Apropos Visionary

The Photographer Horst H. Baumann

26 August 2023 – 28 January 2024

The photographer Horst H. Baumann (1934 - 2019) was one of the shooting stars of his generation. Already awarded several prizes at a young age, the self-taught photographer advanced from the 1960s onwards to become a highly successful photographer who was omnipresent in the printed media.

It was above all his photographs of car races at the Nürburgring, Spa or Le Mans that made Horst H. Baumann famous. From the mid-1960s, he turned to multimedia projects, especially laser art, with which he presented himself, for example, at documenta 6 in Kassel in 1977. To this day, the green laser beam regularly shines as a nocturnal landmark of the Hessian art metropolis. The still-active light-time level on the Düsseldorf Rhine Tower is also due to his ideas. Consistently from the late 1960s onwards, Baumann has worked with multivision, light installations or temporary architecture, while his contribution to German photography of the 1950s and 1960s has largely been forgotten.

In collaboration with the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim, the MAKK –Cologne Museum of Applied Arts – presents the exhibition APROPOS VISIONARY - THE PHOTOGRAPHER HORST H. BAUMANN – the first retrospective featuring the work of this important, yet largely forgotten, photography artist. The exhibition shows around 350 selected works from the photographer's artistic estate.

Indeed, during the decade between 1955 and 1965, Baumann (born in Aachen in 1934 and deceased in Düsseldorf in 2019) was one of the most productive and creative, and, in terms of style and aesthetics, most daring talents within the young German photography scene of that time.

What distinguishes Horst H. Baumann's early photography is, on the one hand, a high degree of empathy, a genuine interest in social issues, and, on the other hand, a consistent quest for his personal form of expression in the art of photography. Even from the supposedly most banal subject, Baumann knew how to create a type of surprising yet puzzling photography through the specific application of partial focus, bold cropping, carefully selected perspectives or a play with foreground and background.

In retrospect, it seems amazing how consistently and rapidly Baumann developed his very own visual language, which had as little to do with "subjective photography" and its formalism as it had with the concealed geometry of Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose preference for the standard lens was completely ignored by Baumann just as he ignored all the other "rules" imposed by the manuals for amateurs. Through the viewfinder of his Leica, Baumann composed decidedly radical images, the likes of which only the Cologne-based photographer Chargesheimer dared to create.

As a self-assigned "street photographer" Baumann created portraits of international celebrities from the music and film industries (Juliette Gréco, Ursula Andress, Jane Fonda), produced documentaries for high-circulation magazines (Stern, Kristall), proved himself in the field of advertising and visual communication, and at the beginning of the 1960s became intensely involved with the artistic potential of colour photography. In addition, and especially in this field, he set new standards.

As early as the mid-1960s, Horst H. Baumann gradually began to abandon photography. Thereafter, he was driven by cross-media concepts, multimedia installations and ephemeral architecture in the service of innovative moving media such as film, television and video. In the end, it turned out to be "the intense, radiant light source of the laser" that drove him to continually develop new projects until the end of his life.

Throughout his life, Horst H. Baumann saw himself as a "light artist" in an overarching sense, as a creative person implementing light as his means of expression in combination with a variety of other techniques. The exhibition deliberately refrains from a comprehensive presentation of his work – which would be an impossible feat – and instead focuses on his time as a photographer. Around 1960, the photographer Horst H. Baumann was indeed a star, a label, a brand, a guarantor of world-class photography. The fact that he has been so consistently forgotten may sound tragic, but at least it offers the chance to rediscover his work on the basis of his estate, which, with this exhibition, is experiencing a renaissance for the first time via selected original prints (vintage prints).  


In collaboration with the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen Mannheim and first showcased at ZEPHYR - Raum für Fotografie in early 2023.

The exhibition was curated by Hans-Michael Koetzle (Munich), accompanied by a photo book published by Steidl Verlag, Göttingen.

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Exhibition flyer with supporting programme