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HERLINDE KOELBL. Jüdische Portraits

05.02.2008 - 23.03.2008


From 1986 to 1989 the photo artist Herlinde Koelbl made portraits with her camera of German speaking, Jewish celebrities who survived the Shoah and carried out in-depth discussions with them. From the 5th of February till the 23rd of March 2008 WestLicht. Schauplatz für Fotografie will be showing around 35 of these large-format, original prints together with quotations from the interviews: Alfred Eisenstaedt (photographer, photo journalist), Sir Ernst Gombrich (art historian), Karl Kahane (industrialist), Teddy Kollek (politician), Marcel Reich-Ranicki (literature critic), Georges Tabori (actor, director and author) and Bruno Kreisky (Austrian Federal Chancellor) are amongst those portrayed.

In the 1930’s and 1940’s, going into exile was the only way for most of these well-known people of Jewish descent to escape from the years of the Nazi regime and thus the Shoah. Very few returned after the war to their home country. Herlinde Koelbl photographed not only those who did but also those who preferred to remain in exile. She talked to them about their understanding of Jewish tradition, religion and home, about their attitudes towards Israel, Germany and Austria. The very differing replies—each in the context of a highly sensitive portrait—are extremely personal memories of the partners in the dialogues.

The photographs and interviews were presented in the publication “Jüdische Porträts” (Jewish Portraits), 1st edition 1989. The result is a portrait of the generation of German-speaking Jews that experienced the destruction of their culture and survived it. Against this background Herlinde Koelbl’s work can be read historically as an extremely informative contemporary document: as a valuable historical enterprise since only a few of those interviewed are still alive today.

Herlinde Koelbl: Biography
Born on 31st October 1939 in Lindau (Bodensee), Herlinde Koelbl lives and works in Neuried near Munich. The learned fashion designer switched to photography in the 1970’s as an autodidact. People are always at the centre of her work. In particular her photo works display her special talent for portraying people and their milieus.

Herlinde Koelbl is mainly concerned with controversial social issues and works intensively and often over a number of years on a topic. This might be one of the reasons why she is considered one of the most discussed photographers in Germany at the end of the 1980’s.

Parallel to her books that represent the centre of her artistic work, she frequently makes documentary films on the same subjects. Koebl has also made photographs for print media such as Stern, the Zeit and the New York Times.

We'd like to thank Robert La Roche for his support. 

© Herlinde Koelbl, Simon Wiesenthal
© Herlinde Koelbl, Bruno Kreisky
© Herlinde Koelbl, Grete Weil
© Herlinde Koelbl, George Tabori
© Herlinde Koelbl, Alfred Eisenstaedt
© Herlinde Koelbl, Ernst Gombrich
© Herlinde Koelbl, Theodore Kollek
© Herlinde Koelbl, Sir Karl Popper
© Herlinde Koelbl, Marcel Reich-Ramicki
© Herlinde Koelbl, Karl Kahane