Description

Herbert List was fascinated with the classical world, art and the human form. He worked in almost every genre that photography has to offer: architecture, still life, street photography, portraiture, documentation and cataloguing. Yet he also blurred the demarcation between those fields: architectural shots seem like composed still lifes or surreal compositions, documentation of Greek sculptures or African artefacts borders on portraiture; and when capturing the classical beauty of the male physique, one does not quite know if we look at painstakingly composed arrangements or a private photo-diary, shot spontaneously. Pictured here, Ritti with a fishing rod in Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.

The pictures I took spontaneously - with a bliss-like sensation, as if they had long inhabited my unconscious - were often more powerful than those I had painstakingly composed. I grasped their magic as in passing

Herbert List
© Herbert List | Magnum Photos

Herbert List was a classically educated artist who combined a love of photography with a fascination for surrealism and classicism. Born into a prosperous Hamburg merchant family, List began an apprenticeship at a Heidelberg coffee dealer in 1921 while studying literature and art history at Heidelberg University.

Greece became List’s primary interest during the late 30’s. His first visit to the antique temples, sculptures and landscapes, his first solo show opened in Paris in the summer of 1937. Publications in Life, Photographie, Verve and Harper’s Bazaar followed, and List began work on his first book, Licht Ueber Hellas, which wasn’t published until 1953.

He became a contributor to Magnum in 1951 but rarely accepted assignments. During the 50s he began using a 35mm camera and telephoto lens and was influenced by the spontaneity of Henri Cartier-Bresson. In his final decades his interest in photography waned and he turned his focus to collecting Old Master drawings. Herbert List died in Munich in 1975.

© Herbert List | Magnum Photos

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