Double Portrait of Alfred and Gertrud Arndt, Probstzella

Gertrud Arndt, 1928

Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020.
Double portrait of Alfred and Gertrud Arndt, Probstzella (Dorfstraße), Photo: Gertrud Arndt, 1928.

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During her apprenticeship in an architectural office in Erfurt, Gertrud Arndt (-Hantschk) – at her employer’s suggestion – started taking photographs of the city’s buildings. When she moved to the Bauhaus in 1923–24 and was unable to study architecture as she had hoped, her interest in the medium of photography continued. Following the preliminary course, she joined the Bauhaus weaving workshop in 1924 and continued to take photographs on a self-taught basis as well. Her way of looking at subjects developed from that of a rigid, purely illustrative type of documentary photography towards the experimental approach used in the New Vision.

The double self-portrait showing Gertrud Arndt together with her husband in 1928 is an example of the changes in her photographic style. The camera was positioned on the balcony of their apartment in Probstzella. Alfred Arndt was already standing down below, so that Gertrud Arndt had an orientation point for setting and focusing the camera. Then she quickly ran down the stairs to join him. The result is a shot from an extreme bird’s-eye viewpoint. The two figures are standing in front of a grey background and looking into the camera. Their heavy shadows appear against the monotone ground like a pair of doubles accompanying them. The modern ‘photo eye’ (the title of a book by Franz Roh and Jan Tschichold published in 1929) looked at the everyday world with ‘new’ eyes, defamiliarizing people and objects using extreme viewpoints, details and heavy trimming. This picture is one of the ‘New Vision’ photographs that were produced in large numbers at the Bauhaus and elsewhere.

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