History of Photography

History of Photography

A World History of Photography

The Story Behind the Pictures 1827-1991

Photographers' Dictionary






1   Nicephore Niepce. View from the Study Window, 1827

2   Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre. Boulevard du Temple, 1838

3   Eugene Durieu/Eugene Delacroix. Nude from Behind, ca. 1853

4   Duchenne de Boulogne. Contractions musculaires, 1856

5   Auguste Rosalie Bisson. The Ascent of Mont Blanc, 1862

6   Nadar. Sarah Bernhardt, ca. 1864

7   Francois Aubert. Emperor Maximilian's Shirt, 1867

8   Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi. Dead Communards, 1871

9   Maurice Guibert. Toulouse-Lautrec in His Studio, ca. 1894

10 Max Priester/Willy Wilcke. Bismarck on his Deathbed, 1898

11 Heinrich Zille. The Wood Gatherers, 1898

12 Alfred Stieglitz. The Steerage, 1907

13 Lewis Hine. Girl Worker in a Carolina Cotton Mill, 1908

14 August Sander. Young Farmers, 1914

15 Paul Strand. Blind Woman, 1916

16 Man Ray. Noire et blanche, 1926

17 Andre Kertesz. Meudon, 1928

18 Robert Capa. Spanish Loyalist, 1936

19 Dorothea Lange. Migrant Mother, Nipomo, California, 1936

20 Horst P. Horst. Mainbocher Corset, 1939

21 Henri Cartier-Bresson. Germany, 1945

22 Richard Petersen. View from the Dresden City Hall Tower, 1945

23 Robert Doisneau. The Kiss in Front of City Hall, 1950

24 Dennis Stock. James Dean on Times Square, 1955

25 Bert Stern. Marilyn's Last Sitting, 1962

26 Gerard Malanga. Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground, 1966

27 Helmut Newton. They're Coming!, 1981

28 Sandy Skoglund. Revenge of the Goldfish, 1981

29 Robert Mapplethorpe. Lisa Lyon, 1982

30 Joel-Peter Witkin. Un Santo Oscuro, 1987

31 Sebastiao Salgado. Kuwait, 1991


see also:

Peter Richard

Chapter 22



Richard Peter sen.



View from the Dresden City Hall Tower Toward the South


Angel Above the


Immediately after the end of the war, the Dresden photographer Richard Peter sen,  started an ambitious cycle on the demolished city that had once been known as the "Florence on the Elbe." By the end of the 1940s, he had completed approximately a thousand photographs, including this famed view from the City Hall Tower looking toward the south.


Almost miraculously, the tower of the New City Hall, dating from the mid-eighteenth century, survived the firestorm of 13-14 February 1945. Not that it had totally escaped being damaged in the inferno, of course, but compared to the Zwinger palace or the Frauenkirche, whose former glory now lay buried under the ruins, the City Hall, located between the Ring-.strasse, the City Hall Square, and Kreuzstrasse, was at least reparable. The east wing of the building had been particularly heavily damaged by fire bombs and blockbusters, but the tower, visible from a great distance, still remained standing, its hands stopped at 2:30 a.m. At a height of more than 325 feet, the tower was the tallest building in the city, but had lost its cupola. All that remained of it was a filigree-like skeleton, crowned by Dresden's recently adopted municipal emblem - a sculpted male figure in gilded bronze by Richard Cuhr, which now seemed to be balan-.cing as if on a tightrope. The famous double staircase had also survived the force of the demolition and firebombs. Richard Peter sen. climbed these steps for the first time in the middle of September 1945.

Richard Peter sen.
(1895 – 1977)
View from the Dresden City Hall Tower Toward the South


Nearly six square miles completely devastated


The photographer, well known in Dresden, was not the only one to make his way to the top of the City Hall Tower after the war had ended, however. The collection of the German Fotothek Dresden contains numerous views of the city taken from the tower - or rather, views of what remained of the "princely Saxon residence" (Gotz Bergander), "famed throughout the world as a treasure chamber of art" (Fritz Loffler), the city that had once been the Florence on the Elbe. In all these photographs, the view was always shot over the shoulder of one of the figures sculpted by Peter Poppelmann or August Schreitmuller, looking down onto the landscape of ruins. It is just this opposition - between personified virtue and death, light and darkness, proximity and distance, height and depth - that lends the photographs by Ernst Schmidt, W. Hahn, Wunderlich, Doring, Willi Rossner, and Hilmar Pabel their excitement, their suggestive power, and their memorial value.

Although some of these photographs may differ in their manner of pre-senting the subject, we may rest assured that it was Richard Peter's square photograph that inspired the others to find their way up the tower of the City Hall located in the south-east of the old city. In any case, Richard Peter's photograph was indisputably the first of an entire series of similar motifs - an image that bequeathed the world a valid pictorial formula for the horror of the bombing in general and of the destruction of the Baroque city of Dresden in particular.

The fire-bombing of Dresden is often compared with the dropping of the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the totality of the destruc-tion and the number of victims - as well as in the sense of being a 'fit-ting' symbol for the times - all three catastrophes have much in com¬mon. On 13 and 14 February 1945, 'merely' three attacks, each by several hundred Lancaster bombers, Mosquitoes, Liberators, and Halifax planes of the Royal Air Force, sufficed to extinguish the strategically unimportant but historically unique center of the historic city of Dresden. The number of the victims is still disputed today, but estimates begin at more than 30,000; the exact figure will never be known, because many victims were instantly cremated. Furthermore, as pointed out by Adelbert Weinstein, the "already buried dead could in any case no longer be excavated from the cellars in this landscape of ruins. Because of the danger of epidemics, the rescue troops were even forced to wall up the make-shift bunkers or lo burn them out with flame throwers." The damage to the buildings, on the other hand, can be statistically compiled. A surface area of nearly six square miles was completely devastated. Seven thousand public buildings - museums, churches, palaces, castles, schools, hospitals - lay in ruin and ashes. Ol the city apartments, 24,866 of 28,410 fell victim to the bombing attack. More than thirteen million cubic yards of rubble had to be cleared away before reconstruction - still continuing to this day -could begin.

In the years following war, Richard Peter sen., born in Silesia in 1895, was one of the many piotographers who sought a pictorial response to the apocalypse that hsd ended in Europe in May 1945. Parallel to the often-discussed Trummerliteratur (literature of ruins), one may also speak of a regular 'photography of ruins' - the scenes of destruction offered by every larger German city to its own pictorial chroniclers: Friedrich Seidenstucker and Fritz Eschen in Berlin, Herbert List in Munich, Wol Strache in Stuttgart, August Sander in Cologne, Karl Heinz Mai in Leipzig. Poto-graphically important after 1945 were especially the cycles by Hermann Claasen and Richa'd Peter sen., whose books Gesong im Feuerofen (1947; Song in the Furnace) and Dresden - eine Kamera klagt an (1949; Dresden: A Camera Accuses) were among the most-discussed publications of the post-war period.

Double-page spreads from Peter's Dresden book.

The book appeared in an astonishingly large edition for the time - 50,000.

Today it is regarded as one of the classic photo books on the war ruins



A feeling of emptiness and stillness


Not until seven months after the inferno - that is, only on 17 September 1945 - did Richard Peter sen. return to Dresden, his adopted city of residence. Not only did he find the city in which he had lived since the 1920s, and where he had worked as a photojournalist with the legendary A.I.Z., completely devastated, but also his own pictorial archive containing thousands of plates, negatives, prints, the sum of thirty years of photographic work, had been destroyed beyond repair. With a Leica that someone gave him as a gift, he set out once more to photograph: ruins, urban 'canyons', car wrecks, and finally the corpses in the air raid shelters, which began to be opened in 1946. This work occupied him for more than four years. Among the thousands of pictures he created was his View from the City Hail Tower, on which Peter worked for a full week, according to his own report.

The ruins of Dresden

The ruins of Dresden



"Rubble, ruins, burnt-out debris as far as the eye can see. To comprise the totality of this barbaric destruction in a single picture," as Peter himself described the creation of the photograph, "seemed at most a vague possibility. It could be done only from a bird's eye view. But the stairs to almost all the towers were burned out or blocked. In spite of the ubiquitous signs warning 'Danger of Collapse,' I nonetheless ascended most of them - and finally, one afternoon, the City Hall Tower itself. But on that day, the light was from absolutely the wrong direction, thus making it impossible to take a photograph. The next day I climbed up again, and while inspecting the tower platform, discovered an approximately ten-foot-high stone figure - which could not in any way be drawn into the picture, however. The only window which might have offered the possibility for this was located around 13 feet above the platform, reachable only from inside the tower. Two stories down, I found a 16-foot stepiadderthat someone may have carried up after the fire to assess the extent of the damage. The iron stairway was still in good repair. How I managed to get that murderous ladder up the two stories remains a riddle to this day. But now I was standing high enough over the figure [to photograph] and the width of the window also allowed the necessary distance. The series of exposures made with a Leica, however, resulted in such plunging lines, that the photographs were almost unusable. In this case only a quadratic camera could help, but I didn't own one. After two days, I finally hunted one down, climbed the endless tower stairs for the third time, and thus created the photograph with the accusatory gesture of the stone figure - after a week of drudgery effort and scurrying about." Peter's photograph appeared in Dresden - eine Kamera kiagt an, published in 1949 in the former German Democratic Republic with a first run of fifty thousand copies. That the cropped figure in the picture is not the angel of peace, but the personification of 'Bonitas', or Goodness, does nothing to diminish the symbolic character of the photograph. The fact that streets were by then largely cleared of debris and rubble even in-creases the feeling of emptiness as well as the stillness, which for many people was the most striking characteristic after capitulation in May 1945. Wolfgang Kil once described Richard Peter's completely subjective images, which were intended as affective warnings, as "landscapes of the soul." In these pictures, an entire generation found their experience of the war visually preserved.

Richard Peter
(1895 – 1977)
The ruins of Dresden


This must be the best photo summing up Nazi Germany that I've ever seen. It was taken by Richard Peter in an air-raid shelter in 1946. I found the photo while looking for material from his book "Dresden - Eine Kamera klagt an". After the destruction of Dresden, Peter had taken tons of photos of the city, the most famous one being a statue overlooking the ruins of the city. The book was published in the early 1950s in East Germany




Richard Peter

(10 May 1895 – 3 October 1977) was a German press photographer and photojournalist. He is best known for his photographs of Dresden just after the end of World War II.

Richard Peter was born and raised in Silesia, working as a smith and a miner while dabbling in photography. He was drafted into the German army in 1914 to serve in World War I. After the war he settled in Halle and later in Dresden. He joined the labor movement and the Communist Party of Germany. During the 1920s and early 1930s he published his photographs in various left-wing publications. Because of this he was promptly barred from working as a press photographer when the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933. During the Third Reich he worked in advertising, before being drafted again to serve in World War II.

Peter returned to Dresden in September 1945 to find the city destroyed after the bombing of Dresden in February 1945. His personal archive and equipment had been completely destroyed in the raids. Starting over with borrowed equipment, he began to document the damage to the city and the beginnings of its reconstruction. His photographs were published in 1949 in a volume called Dresden, eine Kamera klagt an ("Dresden, a photographic accusation", ISBN 3-930195-03-8).

In 1949 Peter was expelled from the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the successor of the Communist Party, when he investigated corrupt party officials. He continued to work as a freelance art photographer in Dresden until his death in 1977, and eventually won some international recognition for his work. Peter's more than 5,000 negatives and prints were acquired by the State Library of Saxony in 1983.


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