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Kracauer. Photographic Archive presents  largely unknown material from the estate of the German-American theorist of film and photography, ­Siegfried Kracauer and his wife and assistant Elisabeth, known as Lili. The single and group portraits, still lifes, street scenes and landscapes collected in this book all come from the estate of Siegfried Kracauer. Published here for the first time, they are an extensive and representative selection from the enlargements, contact sheets and rolls of film originally archived by Lili Kracauer. With photographs from the late nineteenth century to the 1960s, this book documents the life of two people closely connected for over four decades and their joint photographic archive. The primary focus is not biographical, however, but on the photographs as such—and the shared photographic archive.1 Because this has not been seen as a distinct item up to now, it must be stressed here that it is not a mere adjunct but an integral part of the estate of Siegfried Kracauer, and provides the “image of a precisely ordered … archive, set up by the author himself, of his varied journalistic, literary and academic activities.2 This description of the written part of the estate applies equally to its photographs. Most of these were taken not by Siegfried but by Lili Kracauer, and it was she who ordered the material. However, her system was disbanded when the images from the Kracauer estate, which had been in the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach since 1972, were transferred into the archive’s own system in the 1980s. This means that the photographs and contact sheets that were “roughly sorted and distributed among labeled envelopes”3 by Lili Kracauer are now arranged according to visual motifs, and the labeled envelopes and a series of related notes are stored separately, as a sort of addendum to the photographs. On this basis it would be possible to approximately reconstruct the original order of the photographic archive and to analyze it as a historical ensemble. The aim of this book, however, is to illuminate the collaboration of Lili and Siegfried Kracauer. Its main emphasis thus lies on the photographs taken by Lili (and a very few by Siegfried) Kracauer in 1934–39 and 1945–64.

Prints, contact sheets and film strips from both phases of her autodidactic photography are reproduced in chapters I–IV. This material can be considered the result of a photographic practice in which Siegfried Kracauer participated: on the one hand quite obviously...

  • photography
  • Paris
  • 1930s
  • portrait
  • 20th century
  • 1950s
  • archive
  • photographic images
  • collection
  • exile
  • History of photography
  • Siegfried Kracauer
  • biography

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Maria Zinfert

Maria Zinfert

works in Berlin as a freelance writer, publisher and translator. Her doctoral thesis is on the novels of Victor Segalen, and she has translated many of his texts into German. She is currently doing research into archive photos of 20th-century German-language authors and has already published on the photos from Kracauer’s estate.

Other texts by Maria Zinfert for DIAPHANES
Maria Zinfert (ed.): Kracauer. Photographic Archive

Maria Zinfert (ed.)

Kracauer. Photographic Archive

Photographs by Elisabeth Kracauer and Siegfried Kracauer

Hardcover, 256 pages

PDF, 256 pages

The photography book "Kracauer. Photographic Archive" is a collection of previously unpublished photographic material from the estate of the sociologist, journalist and film theorist Siegfried Kracauer. Portrait, city and landscape photographs give insights into the life of the writer and his wife Elisabeth, known as Lili – a life marked by flight and exile. The photographic portraits of Kracauer from the 1930s on were all taken by his wife, while prints, contact sheets, rolls of film and written material reveal that Kracauer took pictures himself, too. Neither Kracauer nor his wife was a professional photographer, yet their photos testify to the aesthetic and technical achievements of their collaborative photographic practice: the eye of the great photography theorist combined with that of the art historian and observant, self-taught photographer Lili Kracauer. The book also tells the story of Lili and Siegfried Kracauer’s close working relationship – from the early 1930s following their marriage in Germany, to exile in Paris and the war and post-war years in the USA.