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Photographing Evil: The Story of Arnold Newman and Alfred Krupp

Alfred Krupp
This is a powerful story of photography intertwined with psychology and history, and perhaps one of the best examples of how light itself can be used to create an unspoken narrative.

In 1963, eight years after one of the most brutal periods in human history, a New York based freelance photographer and portraitist — Arnold Newman — was commissioned by Newsweek magazine to take portrait photos of a German industrialist — one Alfred Krupp. Krupp was no ordinary business-man. He and his father (Gustav Krupp) had built up the Krupp business empire largely through their early support of the Nazi party and had heavily profited from the use of slave labour during the Second World War to supply arms for the Nazi war machine. Despite later being convicted of crimes against humanity and being sentenced to twelve years imprisonment, he had been pardoned after a mere three years. He was among many other Nazis who for various dubious reasons got off lightly despite the magnitude of their crimes.

Knowing a great deal about Krupp, Newman had initially turned down the Newsweek commission, but after reassurances from the editor, he finally decided to take the job, promising others that he would make Krupp look like the devil.

He flew into Frankfurt, where he was picked up by two burly men, associates of Krupp, and was placed in a hotel owned by Krupp (Newman would later claim that the hotel’s phones were tapped). The next day, he was taken to the Kruppworks factory, where he was met by four to five smartly dressed business-men sat around a circular table. Some of them were vice-presidents of the company. They took a close look at Newman, and decided to cancel the portrait job. Newman suspected that it was because of his appearance, which was “a bit Jewish”. In order to save the shoot, Newman made a bold bluff. He slammed his fist onto the table and loudly protested his treatment. By doing so he wanted to show that he was no push-over, that he was an esteemed professional, just like the dapper men seated in front of him. He gave them his photography portfolio — kept in an elegant leather portfolio — and demanded that it be shown to their boss.

The stunt worked. After a few minutes of waiting in dead silence, a few of the men returned, confirming that Krupp liked his pictures and was happy to be photographed.

Newman set about on creating his stage. In the middle of giving instructions to Krupp’s associates, he noticed a huge metal structure — a casting — which he used as the inner frame for the portrait of Krupp. On top of the casting he was safely hidden away from the watchful eyes of Krupp’s associates.

Newman went on to use light and posing directions to disfigure Krupp and reveal a near demonic caricature, not only with ghoulish shadows but also a sickly green colour cast.

Newman’s work raises a number of key photographic points that we often take for granted. Lighting a face from below is almost universally used in both still and motion photography to invoke fear and evil. Most likely because in a natural environment we seldom see light falling in such a way, making light from below deeply bizarre and other-worldly. Here Newman has used two key lights that are placed behind Krupp on both sides, creating yet another highly unnatural and disfiguring effect.

The second point of course is the green colour cast, resulting from the factory’s fluorescent lights, which Newman deliberately did not filter for and correct. As well as being highly unusual, green skin — for quite obvious reasons — is almost universally perceived as a sign of ill health.

Newman was certainly brave in even attempting such a portrayal, but the inherent delay in processing film meant that he had enough time to fool Krupp and his associates. It would have to be an even braver man to attempt the same thing today with modern digital cameras. Had digital cameras been invented at the time, someone would have no doubt checked Newman’s images there and then. Though a man of Newman’s wiles would have likely found a solution, such as keeping one or two ‘evil’ shots among a large set of normal ones. Imagine yourself in Newman’s shoes; How would you try and get away with it?

In creating his photo, Newman expressed his vision — and that of many others — that Krupp was a deeply evil man. His famous image of an infamous man will go down in history as a brave and defiant expression of photography.

Lately people have been labelling my Krupp picture as the greatest photographic “knife job” ever done on anybody. But I’m not so sure. I am convinced that any photographic attempt to show the complete man is nonsense. We can only show, as best we can, what the outer man reveals. The inner man is seldom revealed to anyone, sometimes not even the man himself.

Krupp was a very evil man. You can read all about him in several books, especially the Arms of Krupp by Manchester. Krupp claimed during the Nuremberg Trials that he never knew Hitler and that he was a child at the time. This was bullshit! He grew up supporting Hitler. He married one of the Krupp women and Hitler allowed him to adopt the Krupp name.

He ran the Kruppworks using slave labor. He fed them half the calories Hitler allowed for no reason other than there was so much slave labor available. So what? If they got too weak to work he just simply slipped them off to Auschwitz and the gas chambers. Krupp still had slave labor living in his castle at the time I photographed him!

Later on in the War he built factories right next to the concentration camps where all he had to do when they got too weak to work was walk them into the gas chambers. It was that simple. This “slave labor” were people like you and I. ~ Arnold Newman

All Images are shown here for strictly educational purposes.

This post is based on an article in Lenswork (#39) by the versatile photographer Peter Adams and an excerpt from his book, Who Shot That? , a 23 year project of photographing and interviewing photographers.

Storytelling In Photography

There’s an old story that I once came across on the web about a teacher showing a class some video footage from history and following that with photos. In short, what he discovered was that in contrast to video, the photos captivated the class, engrossing them in those special moments captured by photographers. When we think about a comparison of video and photo, most of us would also find that there’s something about the latter which leaves a lasting imprint in our memory. Is this because we simply find it easier to remember a single image or is there something more to it.

One immensely powerful characteristic of photography is its ability to tell an entire story in one image. With people we look at their expressions, their body language; With objects, their features and placement. Put all of this together with what no photographer could live without – light – and you have a recipe to draw a viewer into a world of imagination.

In the same way that a director gives life to a film script, a photographer then can create a new reality through his or her imagination.

In the photographic arts, as in all other arts, it’s sometimes all too easy for us to create a pretty image without thinking deeper about how we can tell a story. Even in genres which depend a great deal on storytelling, such as photojournalism and documentary photography, it can be all too easy to simply take a photo of a subject or object without telling a good story. This is the film equivalent of creating a masterfully directed film but with a weak script. As Akira Kurosawa the legendary Japanese film director once wrote:

With a good script, a good director can produce a masterpiece. With the same script, a mediocre director can produce a passable film. But with a bad script even a good director can`t possibly make a good film. For truly cinematic expression, the camera and the microphone must be able to cross both fire and water. The script must be something that has the power to do this.

In this comparison, the photographer is essentially scriptwriter and director rolled into one, and instead of a two hour feature, you have either one shot or a relatively small number of shots to tell your story and captivate your audience. While the photographer is dependent to a certain extent on what is placed in front of him/her, this is far from being a slave to reality. Every decision – from the framing, lighting and moment captured – allows us to write our own story.

David Bailey

“It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.”

Photography and the Power of Patience

Darkness In Flight Has digital photography made us lose touch with the art of patience? In a world that constantly pushes us to go faster and faster, what do we gain by slowing down? As a photographer, these are some of the questions that might come to mind when reading art historian Jennifer Roberts’ thoughtful article written for Harvard magazine.

She talks about how art students can learn a great deal from a painting through the process of deceleration – deliberately slowing down to notice all the delicate details – reflecting the pace that it took to create the painting. Instead of brief glances, her students are required to spend 3 hours at a museum looking at a painting – during which they have to note down their evolving observations. She argues that taking students out of their everyday environment also helps them to focus better.

In terms of photography, one might compare this with driving or walking through an area of natural beauty. Speeding by in a car, you might look and notice the general beauty of the area – but only on foot do you see the little details, the flowers, the smells and sounds of nature – how the light is falling on every feature. All of these allow us to more closely connect with our subject and to express what we feel. It’s this inner connection that allows us to go beyond a simple visual representation – to create personally and outwardly meaningful images. (more…)

Lessons from Alfred Hitchcock’s Art

Alfred HitchcockThere are few people today that would argue with the suggestion that Alfred Hitchcock is one of history’s finest filmmakers. His storytelling and mastery of the visual art form has captivated many millions across the world, and continues to do so. There is a timeless quality to his works that seemingly breaks through all boundaries and translates across all cultures. Yet for ‘the master of suspense’, the road to success was not a simple one. His struggles in creating many of his greatest films are reminiscent of those faced by many artists: self-doubt, the search for inspiration and surrounding oneself with the right people.

Photography, whether in still or moving form, has a great deal to do with observation. That Hitchcock was destined for a special future as a visual storyteller might have been predicted by his early childhood:

“I would sit quietly in a corner, saying nothing. I looked and observed a good deal. I’ve always been that way.”

The quietly observant boy would go on – as he would often say – to be a storyteller that wrote with the camera. Moulded by his formative years living through World War I, many of his films based on carefully chosen novels and plays would involve intrigue, assassins and murder. (more…)

Should You Watermark Your Photos?

It seems as though pretty much every photographer these days has to think at one point or another about watermarking their photos. Whether you’re an amateur or a pro, this is one decision that will ultimately come down to your own personal views on the subject as well as the type of photography that you do. Here a few things that you might want to consider:

Why am I even thinking about this?

Is it people making unlicensed use of your photo that you’re worried about? Or is it the chance that people might come across one of your photos and not know that you were the original photographer? Maybe both. Whatever you do, just don’t think that adding a watermark makes you look professional – it doesn’t.

What do you shoot?

If you’re in photojournalism then by all means you should probably go ahead and add a tasteful watermark over your latest images. Time is usually of the essence in these cases, and you have media outlets jumping all over such photos. The web being the way it is, a photo can get re-shared so often that all trace of the original photographer ends up being lost too. That means you losing out on potential income and attribution.

On the other hand if you’re shooting fine art, food, fashion, commercial, street or most other genres, then you really aren’t gaining that much by adding a watermark. Sure, you might have a few instances here and there of people using your photo without attribution and/or permission, but you’re not losing a great deal so long as you limit the resolution of your shared images. No one’s going to bother blowing up and selling low-res images that are around 1000-1500px at their longest edge. That being said, a small watermark with your web address might help people to find more of your work.


Know when and how to use watermarks

If you must watermark photos, then avoid doing this on your personal portfolio. (more…)