Aenne Biermann

My Child


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Aenne Biermann 1893–1933
Original title
Mein Kind
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Image: 241 × 178 mm
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2013


My Child 1931 is one of a group of vintage black and white photographs in Tate’s collection by the German photographer Aenne Biermann; it was printed by the artist at the time of production. It is a portrait of Biermann’s daughter Helga, taken when she was around ten years old. Biermann began her photographic practice in the 1920s by taking photographs of her children. Initially a form of documenting everyday activities, this soon became an involved engagement with a more structured form of portraiture. My Child is exemplary of the style of modernist portraiture developed in Germany throughout the 1920s; taken outdoors, the composition is tightly cropped on the subject’s face and taken in strong natural light, bathing it in both light and shadow.

Throughout her seven-year career (cut short due to her early death in 1933), Biermann produced a large portfolio of work. Having started out photographing her young children in the early 1920s, by 1926 her interest had developed into a serious photographic practice. In 1928 Biermann met the geologist Rudolf Hundt who subsequently asked her to work on several commissions photographing rocks and minerals. According to her own account, it was these early commissions that marked the beginning of her ‘serious’ photographic work. Biermann gained public recognition in late 1928 when the German art historian Franz Roh published an article referring to her plant photographs in the academic journal Das Kunstblatt. Following this, her work was shown in many of the major international photographic exhibitions of the late 1920s and early 1930s, such as the important touring exhibition Fotografie der Gegenwart (Contemporary Photography exhibition) organised by the Folkwang Museum, Essen in 1929. The following year Roh published a monograph on her work entitled 60 Fotografien (1930), as part of the Fototek series.

Biermann became one of the major proponents of the ‘New Objectivity’ (Neue Sachlichkeit) in German modernist photography, initially influenced by and then working alongside photographers such as Albert Renger-Patsch (1897–1966) and August Sander (1876–1964). Her work typified the movement’s interest in embracing the mechanical ability of the camera to capture the real world in a clear, objective manner. Her subject matter included portraiture, plants, flowers and inanimate everyday objects.

Further reading
Ute Eskildsen, Aenne Biermann: Photographs 1925–33, London 1988.

Shoair Mavlian
July 2013

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