Picture books on Old Frankfurt

Picture books on Old Frankfurt photobooks on Old Frankfurt art historian Fried Lübbecke Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron Photobooks Old Frankfurt industry and engineering Bund tätiger Altstadtfreunde
Picture books on Old Frankfurt
How Dr. Paul Wolff withstood personal dire straits and became the maker of picture books on old Frankfurt after meeting art historian Fried Lübbecke. He later entered self-employment as a filmmaker, with a focus on “film recordings for industry and engineering”. Griesheim-Elektron Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron Picture books on Old Frankfurt Photobooks

Dr. Paul Wolff & Tritschler. Light and Shadow – Photographs from 1920 to 1950. © 2019 Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg Berlin, authors, artists and photographers [and translator]. ISBN 978-3-86828-881-0

Published at Kehrer Verlag. Editor Hans-Michael Koetzle. Translator Alexandra Cox. The respective word count in the book is indicated for each essay (for reasons of concision, I omit the endnotes, but they are included in the word count). picture books on old Frankfurt

picture books on Old Frankfurt photobooks on Old Frankfurt

From: Photographer of Old and New Frankfurt.

Picture books on Old Frankfurt
Paul Wolff between Convention and Avant-Garde.

by Sabine Hock. Translated from German by Alexandra Cox.

9,896 wordsBund tätiger Altstadtfreunde picture books on Old Frankfurt Dr. Paul Wolff Frankfurt am Main art historian Fried Lübbecke filmmaker industry engineering Chemische Fabrik Griesheim-Elektron Ernst Leitz Museum Wetzlar Museen Wetzlar Leica camera picture books on old Frankfurt

First Books on Old Frankfurt Picture books on Old Frankfurt Bund tätiger Altstadtfreunde
In these personal dire straits, Paul Wolff became the photographer of old Frankfurt. A significant role here was played by the aforementioned art historian Fried Lübbecke (1883–1965). Indications of when Lübbecke and Wolff first met vary in their recollection; most of the time, the assumption they make is that their friendship began on their first encounter in 1920. However, since both of them mention that it was Lübbecke who mediated the residence at Philippine Hochschild’s, they must have first met already at the end of 1919. At the time, working for the City of Frankfurt, Lübbecke was participating in the building of the International Frankfurt Fair, and he was the head of the Frankfurt Art Fair from 1920. In his autobiography Der Muschelsaal (1960), he describes how Wolff had one day stood “unexpectedly and unannounced” in his office in the Wannebach courtyard of the Römer city hall and told Lübbecke that he had been “recommended [to him] as savior in my need.” Now, in his autobiography, Lübbecke allows himself to be strongly led by a tendency toward vain self-presentation, often at the expense of the historical facts. Therefore, we have reason to doubt Lübbecke’s account that he proposed a career change from physician to photographer to the unknown visitor on this very first encounter, thus gaining him for immediate collaboration within the Old Town alliance that he was apparently already planning. Picture books on Old Frankfurt art historian Fried Lübbecke
Bund tätiger Altstadtfreunde Griesheim-Elektron
The Alliance of Working Old-Town Friends

On April 12, 1922, Fried Lübbecke founded the Alliance of Working Old-Town Friends, with the declared aim of safeguarding the Old Town and its attractions, renovating neglected houses, shaping the overall image by means of a color concept, and improving housing conditions by solving hygienic and social problems. With great élan, Lübbecke drew up the “propaganda” of the Old Town alliance that he was to subsequently lead, and employed Wolff as he did so: “He showed me a few shots of Old Strasbourg, with a new and artistic look, such as we are not familiar with for Old Frankfurt.” Wolff had brought out two picture books, Alt-Straßburg, back in 1912/14. “Whether he [that is Wolff]”, asked Lübbecke, “could also take [shots] like those for the […] Frankfurt Old Town alliance?” Wolff reportedly agreed “with very, very great pleasure”, and so the two of them set to work: “Carrying a fairly big camera, we wandered through the Old Town, and soon had a decent number of good, previously unseen shots in front of us on the table”, recalls Lübbecke. Bund tätiger Altstadtfreunde art historian Fried Lübbecke Picture books on old Frankfurt


In 1923, probably just in time for the first Christmas celebration after the end of hyperinflation in November, the volume Alt-Frankfurt was published, comprising 40 photographs by Paul Wolff and texts by Fried Lübbecke. The two authors’ Old Town walks were probably steered by Lübbecke, who, with the alliance that he had founded in mind, set out with the motivation to depict “Frankfurt’s Old Town” as one of the “most precious legacies of the German past”. The picture book follows a dramaturgy that leads the beholder from panoramas on the Main riverbank, across the Römerberg with the Römer city hall, through to a handful of better-known sights and churches, and finally into the heart of the Old Town and also into old Sachsenhausen, while exquisitely detailed insights into their “medieval character” are often provided. One or two geographic leaps are taken along the way, especially in the second half of the book, probably in order to enhance the impression of an overarching, self-contained architectural picture of the Old Town by means of an adroit succession of motifs. Bund tätiger Altstadtfreunde

Entirely according to Lübbecke’s intention, Wolff’s photographs in this first volume of Alt-Frankfurt, some deliberately blurred like old paintings in line with artistic photography tradition, employ the cliché of the tranquility of a medieval German old town. These are quiet mood pictures, which are calmed rather than enlivened by the staffage: men wearing stiff hats, women wearing long skirts, craftsmen wearing leather aprons, the odd child here and there, nobody in a hurry. The laundry hangs on the line, the broom leans against the wall, and there is always a wooden handcart standing about somewhere, carefully arranged in the spick-and-span alleys, in which even a few forgotten trash cans contribute to the idyll. The intended effect is upheld by the predilection for motifs in the snow or by night , for backlit photographs, or—in the later volumes—photographs in the haze, fog, and rain as well. Very often, the images enable picturesque peeks, through arches and passages for example, or views out of colonnades or even through trees. The quiet effect of some images is artificially heightened, if not produced, by means of retouching, as evidenced by corresponding written instructions on some of the vintage prints preserved in the archive of the Institute for the History of Frankfurt (ISG). For example, a night shot of St. Nicholas church bears the note: “Keep sky a little darker”, or the photo of the front door of the Goethe House displays the requirement, “remove the sign on the door”. The demand for a dramatic night sky with clouds over the Old Town was as modest as that for mundane signs showing opening hours for tourists on the Goethe House. It was not the Old Town alliance’s goal to compile any current, or even sociocritical, reportage on Old Frankfurt on the brink of modernity in the 1920s. Seeking to promote the alliance’s objectives, Lübbecke wanted a visualized hymn to the underappreciated medieval beauty of old Frankfurt, and Wolff fulfilled his employer’s wishes perfectly. Bund tätiger Altstadtfreunde Picture books on old Frankfurt industry and engineering

The first volume of Alt-Frankfurt, published at the “Frankfurt home publishers” Englert & Schlosser, very soon sold out. It was followed, in 1924, by a new print run and simultaneously the second volume, which again comprised 40 images. Two years later (1926), “Series Three” came out, this time containing 44 photographs. All volumes were on offer in three designs (bound in paper boards, half-linen, or half-leather, at a price of four, six, and eight reichsmarks, respectively), experienced wide dissemination due to the cost-effective “people’s edition”, and brought the Old Town alliance “many new members”. Lübbecke also courted favor for the Old Town alliance with the volumes’ dedications: The first volume is dedicated to the merchant Karl Kotzenberg (1866–1940), the second to the trade fair director Otto Ernst Sutter (1884–1970), and the third to the senior mayor Ludwig Landmann (1868–1945). In the first case, the reckoning paid off for the Old Town alliance: in circa 1934/35, Kotzenberg donated to it the Haus zum Fürsteneck in the Old Town. In addition, Wolff was a likely beneficiary of the relationship to Sutter. From the end of 1925, the trade show director was simultaneously chief of the newly created department for advertising and exhibition organization at the city’s Office of Economic Affairs, for which Lübbecke also later worked. Wolff performed a number of assignments for this department, respectively the Office of Economic Affairs, up until 1932.

Paul Wolff supplied a total of 124 photographs for the three Alt-Frankfurt volumes. (…) Griesheim-Elektron Picture books on old Frnakfurt

Launch into Self-Employment as a Filmmakerindustry and engineering

The making of the instructional film on behalf of Griesheim-Elektron, which he had made during his time at Ideal, had led Paul Wolff to meet the engineer Alfred Petersen (1885–1960), a board member of the Metallbank und die Metallurgische Gesellschaft. Via Petersen, he obtained further assignments for documentary and instructional films from 1923, initially also in the field of sport, and subsequently in the service of industry in particular, mostly for subsidiaries of the Metallgesellschaft. These gave rise to new film assignments for other companies, including the Frankfurt businesses Voigt & Haeffner (electrical engineering, 1925 and 1927/28) and Mouson (soaps, cosmetics, and perfume, 1929), particularly as Wolff and his company were soon also offering the production of promotional films. Griesheim-Elektron industry and engineering Picture books on old Frankfurt
Paul Wolff had become self-employed back on January 1, 1924, a few weeks after the introduction of the Rentenmark. According to the trade index card obtained from the municipal tax administration, his company “Paul Wolff Verlag”, with head office in Frankfurt, was occupied with “photographic and film recordings for industry and engineering”. Possibly, Wolff was obliged to choose the somewhat misleading company description “publishing house” (Verlag) on account of his absent formal qualification as a photographer and filmmaker, or perhaps he deliberately intended to allow himself some room for maneuver while shaping his field of work. The photos for the Alt-Frankfurt volumes, as well as for other cityscape and landscape monographs, were created at this period. However, the company’s main focus, until about 1929/30, lay on the aforementioned “film recordings for industry and engineering”, which were probably more lucrative, in every respect; the occasional documentary and industrial films were produced up until 1935. Accordingly, from 1926, Wolff’s company name in the Frankfurt address book was “Wolff-Film, Film and Photographic Recordings”, and from 1927, no longer “Paul Wolff Verlag”, even though the company continued officially under this name right up until June 1, 1936.


Dr. Paul Wolff came into possession of his first Leica camera and continued to make his mark on photography in Frankfurt am Main in the 1920s; click on the poppy below for more from:

Dr. Paul Wolff & Tritschler. Light and Shadow. Publisher Kehrer Verlag. Editor Hans-Michael Koetzle. Translator Alexandra Cox

Picture books on Old Frankfurt industry and engineering Griesheim-Elektron