Ode to Fritz Henle

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!

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!

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.

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.
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:
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).
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!
~Nicole

22 thoughts on “Ode to Fritz Henle

    • Thank you Perry! I appreciate you taking the time to read 😉 So glad to know you enjoyed it! Hope life on the rock is treating you and the family wonderfully! Look forward to seeing you around the holidays 🙂 x

  1. Agreed – this is a wonderful and insightful blog post! I didn’t realize he was so well traveled and successful prior to moving to stx.

    • Thank you Andrea for reading! It means the world to me! I know, I didn’t realize all of his accomplishments prior to my research for an assignment for my History of Photography class my first semester at Brooks. We are so fortunate to have had Fritz Henle be a part of our community 🙂 x

  2. What a terrific write-up of a great but too-little-known photographer. He was an inspiration to me also growing up in STX and learning b/w photography. I too am a proud owner of one of his books that I found online. I can’t look at b/w fotos without thinking of him and Ansel Adams.

    And I also miss the art of Maria, who was taken from us way to soon. I used to find her pieces on St. Maarten (my other home) and consider myself fortunate to have been thru her Company St gallery a couple times (shortly after her big Asia trip). Now if I could only find some of her early mangrove oils. I would love to own one.

    • Thank you for reading and sharing Keith! I am happy to know that Fritz Henle inspired you as well – I agree, when I see b&w photos I can’t help but think of Ansel Adams and our own legend!

      MI knew Maria as well; and I was able to snatch one of her giclee prints of a sunset/beach shoreline scene of what I believe is Shoy’s Beach – one of my favorite St. Croix beaches, at an art fundraiser benefit after she passed. I cherish that painting, and hope to one day own an original Fritz Henle photograph.

      Thanks again for visiting my blog and sharing your insights!

  3. Dear Nicole:
    Thank you for such a wonderful tribute to Fritz Henle. My family moved to St. Croix in the 60’s and were really good friends with Maria and Tina. We would go to Fritz’s home many times. My father, Pepe Alvarez, owned Antilles Insurance. When my wife Mary and I got married we went to St Croix and visited my father’s initial office at 56 Company Street. I was so blessed to find that this was Maria Henle’s studio. We bought some work from her and felt so grateful to be able to see her before her passing. Fritz was a wonderful photographer.
    By the way are you related to Terry Canegata Evans? Neal and Terry are good friends of ours. Whenever they visit Miami, we go out to dinner with them.
    Many blessings
    Pastor Jose Alvarez

    • Hi Pastor Alvarez,

      Thank you for your comment! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog and am happy that it brought back such wonderful memories of being in St. Croix and your friendship with the Henle family! That’s quite a coincidence that your father’s office became Maria Henle’s studio; I absolutely LOVE that space and her work as well. She was definitely taken from us too soon.

      To answer your last question – yes, I’m related to Terri Canegata Evans, she is my aunt, my Dad’s sister 🙂 Such a small world. Happy to hear that you know her and Uncle Neil!

      Take care and thanks again for reading and sharing!
      Best,
      ~Nicole

  4. What a wonderful tribute to an unforgettable man! Nicole ~ you’re brilliant…you have captured the essence of a remarkable artist who will never be forgotten.
    Thank you, Tina, for sharing this with all of us; our gratitude knows no words.

    • Thank you Ellen for taking the time to read my blog post and for the kind words 🙂 It was my pleasure to share and remind the world about Fritz Henle’s legacy and artistry. You are absolutely right…he will never be forgotten!

  5. Nicole, What a wonderful tribute! It was amazing growing up with Fritz Henle photographs in your house and even in our Yearbooks at school! He was an amazing man and he went on to have wonderful gifted children! Thank you for that article!!

  6. Thank you Nicole. It is clear your passion is as strong as his was. I look forward to enjoying your photography well into the future.

    • Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging words Pam! I really appreciate you taking the time to read my blog post and am excited to continue sharing my photography work! I hope life is treating you wonderfully on our beautiful island. Take care! ~Nicole

  7. Thank you again Nicole for this wonderful article and remembrance. I too feel so amazingly lucky to have had him as my father with all the inspiration that has forever touched my own life. I am also so grateful he had the wisdom to live and raise us in such an amazing community as St. Croix which allowed for such meaningful contact for so many. So glad he had such an impact on you.

    • Thanks again Tina…the pleasure was all mine 🙂 I too am grateful that your father decided to live, work, and raise your family on our beloved and beautiful island home. I will never forget his remarkable legacy and amazing artistic contributions! Look forward to visiting the studio when I am home for the holidays and hope to see some of your new work as well 🙂 x

  8. I knew that having Fritz Henle as my neighbor on St Croix in the early 1980’s was special, but I had no idea of the extraordinary reach of his talent. Thank you for educating me.

  9. Impressive talent.
    I have a passion for hydrofoil sailboats ! And I discovered Fritz Henle because I found a picture of a trimaran designed by Dick newick (great naval architect), took by F. Henle, probably in 1964 in Virgin Island.
    I searching other pictures of this boat with hydrofoils : Lark…
    Thank you for this beautiful article.
    Cheers
    Fred

    • Hi Fred!

      Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog post about Fritz Henle! He is an inspiration to me and I’m always happy to know that his work resonates with others as well! Thanks for sharing that interesting tidbit about the hydrofoil sailboats and Dick Newick – I will look into his work as well!

      Warm Regards!
      Nicole

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