Untitled, um 1935
Umbo was born in Düsseldorf in 1902; he lived in Berlin from 1923 to 1945. He was one of the most innovative artists in the field of modernist photography. The new aesthetics of his portrait photos pointed the way for the modern portrait photography of that period. He also made constant efforts to extend the medium’s creative possibilities in all other areas of his work (urban photography, photo journalism and experimental photography).
This particular photograph of Potsdamer Platz should be seen against that background. It was taken using the fish-eye lens of a horizontal camera constructed for meteorological observation purposes. As the Nazis progressively defamed modernist art, scientific photography often provided a last field into which artists could retreat and so continue practising the new photographic aesthetics of the twenties. In this case, Umbo placed his camera, with the lens facing upwards, directly below the so-called master clock on Potsdamer Platz. The viewing angle of 180 degrees means that one sees the square from a completely unfamiliar perspective. This photo (and there is a series of other photos taken using the fish-eye lens) is an example of Umbo’s desire for experiment, which always aimed at a fresh experience of seeing as well.
Untitled, circa 1935
Gelatine silver print
11.7 x 11.5 cm
Acquired using budgetary funds of the Berlinische Galerie, 1988
© Gallery Kicken Berlin/Phyllis Umbehr/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
© Reproduction: Kai-Annett Becker