Lore Krüger . A Suitcase Full of Pictures
Magdeburg, London, Mallorca, Barcelona, Paris, Marseille, Trinidad, New York, Wisconsin, Berlin: these were stops along the route of an eventful escape—a moving, existential mid-twentieth century odyssey. German-Jewish photographer Lore Krüger experienced and survived emigration, resistance, persecution, imprisonment, internment camp, and exile after the rise of the National Socialists and during the Second World War. And she had her camera with her the entire time. This enabled her to create unique historic documents spanning a range of photographic genres from private photography to commissioned photography, social documentary, and experimental abstract photography. Her impressive oeuvre not only offers deep insights into the lives of European intellectuals in exile, but also affords a rare personal view of the political events of her time—beyond the familiar journalistic photos and the propaganda of the warring parties. The discovery of Lore Krüger’s photographic estate was a stroke of fortune that opens up new and direct access to the events of contemporary history.
Lore Krüger’s photographs are strongly influenced by the “New Seeing,” a movement that emerged within the Bauhaus context, but also by other artistic movements such as Cubism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. She was among the Paris artists who sought to expand the visual language of photography from a purely reproductive to a productive medium. In Paris, Lore Krüger studied with the great photographer and Bauhaus graduate Florence Henri, and it was there that she acquired her photographic skills and developed her free, experimental approach to the medium. She conducted darkroom experiments with the techniques of montage, the photogram, and multiple exposure. She soon moved away from the pure, aesthetic studio photography of her teacher and turned her attention toward real life on the street. This led to her series “Gitans” on the pilgrimage site Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and to sociological reportage photography on provincial life, workers, and the bourgeoisie in France.
Not muse or model but artist: Lore Krüger is representative of the new emancipated women of the avant-garde of the 1930s and 40s. As a photographer, she ranks among the pioneering women artists of her time, including Sonia Delaunay, Hannah Höch, Florence Henri, and Claude Cahun. Her politicization through events in Germany and her experiences in exile contributed further to her development. She engaged in intense discussion with the intellectuals of the time—Anna Seghers, László Radványi, Walter Benjamin, and Alfred Kantorowicz. And in New York, she was actively involved in the founding of the anti-fascist exile newspaper “The German American,” which published the work of numerous famous writers.
C/O Berlin is the first institution worldwide to present a major retrospective of Lore Krüger’s work. The exhibition comprises around 100 original black-and-white photographic prints and other pieces such as books and historic documents. This retrospective continues a series of exhibitions at C/O Berlin featuring previously unpublished works by Jerry Berndt (2008), Fred Herzog (2010), and Anja Niedringhaus (2011).
Lore Krüger (b. 1914 in Magdeburg) went to London at the age of 19 to work as an au pair, and it was there that she conducted her first experiments in photography. In 1934, after being denied an extension of her British residence permit, she moved to Mallorca to be with her parents, who were living there in exile. That same year, she traveled to Barcelona and began studying photography. She continued her studies under Florence Henri in Paris in 1935, began working as a professional photographer, and soon became active in the circle of great female photographers of the Weimar period. In the years that followed, she was involved in political actions against the Nazis and in initial efforts to provide aid to fighters in the Spanish Civil War. In 1940, she was deported to the Gurs internment camp in the Pyrenees Mountains. After several months, she was released and fled in the direction of Toulouse with the intention of emigrating to Mexico via Marseille. In 1941, she, her sister Gisela, and her future husband Ernst Krüger received Mexican and US visas and were able to leave Europe on a freight ship. Just off the coast of Mexico, however, the Dutch army seized the ship and placed the passengers in a British internment camp on the Island of Trinidad. Instead of going to Mexico, Lore Krüger emigrated with her family to the USA, and in 1942 she was married in New York. The same year, she co-founded the German American Emergency Conference and its newspaper, “The German American.” In exile, she worked primarily as an interpreter and translator. In 1946, she returned to East Berlin with her family. For the decades that followed, she worked for the publishing house Aufbau Verlag as a translator of English and American literature by authors including R.L. Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, Daniel Defoe, Mark Twain, Doris Lessing, and Henry James. Lore Krüger died in Berlin in 2009.