Triennial of Photography Hamburg gifts Herbert List. The Magic Vision

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Herbert List: Beneath the Poseidon Temple, Sounion, ca. 1937, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Photography Selection, Archive List
© Herbert List Estate / Magnum Photos / Agentur Focus

One of 12 exhibitions now open at Triennial associated with Photography Hamburg, this retrospective explores the varied career of Magnum photographer, the late Herbert List

Located in Hamburg’s city centre, the act of Bucerius Kunst Forum dates from the early 1900s, blending seamlessly with the various other historic buildings of Hamburg-Altstadt – Hamburg Old City. Combined with a four tale interior, newly redesigned for your arts in 2019, the particular building’s architecture offers an enjoyable contrast.  

And it’s a contrast which is fitting for the space. Not a traditional museum or a gallery, but an exhibition hall, Bucerius Kunst Forum is reimagined by its curators for every of its four yearly displays. For Katrin Baumstark, curator of Herbert List. The Magic Eye , her vision for this exhibition was always clear.  

Herbert List: Spirit of Lycabettus I, Athens, 1937, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Photography Collection, Archive Listing
© Herbert List Property / Magnum Photos and Agentur Focus

Herbert List: Goldfish bowl, Santorin, 1937, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Digital photography Collection, Archive List
© Herbert List Estate and Magnum Photos / Agentur Focus

Herbert Listing: The cuckold, Trastevere, Ancient rome, 1953, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Digital photography Collection, Archive List
© Herbert List Estate and Magnum Photos / Agentur Focus

  “People come into the exhibition and say ‘oh, the images are really small’”, she says, gesturing towards the 240 black and white prints which line the walls. “But I tell them, ‘They are almost 100 years old and Herbert List printed all of them himself’. It’s so important to have the vintage prints – there’s a deepness to them. ”

Born in Hamburg in 1903, List – freely gay and with Jewish grandparents – fled Germany in 1936. From this time, the particular photographer enjoyed a diverse career, exploring surrealism plus pittura metafisica, capturing classical Greek and Roman longevity and producing photo essays from around the world.

“I can’t take a picture of someone I don’t know, because it’s so important to see the soul in my pictures. ”

Bucerius Kunst Forum, Ausstellung.
Foto: Ulrich Perrey

Chosen from List’s vast and diverse store, the images in The Magic Eye are indeed little and their presentation easy – the space’s wall space are painted in moderate greens and blues, chosen to make the photographs “glow” – but their impact is anything but.

The first international retrospective of List’s work in over 20 years, The Magic Eye first provides early examples of the photographers’ work. These images tip at many of the themes that he would later be mentioned: mystery, the male type and a masterful approach to lighting and shadow. His 1937 anthropomorphic still life, Roundezvous, Kap Sounioin , combines all 3.  

Herbert List: Rendezvous, Cape Sounion, 1937, Herbert List Estate
© Herbert List Estate/Magnum Photos

“I’m an amateur because I have passion. Merely become professional, it will suggest I have lost my passion. ”

“The image is his own interpretation associated with homosexuality, ” Baumstark points out. “This is the kind of tale List could never show. It was forbidden, so it is so important to show and talk about this work again now. ”

The same is true of many of List’s diary-like images associated with young men. Taken throughout the 1930s, but not published until the 1980s, the images are installed at Bucerius Kunst Forum in a temple-like display. This design is a nod to List’s deep connection to the particular friends and lovers he or she photographed.

“He always, often said ‘I can’t take a picture of someone I don’t understand, because it’s so important to find the soul in my pictures’, ” Baumstark says. “It was obviously a queer gaze, but a gaze of friendship, of feelings and of memories that individuals all have. ”

Bucerius Kunst Forum, Ausstellung. Foto: Ulrich Perrey

Herbert List: Wrestling youths, Baltic Sea, 1933, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Photography Collection, Archive Checklist
© Herbert List Property / Magnum Photos or Agentur Focus

Herbert List: Athens, 1937, Herbert List Estate
© Herbert List Estate / Magnum Photos / Agentur Concentrate

While these images of queer joy were never seen during List’s lifetime, later in his career, he produced images that have been published around the world. In 1951 he was asked simply by Robert Capa to become a contributor to Magnum Photos  plus, eventually, accepted. Although, he or she rarely took on commission rates.

“He hated to make pictures if someone asked him ‘can you make images of this? ’”, Baumstark says. “He wasn’t a superstar. He always said, ‘I’m an amateur because I got passion. If I become professional, it will mean I have lost my passion. ’”

Herbert List: Löwenbräu Nymphenburgerstr. 4, Munich, 1946, Münchner Stadtmuseum, Photography Collection, Archive Listing
© Herbert List Estate / Magnum Photos and Agentur Focus

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