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Karl Blossfeldt
Date: German, 1865-1932
Biography:

Karl Blossfeldt was trained in the arts at the Academy of Royal Crafts Museum in Berlin and is one of the main photographers of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), a modernist movement in German arts and literature that emerged after the World War I and flourished during the 1920s. In photography, the Neue Sachlichkeit movement sought to use the camera in a completely objective way, utilizing its replicative faculties to present the world as authentically as possible. Photographers attempted to recreate the immediate perception of objects in the world, eschewing the “painterly” and aesthetic functions of photography, as well as personal style, in favor of its documentary effect. Their projects were studies in types, demonstrating the importance of categories and distinctions, and the remarkable ability of photography as a medium to explore the very idea of typology. The Neue Sachlichkeit movement embraced the idea that art should be left to the artists, and that photography should exploit its ability to represent the world in a more scientific and objective way.

Blossfeldt believed that in nature one finds the foundation of all forms and thus he photographed plants for over thirty years, publishing a book of photographs called Urformen der Kunst (Fundamental Forms of Art) in 1928 that was an immediate success. Beautifully but starkly composed against plain cardboard backgrounds, Blossfeldt's images rely on a northern light for their sense of volume. His strict photographic style produced images that resemble line drawings and enable ready comparisons, as his original intent was to produce a reference of natural artistic forms. Blossfeldt's aim was to produce a catalogue of forms that could be placed at the disposal of artists, craftsmen, and architects as they conceived their designs.

Mary O'Donnell Hulme

References:

Adam, Hans-Christian. Karl Blossfeldt: 1865–1932. Cologne and New York: Taschen, 1999.

Blossfeldt, Karl. Urformen der Kunst. Berlin: Verlag Ernst Wasmuth A. G., 1928.

Sachsse, Rolf. Karl Blossfeldt. Photographien 1865–1932. Cologne: Taschen, 1993.

Wilde, Jürgen, and Christoph Schreier. Karl Blossfeldt. Fotografie. Ostfildern: Hatje/Cantz, 1994.