of seeking and experimenting, discovering and rejecting, finding and inventing, as if they were forever preserved in a piece of amber for posterity. An original has no equal, certainly not that of a copy, however well intentioned. To acquire such an original, not only to be able to admire, but also to protect and preserve it for future generations; this is the greatest moment of happiness for any collector. The purpose of my site and of the vintage prints here on offer, is to be able to share this joy with you.

A simple and convenient online ordering process should enable you to easily acquire the finest in vintage photography; what for me was a yearlong, often arduous and frequently futile process of auctions and rummaging in catalogues and galleries. I would like to introduce you to the work of famous and not so famous photographers, to share in fascination and wonder, the beauty of “New Objectivity” photographs from the 1920’s and 30’s, and their successors from the 1940’s and 50’s, and to familiarize you with the craftsmanship and highly specialized techniques of vintage photography. Whether your interests lie with Bauhaus style architectural photography, powerful star portraits from the “raging twenties” or a rigorous objective photograph of a test-tube, one thing remains consistent among all of the vintage prints here on offer: the highest in artistic and handcrafted quality. I cordially invite you to let yourself be inspired by a passion for photography.

Yours,

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Benjamin Reding