Aenne Biermann

Photo: Self Portrait, 1931

A self-taught photographer, Aenne Biermann was born Anna Sibilla Sternfeld into a wealthy mercantile family in Goch, on the Lower Rhine, where she received an education in culture and music. In 1920 she married Herbert Joseph Biermann, a prosperous textile merchant and art lover whose family was a founding member of the Jewish community in Goch. Following their wedding, they moved to the progressive town of Gera. The couple soon had 2 children, Helga and Gershon, who were the photographer’s first subjects. An avid amateur mineralogist, it was through her collection of rocks that in 1926 she met the geologist Rudolf Hundt, who commissioned her to photograph his specimens the following year for his scientific work. Her photographs of minerals transformed her practice from the early personal views of her children to the close-up, direct studies of form that would define her photographs of plants and people that followed and make her a central figure in New Objectivity photography. Thus 1926 began a period of intense productivity for Biermann that lasted until her untimely death, from liver disease, at the age of 35, in 1933. In those years, Biermann published in international photography journals and participated in numerous exhibitions, including a solo show in 1929 at the Kunstkabinett, Munich, as well as the influential exhibitions Fotografie der Gegenwart in Essen and Film und Foto in Stuttgart, the same year...

In her short life, self-taught photographer Aenne Biermann made a profound impact on the arts as a major proponent of “new objectivity,” a rejection of romantic idealism in favor of practical engagement with the world....

She died of liver failure, possibly brought on by her exposure to chemicals and her long working hours, in 1933. Due to the rise of Nazism soon after, only four hundred prints remain of the thousands of negatives she created.
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First Collected by

Jaak Mortelmans


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