Helmar Lerski
(Switzerland, 1871-1956)
There can hardly be another name in the international history of photography whose work has been so frequently misunderstood and so controversially evaluated as that of Helmar Lerski.
There can hardly be another name in the international history of photography whose work has been so frequently misunderstood and so controversially evaluated as that of Helmar Lerski.
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Helmar Lerski (Israel Schmuklerski) was born in Strassbourg in 1871.

In 1888, Lerski emigrated to the United States. Having devoted over 20 years to an actor's career, he was involved in photography and opened his first photographic studio in 1910 in Milwaukee. In 1915, he returned to Europe and worked as a cameraman and special effects expert for many films.

The organization of light was always the main part of Lerski's artistic method. "Light is a proof that a photographer can create freely, following his mind's eye, like a painter, designer, or sculptor". Lerski managed to reverse the traditional notion of portrait art without applying any of supernatural technical devices. His technical know-how was limited to working with a large format camera, mirrors and contact prints. It was all about the concept, the approach of an artist to the portrait execution.
Helmar Lerski (Israel Schmuklerski) was born in Strassbourg in 1871.

In 1888, Lerski emigrated to the United States. Having devoted over 20 years to an actor's career, he was involved in photography and opened his first photographic studio in 1910 in Milwaukee. In 1915, he returned to Europe and worked as a cameraman and worked as a cameraman and special effects expert for many films.

The organization of light was always the main part of Lerski's artistic method. "Light is a proof that a photographer can create freely, following his mind's eye, like a painter, designer, or sculptor". Lerski managed to reverse the traditional notion of portrait art without applying any of supernatural technical devices. His technical know-how was limited to working with a large format camera, mirrors and contact prints. It was all about the concept, the approach of an artist to the portrait execution.

"For heaven's sake, dear Mr. Meidner, you aren't going to throw down your brush and palette and become a photographer, are you? …Don't take offense at the machine. Here too, it's the spirit that creates value… Photography is something great. It doesn't do any good to step back and cry. Join in, but hurry! Photography marches on!"
- Helmar Lerski to the painter Ludwig Meidner, 1930

"For heaven's sake, dear Mr. Meidner, you aren't going to throw down your brush and palette and become a photographer, are you? …Don't take offense at the machine. Here too, it's the spirit that creates value… Photography is something great. It doesn't do any good to step back and cry. Join in, but hurry! Photography marches on!"
- Helmar Lerski to the painter Ludwig Meidner, 1930
He neither followed the well-trodden way of attaining meticulous likeness of a portrait and a model nor he tried to render the individual features of a face. With the help of numerous mirrors and specific filters he managed to achieve such a forceful light-and-shade effects that the surface of a face began to look like a sculptural landscape, abstract relief.

This collection of 88 vintage prints – a visual material for the book 'Der Mensch - Mein Brude' (1958) includes works from five significant series: Lerski Pictures (1911-1914), Everyday Faces (1928-1931), Arabs and Jews (1931-1935), Metamorphosis Through Light (1936) and Hands (1944).
He neither followed the well-trodden way of attaining meticulous likeness of a portrait and a model nor he tried to render the individual features of a face. With the help of numerous mirrors and specific filters he managed to achieve such a forceful light-and-shade effects that the surface of a face began to look like a sculptural landscape, abstract relief.

This collection of 88 vintage prints – a visual material for the book 'Der Mensch - Mein Brude' (1958) includes works from five significant series: Lerski Pictures (1911-1914), Everyday Faces (1928-1931), Arabs and Jews (1931-1935), Metamorphosis Through Light (1936) and Hands (1944).