As a photographer and artist, I am often asked the question: “What or who inspires you?”
This broad question often elicits a broad response as I am inspired by a myriad of elements, but I will save that for another blog post! However, when I dig deep down inside the realms of my subconscious, I cannot help but want to elaborate on one particular individual who intially inspired my photography passion and interest: Fritz Henle, renowned travel/ portrait/ fashion/ landscape/ fine art/ documentary photographer whose career spanned six prolific decades. Yet many people in the photography world are not aware of his amazing contributions to the medium. So I feel the need to share some of the important highlights of his life and career which are inspiring in itself!
Young Fritz Henle, 1933 (ca)
Fritz Henle at work, 1938 (ca)
Fritz Henle in the Virgin Islands, 1970
Fritz Henle, was born in Dortmund, Germany in 1909 and became fascinated with photography, his father’s favorite hobby, at an early age. As a teenager, he taught himself how to develop film and print photographs in his father’s basement darkroom. In 1930, he enrolled at Germany’s prestigious Bavarian Institute of Photography and purchased his first Rolleiflex, a twin lens-reflex camera. He was nicknamed “Mr. Rollei” in the 1940’s because he exclusively used a Rolleiflex during his entire career. His love and dedication for this brand camera inspired me to buy my own Rolleiflex last year, and I have been having so much fun exploring film again!
Mr. Rollei in action
Ode to Mr. Rollei (self-portrait)
During his late twenties, Fritz Henle fled Nazi Germany and emigrated to New York City where he worked as a freelance photographer and contributed to major publications such as LIFE, Fortune, Town and Country, Harper’s Bazaar, House and Garden, Glamour, and Popular Photography.
Fritz Henle’s Magazine Covers
One of his most valuable contributions as a photographer was his documentation of the city of Paris in 1938, before the onset of World War II
. His story was initially rejected by LIFE Magazine, but then published six years later by The New York Times
Magazine. These photos preserve the raw, quintessential, and fascinating ideal that is the city, Paris.
© 1938 Fritz Henle – Woman and the God, Paris
© 1938 Fritz Henle – Housewives, Paris
© 1938 Fritz Henle – Young Woman with Loaf of Bread, Paris
What I absolutely respect and love about Fritz Henle, is that he was not driven to specialize in any one particular style of photography (the struggle forced on me by today’s photography market), thus the range of art he created was so varied and he was the “photographer that could do it all”. Here are a couple of my favorite Fritz Henle photos:
© 1943 Fritz Henle – Freedom Yucca Plant New Mexico
© 1950 Fritz Henle – Trading Schooner, St. Croix, USVI
© 1948 Fritz Henle – Time Square, New York City
© 1941 Fritz Henle – Canada Lee in Native Son, on Broadway
© 1961 Fritz Henle – Portrait of President Harry S. Truman
© 1937 Fritz Henle – Frida Kahlo, Mexico
© 1948 Fritz Henle – Catherine Cassidy w/ Caribbean Schooner, St. Croix, USVI
© 1948 Fritz Henle – Catherine Cassidy at the Old Sugar Mill, St. Croix, USVI
© 1948 Fritz Henle – On the Beach in Frederiksted, St. Croix, USVI
© 1953 Fritz Henle – Nude, Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
© 1954 Fritz Henle – Nude, Study on Metal Chair, St. Croix, USVI
His assignments and personal travels took him to more than 30 countries in his lifetime (my kind of guy) and he wrote and edited over 30 books and catalogues throughout his career (I am the proud owner of eight of his books and all three below).
Fritz Henle’s Guide to Rollei Photography
Virgin Islands by Fritz Henele
Figure Studies by Fritz Henle
He made his permanent home on St. Croix
, U.S. Virgin Islands (where I was born and raised) in 1959, where he lived with his family, and worked until he died in 1993. Growing up on St. Croix, it was very common yet surreal and amazing to see his original works in various venues – local businesses, banks, restaurants, my friends’ homes and also his daughter, the late Maria Henle’s Fine Art Studio
. I immediately fell in love with black and white photography at first glance of his work. His photojournalistic style really resonated with me and stimulated my wanderlust. He is the first photographer to inspire me to create beautiful, captivating, thought provoking images.
Thanks for reading!