Bernheimer Fine Art is pleased to announce the retrospective of German photographer Toni Schneiders (1920 – 2006), who was one of the most important figures of photography in post-war Europe. As a founding member of the avant-garde group fotoform (one of the participants in the world photography exhibition of 1952 held in Lucerne) and a pioneer of travel photography, his works are considered to be outstanding examples of art photography from the 20th century.
In 1949 Otto Steinert, Peter Keetman, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Wolfgang Reisewitz and Toni Schneiders created fotoform, a progressive group characterized by their experimental approach to photography. With them the so-called ‘subjective photography’ originated and became a well reputed art style around the world, proving it possible to continue with the adventurous art of the pre-war era. This style resisted the contemporary understanding of photography as an autonomous object oriented art and broke with the prevalent illusion of photography being absolutely objective. A humanistic form of individualised photography emerged in which the personality of the photographer was noticeable. Although the group separated by the end of the 1950s, their radical post war approach had a far-reaching impact on the history of photography. The group redefined photography as a completely free, independent artistic medium against the previous rigid and one-dimensional style of photography. The simple, idealised image of the former Nazi`s propaganda photography was replaced by different imagery of calm tones and abstraction allowing for individual interpretation.
Since the early 1950s Toni Schneiders has worked as a freelance photographer searching for motives in art, architecture, landscape and industry. He has photographed for book illustrations and magazines, such as the MERIAN. His work varies from figurative to completely abstract but is always characterised by an emotional depth, expressing subtle moods and ranging between melancholic to poetic to happy.
More than anybody else he was able to symbolically summarise the inner mental state of the people of post war Germany. For example, the facial expressions in “Waiting Women” perfectly capture an atmosphere of sorrow, tiredness and disillusion or, in “A Sad Day”, the man leaning on a column as if it is his only support, providing him with a fleeting sense of stability, or his frequent use of trains as a symbol of painful transition. All these demonstrate Schneider’s ability to perfectly convey a state of mind through one photographed moment.
Towards the end oft he 1950s Toni Schneiders documented his journey to Ethiopia, Greece, Japan, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Italy and Southeast Asia. These portraits from his travels reflect his generally optimistic view on life; they exemplify his extraordinary sensitivity to each new place and his ability to represent it. Beyond the usual clichés he searched for commonalities of people regardless of cultural differences. He skilfully and empathetically conveys the different atmospheres and environment without stereotyping, simplifying or exposing the people.
Over six decades Toni Schneiders artistic language has never radically changed but has evolved to become more pointed and refined.
In 1999 Toni Schneider received the Culture Prize of the German Society for Photography (Kulturpreis der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Photographie) together with Siegfried Lauterwasser and Wolfgang Reisweitz. On the occasion of his 85th Anniversary in 2006 he was honoured with two exhibitions at the prestigious museums; Landesmuseum Koblenz and the City Museum of Singen. On the 4th of August 2006 Toni Schneiders passed away in Bad Schachen in Lindau.
The exhibition will open on 28 February 2015 from 1 pm - 6 pm at the gallery in Lucerne, Haldenstrasse 11.
Ulrike Schneiders, daughter and estate administrator of Toni Schneiders, will be present at the opening.