Have you heard of Erwin Fieger before? Neither had I until I bought one of his books about a journey through Mexico. Erwin Fieger isn’t really well known so I had no idea what to expect from the images.
Once I opened the book an array of different colours, beautifully balanced contrasts and avant-garde experiments presented itself to me. It’s surprising that Fieger isn’t widely appreciated as one of the pioneers of colour photography. I don’t know if these influences existed, but you can sometimes make out similarities to other pioneers such as Saul Leiter or Ernst Haas. But Fieger never really went completely abstract in his images. He always incorporated a documentary side into his work which gives it many perspectives to look at from.
Who is Erwin Fieger?
Although not internationally, Erwin Fieger was still regarded as a pioneer of colour photography in post-war Germany. He started extensively travelling the world on his own terms in the 1950s and documented his experiences in colours in through numerous photo books. As a former graphic designer, Fieger seemingly treated the medium “book” as a piece of art on its own. He meticulously designed everything from the layout to the typography. It was these books which started his career as an artist while he was also working as an independent journalist.
As a young man he already participated in- and designed the Photokina exhibition “The magic of Colour”. Awarded with a gold medal at the Venice Biennale, Erwin Fieger quickly gained international recognition in the photography realms around central Europe. He kept on travelling and publishing his acclaimed books until he had to retire due to his loss of vision in 2004.
Since there isn’t too much information out there about him, I’ll focus more on his images and let them speak for themselves. I’m not sure whether you could call him a street photographer. His work is probably more a mix of travel-, experimental-, documentary- and street photography. But his clever combination of those genres together with his sense of colours gives us a lot to learn and look at; Especially considering the time Fieger has worked in.
What do you think of his images? I have to say that I was blown away both from a visual and contextual standpoint. It’s surprising to me that he isn’t more popular today. Somehow it seems that despite his success within Germany at the time, we’ve forgotten or never even heard about his contribution to early colour photography.
Especially for those of us who travel a lot Fieger’s work is very insightful. You can clearly see that he’s often a tourist and fascinated by different cultures. But you can also see his need for something more than just touristy pictures. The need for something abstract, artistic and meaningful. He managed to balance these two aspects beautifully against one another – something I (and maybe you) should try getting better at.
If you’d like to see more of his work visit Deutsche Fotothek for an extensive portfolio.
All images belong to © Erwin Fieger. No copyright violation intendet.