List’s photographic development illustrates a move from the German “new objectivity” to photo journalism. His early works strike the viewer as sensual expressions of a love of forms, whereas his later works show a close portrayal humanity in all it’s exuberance and vitality.
Influenced by the European Avantgarde, Herbert List made still life photos, inspired by surrealism. When he left Germany for political reasons in 1936, he worked as a photographer first in Paris and London, and later in Greece.
In Greece he was trying to capture the myth of Greek antiquity by playing with light and shadow: the trademark of his compositions. List portrayed both antique statues and the bodies of young men, in a highly sensual and erotic way.
After the end of the war, List’s pictures bore witness to the downfall of the national socialist regime and the destruction the conflict had left behind. These photographs, like the photographer’s work in Greece, show a certain aesthetic of ruin.
In the beginning of the fifties List’s visual language moved from still lives and architectural shots to human subjects. This milestone in his career encompasses several portraits of famous actors and directors, painters and sculptors, authors and musicians of his time including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Vittorio de Sica.
Last year, WestLicht Schauplatz für Fotografie presented the first extensive exhibition of photographs by Herbert List in Austria.