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He will be 95 years old today – the grand seigneur of German photography. In the fifties, he was one of the style-setting fashion photographers of the times and brought new momentum to the dusty fashion magazines. Once he began collaborating with Brigitte magazine – which, in the sixties, had a circulation in the millions (unimaginable today)  – his staged fashion productions were hard to miss. His studio was located in the legendary bunker on the Heiligengeistfeld in Hamburg, which he helped develop into a modern service centre for everything to do with photography.

In addition to the pictures he took in his Hamburg studio, his photo shoots took him all over the world. He was travelling most of the year, moving between Hamburg and New York, where he soon discovered a passion for collecting photographs. With luck and expertise, he was able to put together an international, top-quality compilation, without equal in Germany. This means that today his name is not only associated to his own work, but also to his enormous photographic collection. A selection of those pieces, appearing under the title Das Bild des Menschen in der Fotografie (The Picture of People in Photography), was presented at the Haus der Photographie, an institution he initiated at the South Hall of the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg; other pieces are looked after by the F.C. Gundlach Foundation, which was founded in 2000.

Photography has defined Gundlach's long life at many levels: not only as a photographer and collector, but also as a gallerist, curator, high school teacher, and founder. With a finely woven network of contacts and relationships, he has had a lasting impact on Germany's photography scene – in Hamburg and beyond.  

Whether his sensitive portraits of Romy Schneider, his audacious fashion images, or his exciting reportage pictures, many of his motifs have long been considered icons of photography. He was never particular about his choice of camera, working with Rolleiflex, Leica and Hasselblad. The quality of the technology was the only prerequisite that mattered, so that he might obtain the incomparable, best possible picture.

Five years ago, we presented F.C. Gundlach as a Leica Classic in the LFI magazine. At the time, he shared lively reports on the various stations of his life and his photo series. Nowadays, he leads a very secluded life; but, from time to time, he still visits his archives – and then the memorable moments return. The general public is left with his treasure trove of images: motifs that include not only great portraits and fashion spreads, but that can also be read today as a chronicle of the former German Republic.

Congratulations, F.C. Gundlach!
(Ulrich Rüter)

An exhibition titled F.C. Gundlach at Work will be on display, in honour of his birthday, at the Elbschloss Residenz Hamburg from July 18 to October 17. Under the current Corona restrictions, appointments to visit the exhibition must be agreed upon in advance. (Elbschloss Residenz, Eingang Elbschlossstraße 11, 22609 Hamburg, Tel. +49 (0)40 – 8199110)
F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg 2013 © Esther Haase
Gamblers at the Racecourse, Hong Kong 1961, in: Film und Frau 14/1961
Traffic Police in the City, Hong Kong 1961, in: Film und Frau 14/1961
Aberdeen, the City of Junks and Sampans, Hong Kong 1961, in: Film und Frau 14/1961
„Die andere Romy“, Romy Schneider, Hamburg 1961, in: Film und Frau 11/1962 and in twen 7/1961
Op Art-Fashion, Cathy Dahmen, Pepita dress by Falke, Hamburg 1969, in: Falke Fashion 1969
232: On the Tracks, Hamburg 1968
In the Harbour Pub at Baumwall, fashion reportage for Nino, Hamburg 1958
At Baumwall, fashion reportage for Nino, Hamburg 1958
Bernadette, dress by Lanvin, Paris 1966, in: Annabelle 8/1966
© F.C. Gundlach Foundation

F.C. Gundlach

Born on July 16, 1926, in Heinebach, F.C. Gundlach was given his first camera at the age of 10: an Agfa Box. After training in Kassel, he started his career as a photojournalist in Stuttgart. These early experiences were defined by image composition and a reportage character - qualities also reflected in all his later fashion photography series. In 1950, for the first time, he was able to visit Paris, a city he had long wanted to see. In the French metropolis he was invited into the glamorous world of haute couture, and it was there that the visual language of his fashion photography initially emerged. He moved to Hamburg in 1956. The clever, exclusive contract he had with Lufthansa, where his fees were paid in air miles, opened up the possibility of flying to locations around the world a few years later. The service centre he established - PPS or Professional Photo Service - gave Gundlach the freedom he needed to promote photography in his role as one of Germany's first gallery owners and collectors. In addition to many honours and awards, the establishment of the Haus der Photographie at the Hamburg Deichtorhallen, in 2003, was a decisive highlight among his many photographic initiatives.

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