Andreas Feininger’s photographs depicting the bustling global metropolis of New York are icons of modernism. His photographic talent brought Feininger from the Bauhaus to New York. There he became a photojournalist for the prestigious Life magazine and published numerous photography textbooks and books of photographs.

Double self portrait on the terrace of the Feininger Master House Dessau (left: T.Lux Feininger, right: Andreas Feininger), photo: Andreas Feininger, around 1928, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Andreas Feininger Archive c/o Getty Images / Estate of T. Lux Feininger.
Double self portrait on the terrace of the Feininger Master House Dessau (left: T.Lux Feininger, right: Andreas Feininger), photo: Andreas Feininger, around 1928, Bauhaus-Archiv Berlin / © Andreas Feininger Archive c/o Getty Images / Estate of T. Lux Feininger.

Andreas Feininger was a German–American photographer famous for his photojournalism for Life Magazine and more than 50 photography textbooks and illustrated books. His work is regarded worldwide as being among the classics in the history of photography.

Andreas Bernhard Lyonel Feininger was born in Paris on 27 December 1906, the first child of Lyonel and Julia Feininger. The family moved to Berlin in 1908 and to Weimar in 1919, when Lyonel Feininger was appointed Form Master in the printing workshop at the State Bauhaus. At the age of 16, Andreas decided to leave high school and start an apprenticeship at the Bauhaus. "He actually wanted to be a scientist, but – rather adrift and of necessity, as he had no school-leaving examinations – he matriculated as a cabinet-making student at the Bauhaus" [1].

After completing his apprenticeship in April 1925, he started to study architecture, initially at the Architectural College in Weimar (the successor institution to the Weimar Bauhaus) and later in Zerbst. In 1926, Andreas Feininger moved with his parents and brothers to Dessau, where courses at the Bauhaus had already started. In addition to his studies, he started to develop an interest in photography, installing a darkroom in the cellar of their house in 1927 and carrying out his first photographic experiments. Feininger discovered various exposure and development effects such as solarization, reticulation and bas-relief, receiving inspiration from László Moholy-Nagy and encouraging his younger brother T. Lux to take up photography. T. Lux in turn documented life at the Bauhaus with his camera. In 1929, six of Andreas’s photographs were shown at the Film and Photo (FiFo) exhibition in Stuttgart.

Andreas Feininger completed his architecture studies in Zerbst the same year and worked briefly in an architecture office in Dessau. In 1930, he moved to Hamburg, where he had found a post as a draughtsman in an architecture office, but soon lost the job again due to the difficult economic situation. On the recommendation of Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier gave him a job in his architectural office in Paris in 1931. As a foreigner – Feininger was an American citizen – he soon lost his work permit, however. He moved to Stockholm in July 1933 and married a Swede, Gertrud ('Wysse') Hägg, shortly afterward. They had met at the Bauhaus in Dessau, where Wysse studied graphic design. Feininger did not manage to gain a foothold as an architect in Stockholm either, but his photographs attracted attention and he was commissioned with work as an architectural photographer. In 1934, he published his first photography book, 'Menschen vor der Kamera'. He developed a clear, geometric and sculptural style and distinguished himself by inventing ways of improving the quality of photographs. An enlargement device that he designed went into mass production with the German company Leisegang.

Under the pressures of war and totalitarianism, he lost his work permit as a photographer in Sweden as well. He and his wife emigrated to the USA with their son Tomas, born in 1935, and in New York he met up with his family again, who had also emigrated. He quickly found work with a photographic agency as a freelance photojournalist and finally moved to Life Magazine, where he was signed up as a full-time employee in 1943 and remained until 1961. During this period, Feininger published more than 400 picture stories. Starting in 1957, he worked increasingly on illustrated volumes and photography textbooks. He retired from professional work for health reasons in 1988, and died in New York on 18 February 1999.

[1] Buchsteiner, Thomas & Ursula Zeller (2010): Andreas Feininger. Ein Fotografenleben 1906–1999. Ostfildern, p. 19.

Literature:
Buchsteiner, Thomas & Ursula Zeller (2010): Andreas Feininger. Ein Fotografenleben 1906–1999, Ostfildern.
Buchsteiner, Thomas & Otto Letze (2004): Andreas Feininger. That's Photography, Ostfildern.
Feininger, Andreas (1961): Die hohe Schule der Fotografie, Düsseldorf/Vienna.
Feininger, Andreas (1995): New York in the Forties, Neuauflage, Weingarten.
Feininger, Andreas (2001): Andreas Feiningers Große Fotolehre, Neuauflage, Munich.