lunes, 19 de noviembre de 2018

3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) : Presentation at Westlicht Vienna of the Documentary Film DVD by Thomas Hackl & Mina Pictures on Erich Lessing, Lisl Steiner and Wolf Suschitzky

Text and Photos : José Manuel Serrano Esparza

On November 14th, 2018 took place at Westlicht Vienna the presentation of the documentary film DVD " 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas ") , a landmark historical and photographical event which lasted for three hours, between 8:00 and 11:00 h , and was attended by a number of personalities of the arts and sciences, including a lot of renowned photographers, journalists, cinematographers, producers, etc, who could relish live a truly unforgettable day in which emotions often skyrocketed with the images, personal stories and a myriad of anecdotes of the three photographers depicted in the film (of whom only Lisl Steiner still lives, since Erich Lessing died on August 29, 2018 and Wolf Suschitzky passed away on October 7, 2016), whose existence was marked by having been born in Vienna (Austria) and their flight from Nazism during second half of thirties to save their lives.

Thomas Hackl, director and producer along with MinaPictures of the documentary film 3 Übersee (3 From Overseas) being interviewed by the ORF TV Channel inside Westlicht one hour before the beginning of the event. 

It was a remarkable success, with roughly 250 people gathering within the Westlicht facilities for the occassion ( an outstanding figure bearing in mind it was held on a Wednesday), some of them coming from United States, United Kingdom, Japan, China, Italy and Germany.

The acclaimed photojournalist Lisl Steiner, a foremost figure of XX Century photography. Throughout her long career of almost seven decades she got pictures of a high percentage of the most prominent personalities of culture, politics, sports, art and music like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Oscar Niemayer, Martin Luther King, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Louis Armstrong, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Ray Bradbury, Pelé, Robert Kennedy, Duke Ellington, Ingrid Bergman, Miles Davis, Leonard Bernstein, Cornell Capa, Carmen Amaya, Adlai Stevenson, Franz Beckenbauer, Rod Steiger, Pau Casals, Pablo Neruda, Nat King Cole, Sir Thomas Beecham, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Erich Leinsdorf, Fidel Castro, B.B. King, Norman Mailer, Jorge Luis Borges, Indira Gandhi, Friedrich Gulda, Claire Yaffa and many others. She came from New York to Vienna to attend the event and her presence was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the day.

And after the showing of some excerpts of the DVD, the icing on the cake was the subsequent and  exceedingly interesting panel discussion with Lisl Steiner (photographer), Thomas Hackl (director and producer of the Film), Martina Hechenberger (cinematographer and producer), Anna Auer (photo historian and curator, former President of the European Society for the History of Photography), Hannah Lessing (Erich Lessing´s daughter and General Secretary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism) and Uwe Schögl (curator and President of the ESHPh).

Hannah Lessing, daughter of the great Magnum photographer Erich Lessing (one of the best photojournalists ever, invited to join the agency by David Seymour Chim in 1951, becoming a full member in 1955, author of the mythical reportage on the Budapest Uprising against the Soviet Invasion of Hungary in 1956 excelling using the Leica M3 rangefinder camera with his impressive innate sense of anticipation and composition, quickness of movements and remarkable ability to see the picture, always striving upon being at the adequate place and moment and as near as possible from the core of action going unnoticed, in addition to being a consummate expert in the capture of defining instants and the creation of iconic images like President Dwight D. Eisenhower tipping his hat greeting people as a beam of light incides on his face while walking across Geneva Airport in 1955 with Swiss President Max Petitpierre,  General Charles de Gaulle in 1958 during his visit to Constantina, Algeria, photographing the dignitary while saluting his honour guard, from a very high point and an almost utterly vertical perspective, wisely enhanced by the shadows of the French soldiers) and General Secretary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism. Her presence was also a great highlight of the event. Erich Lessing, her father, had recently died, only two months and a half before, and the audience sincerely thanked her for the effort he made to be present. 

Professor Anna Auer, one of the greatest experts on History of Photography in the world and a pioneer in the creation of photo galleries with her gallery Die Brücke in Vienna (visited by Ernst Haas every time he went to Austria), that was strongly inspired by the legendary Camera magazine and the keynotes set forth by Helmut Gernsheim. Already in 1972 and 1973, she showed in Austria exhibitions of American photographers like Edward Weston, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Ralph Gibson, Duane Michals, Dick Arentz, Andrew Davidhazy, Minor White, Les Krims, Susan Barron, E.S.Curtis and Judy Dater, together with other significant exhibitions like Übersee, displayed in the Vienna Kunsthalle in 1998, fruit of a previous research on the Austrian photography in the emigration, and Die Materie die wir nicht sehen Franco Fontana´s solo exhibition in 1972. A living encyclopedia of photography with tremendous knowledge and experience, she was also co-editor of Photoresearcher, the top-notch quality journal of the European Society for the History of Photography. She is among many other subjects a great authority on Ansel Adams, and on April 23, 2007, she imparted in Westlicht a historical lecture during the Press Preview of the Ansel Adams Classic Images Exhibition which took place between April 24th and June 3rd of 2007 in cooperation with the Ansel Adams Trust and Anne Adams Helms. On the other hand, Anna Auer is author of the most in-depth existing research on the great Austrian portraiture photographer Ferdinand Schmutzer, mainly delving into his remarkable technical expertise using lighting, shades, perspective and contrast geared to his gift to capture the personality of the photographed persons in his images, which was the core of the lecture given on November 12, 2002 in Maastricht during the ESHPh Symposium, and the exhibition Ferdinand Schmutzer 1870-1928, shown in Westlicht Gallery between November 29, 2001 and February 24, 2002. Her presence as a speaker during the presentation of 3 aus Übersee ( 3 From Overseas) DVD at Westlicht was one of the sensations of the day, often astonishing everybody with his vast expertise on photography and the raft of incredible anecdotes she told.

18:00 pm. Two hours before the beginning of the presentation. From left to right : Thomas Hackl (director and producer), Anna Auer (photo historian and curator, past president of the ESHPh) and Martina Hechenberger (cinematographer and producer, and along with Thomas Hackl the driving force of the 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) audiovisual project featuring the biographies and most representative images made by the photographers Erich Lessing, Lisl Steiner and Wolf Suschitzky, as well as having been the creator of the excellent layout of 19 pictures making up the gorgeous cardboard box including the DVD) greeting an attendee.

Hannah Lessing being interviewed by the ORF TV Channel half an hour before the beginning of the 3 aus Übersee ( 3 From Overseas) DVD presentation.

Martina Hechenberger talking to Hannah Lessing twenty minutes before the beginning of the event. The room of Westlicht has already been overcrowded for a long time.

Peter Coeln, owner of Westlicht, Vienna Leica Shop and Vienna Leica Gallery opening the 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) DVD presentation event at 20:00 h in the evening with a speech elaborating on the very special significance of this documentary film and the three photographers appearing in it.

Peter Coeln about to give a bunch of flowers to Lisl Steiner.

Lisl Steiner being presented away with a bunch of flowers by Peter Coeln, in the midst of the applause of the approximately 250 people gathered inside Westlicht,

who are about to live unutterable instants fraught with thrill, top-notch historical images and dialogues displayed on the screen and an alluring panel discussion with recognized experts on photography.

One excerpt of 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) DVD showing Erich Lessing speaking about his career as a Magnum photographer, also working from early fifties for such prestigious magazines like Life, Picture Post, Time, Paris Match, Fortune and others.

The discussion panel members making a pause while Erich Lessing´s iconic picture of American President Dwight W. Eisenhower is shown on the screen. Lessing made it with his Leica M3 coupled to an Elmar 90 mm f/4 through adapter to M bayonet. It was the shot of a master, in which the photographer proved his skill and reaction quickness, focusing on the American President´s face just at the decisive moment making a difference.

Another iconic image by Erich Lessing in which can be seen some Russian tanks rolling across a Budapest street on October 24, 1956, during the Hungarian Uprising against the Soviet invasion. During late October and first week of November of 1956, Budapest streets became a battleground in which hundreds of thousands of Hungarian civilians fought bravely against the Soviet armoured divisions, with a final death toll of 30,000 Hungarian and 700 Russian soldiers. Sixty-two years after it, these everlasting pictures made by Lessing, which catapulted him to worldwide fame and appeared in the cover of the most prominent international illustrated magazines and newspapers of the time, keep on making a tremendous impression on the beholders.

Director and producer Thomas Hackl, member of the discussion panel, speaking about Erich Lessing and his photographic oeuvre.

Hungarian civil persons watch the body of a killed member of the feared pro Soviet secret police in a street of Budapest. Erich Lessing always excelled at being in the adequate place and instant, managing to go unnoticed in spite of being very near the core of the action.

Aftermath of the pitched battle in a street of Budapest. The body of a charred Russian soldier lies on the ground in lower mid area of the image, while in the background can be seen some destroyed Russian tanks and armoured vehicles and the rubble of a number of nearby buildings which have suffered the impact of shells. Erich Lessing was witness of the fierce battle in which against all odds, Hungarian civil population fought tooth and nail against the invading Soviet tanks and troops that will finally prevail crushing the uprising and bringing about the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hungarians to Austria and other European countries.

Johannes Faber, one of the foremost photography gallerists in the world, owner and CEO of Johannes Faber Gallery, located at Brahms Platz, 7, Vienna, which since its foundation in 1983 has become a shrine of American classic and contemporary photography as well as a reference-class international hub of Czech and Austrian photography. Among the artists whose works have been exhibited within it, stand out Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Edward Weston, Alexandr Rodchenko, Elliott Erwitt, Walker Evans, Imogen Cunnigham, Bill Brandt, Brassai, Herbert List, Lewis Hine, Helmut Newton, Irving Penn, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Alfred Stieglitz, Lisl Steiner, André Kertész,  Philippe Halsman, Andreas H. Bitesnich, Cecil Beaton, Inge Morath, Robert Mapplethorpe, Garry Winogrand, Wolf Suschitzky, Horst P. Horst, Edward Steichen, Eugene Atget and many others.

Here he appears setting forth the pivotal importance of Erich Lessing´s reportage on the Budapest Uprising of 1956 against the Soviet Invasion in the development of photojournalism during second half of XX Century.

A further picture of Erich Lessing taken in late October 1956 during the Budapest Uprising against the Soviet Invasion. A Russian column of armoured vehicles has been destroyed by the Hungarians with a mixture of artillery, machine guns and Molotov cocktails. The havoc is highly apparent in the image, enhanced by the use of a great depth of field to get maximum sharpness from foreground to background, a scope in which Lessing was a master. Meanwhile, scores of Hungarian civilians can be seen in the distance watching a real war scenery.

Anna Auer speaking in depth about the great relationship between Erich Lessing and the great Austrian classical music conductor Herbert von Karajan. Lessing was always the favourite photographer of the Salzburg musician, and got pictures of him throughout many decades, until his death on July 16, 1989, two years after his last New Year´s Concert in Vienna Musikvereinsaal with the Wiener Philharmoniker. The trust of Karajan on Erich Lessing was so big that he even allowed him to photograph him inside his house in Anif, a wonderful village being eight kilometers from Salzburg. On top left of the image can be seen a photograph of Karajan made by Lessing in late fifties with his Leica M3, mastetfully capturing the legendary conductor fully immersed in his starting objectivist stage as Berliner Philharmoniker director, inspired by Arturo Toscanini.

A further excerpt of 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) documentary film showing Erich Lessing and his wife, the Time journalist Traudl Lessing. Traudl was with Erich Lessing on October 23, 1956 inside an apartment of Geneva (Switzerland) when the telephone rang. Traudl took it and she was reported that a battle had started in Budapest between the Soviet invading troops and the Hungarian civil population. Lessing went quickly to the city airport and took the first plane to Vienna, whre he borrowed a car from an absent friend, and sent off to Budapest with a French journalist.

Subsequently, he would make there one of the best photojournalistic reportages ever, with as masterful use of Leica M3 rangefinder camera, Leitz Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 and collapsible Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 lens in synergy with the then reference-class Kodak Plus-X ISO 125 black and white film.

Erich Lessing was beyond doubt one of the foremost photographers in the world during the second golden era of photojournalism (fifties, sixties and seventies) in which professional photojournalists like him, Erich Hartmann, Elliott Erwitt, Eve Arnold, Inge Morath, Ernst Haas, Burt Glinn, Dennis Stock, Gary Winogrand, Robert Frank, Eugene Smith, Abbas, Ian Berry, Bruno Barbey, Rene Burri, Bruce Davidson, Thomas Hoepker, Hiroji Kubota, Josef Koudelka, Constantin Manos and others boosted photography to new heights after the first and pioneering golden era of photojournalism (between mid tewenties and late forties) embodied by Erich Salomon, Walter Bosshard, Harald Lechenperg, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Ilse Bing, Otto Umbehr, David Seymour " Chim ", Robert Capa, Gerda Taro, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Tim Gidal, Paul Wolff, Georg Rodgers, Agustí Centelles, Kurt Hutton, Izis Bildermanas and others.

Hannah Lessing, visibly touched, speaking about his father, the great Magnum photographer Erich Lessing.

Lisl Steiner and Erich Lessing chatting during a visit of the American-Austrian photographer to Lessing´s photography shop in Alszeile 105 of Vienna. More than 40,000 very valuable original negatives of his amazing collection have been preserved and digitized with state-of-the-art scanners for the future study of photography researchers and enthusiasts craving for top-notch photography of XX Century and some of the instants captured by Lessing and which shaped it.

Emotions reach a climax inside Westlicht when an image of a very young eight year old Lisl Steiner held on her shoulders by her mother Katherina appears on the screen. The image was made in Vienna in 1936, two years before the whole family (Lisl, her father Harold and her mother Katherina) had to leave Austria in 1938 to save their lives from Nazis and emigrate to Buenos Aires (Argentina) on board of the Oceania liner, which departed from Trieste harbour. The decision taken by Harold Steiner, who always excelled at taking the right decisions at the adequate moment, meant to practical effect the survival of the family. A total of 65,000 Jews from Vienna (Austria) would be assassinated between 1938 and 1945.

The panel discussion members make a stop while an image of Lisl Steiner walking through a hall of Vienna Schewat Airport. Many years after being forced to emigrate to Argentina (where she lived from 1938 until 1959) and subsequently fixing her residence in New York (United States) from 1960 to nowadays, she has managed to come back to her beloved Vienna whenever she has been able to do it.

Uwe Schögl, curator and President of the ESHPh (European Society for the History of Photography) delving into Lisl Steiner´s photographic production relevance to properly undestand the evolution of XX Century.

A mesmerized audience listens to Lisl Steiner´s words in one of the 3 aus Übersee DVD excerpts.

One of the best pictures made by Lis Steiner throughout her extensive photographic career : the pianist Friedrich Gulda (worldly renowned for his Mozart and Beethoven interpretations and even teamed up with Chick Corea in 1982) just before performing a concert inside the Colón Theatre of Buenos Aires in 1949. Sixty-nine years later, his son Paul Gulda, also a pianist, was one of the attendees to this milestone event.

One of the many pictures of Louis Armstrong (one of the most influential figures in jazz history) made by Lisl Steiner in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1957.

Lisl Steiner´s devastating sense of humour has a Strombolian volcano effect on the members of the discussion panel, surrendered before this unique woman.

The screen showing a picture of  the mythical jazz trumpeter and composer Miles Davis on stage playing the trumpet made by Lisl Steiner at the New York Philharmonic Hall at Lincoln Center on February 12th, 1964.

Some black and white 24 x 36 mm contacts from original negatives of Kodak Tri-X black and white films with pictures of Fidel Castro made by Lisl Steiner during the visit of the Cuban leader to New York City in September of 1960.

B.B. King sitting on the bed of his hotel room. The King of the Blues, revolutionary electric guitarist and song writer was photographed many times by Lisl Steiner, who got this picture during a tour of the famous musician.

The images and dialogues on the world-class documentary photographer and cinematographer Wolf Suschitzky (demised on October 7, 2016 in London, at the age of 104 years old) arose a great interest among the attending persons.

Another of the most meaningful instants of the day: Wolf Suschitzky speaking on the screen of Westlicht Hall during an interview recorded in London in 2015, one year before his death. Until the end of his life, Suschitzky kept intact his unswerving love for photography and movie making.

In addition, he always had an outstanding gift for finding the best locations to get pictures and a full-fledged ability to draw the genuine atmosphere of natural settings.

During early thirties, Wolf Suschitzky used sometimes large format wooden banquet cameras featuring very big black and white negatives for indoor and studio photography, cumbersome and slow to use but delivering exceptional image quality in terms of resolving power, sharpness and second to none tonal range, a tradition which would be amazingly followed from 1979 onwards by Irving Penn with a 12 x 20 inch (30.5 x 51 cm) large format banquet camera to do still life photographs, with whose huge contacts he made gorgeous platinum prints.

The cinematographer and producer Martina Hechenberger explaining the far-reaching influence of Wolf Suschitzky in the realms of documentary photography and movie making, with his images having been exhibited at the National Gallery of London, the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Photographer´s Gallery

Image made by Wolfgang Suschitzky of a passer-by at the Charing Cross Road of London while watching different works in a bookshop. 1935

The musician Misha Donat, Wolfgang Suschitzky´s son. Senior music producer at BBC Radio 3 for more than 25 years and composer of original sountracks for films. He appears on screen speaking about his father´s travels in one of the shown excerpts of 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) documentary film.

One of Wolfgang Suschitzky´s most famous pictures, depicting a gentleman reading a book with Foyles, the largest London bookstore, visible in the background. 1935. Besides, this is a highly representative image, because Suschitzky was born into a Vienna family of book dealers and publishers.

The pianist Paul Gulda, Friedrich Gulda´s son, was present at this event, sixty-nine years after Lisl Steiner got the famous picture of his father in the beginning of a concert at the Colón Theatre of Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 1949.

The photographer Josef Polleross speaking to Anna Auer. He is an internationally recognized professional featuring a remarkable versatility, both in the artistic and photojournalistic scopes. During eighties, he went to New York, where he developed an extensive labour with JB Pictures Photo Agency, travelling all over the world and making covers and reportages, particularly in political and social domains, in such magazines like Life, Newsweek, Time, Geo, Stern and Der Spiegel.

Since early XXI Century, he has devoted his image creation to artistic photography, becoming one of the leading-class experts in the tryptich classic format with which he has made a number of exhibitions in Austria and other countries, also being maker of exquisite photo books.

The photographer and videographer Clemens Kneringer talking to Thomas Hackl.

Throughout his extensive career, he has photographed Sebastiao Salgado, René Burri, Lisl Steiner, Ernst Fuchs, Maria Lassnig, Andreas Bitesnich and others, as well as having made a slew of photojournalistic reportages in New York, Ireland, Paris, Berlin, South Africa, Prague, Vienna, and has likewise published images in Acte-C and Care magazines.

He´s an accomplished movie camera operator and expert in the making of videos of all kind of events, having recorded Lisl Steiner in Vienna, Slovakia and Buenos Aires hitherto.

Another of the personalities who attended to the presentation of 3 aus Übersee (3 From Overseas) DVD :

Victoria Coeln, a unique artist working with light as a medium to attain the highest levels of freedom to steadily explore, expand and transcend her own boundaries.

Her impressive chromotopias with multi-layered light surfaces  and experienced as three dimensional phenomena are both spaces of knowledge and laboratories asking questions not only to audiences of every generation and culture (setting up a dialogue with them) but also to arts, philosophy, theology, science and politics.

That chromotopic light as core of her artistic production turns into latent light bodies defining themselves in pictorial spaces, indoors and outdoors, delving into perceptions of spatial and temporal dimensions, concepts that she enhances in a wide range of locations : public spaces, urban and rural buildings, secular and sacred shrines, etc.

It all brings about new artistic associations through the use of large luminous installations (sometimes accompanied by music), using dichroic glass with a technique reminiscent of the intaglio.

In addition, she has fulfilled some extraordinary light installations in Burgos Gothic Cathedral (Spain), Ephesus Archaeological site (Turkey) and others, creating spacial art adapted to each specific place with lines of light and impressive colour schemes unfolded in time, with an overlapping of light and matter.

Her work in Vienna´s Stephansdom Cathedral between May and June of 2012 was a milestone in this kind of chromotopia light installation, with its vibrant colours and a seamless threshold of colour and light, as well as making light projections adapting to the architecture.

After the event, Lisl Steiner was inside Westlich signing 3 aus Übersee DVDs for more than one hour and there were long queues. Here we can see her talking to one of the waiting attendees.