Walde Huth.
Material and Fashion

Septem­ber 23, 2023 – March 3, 2024

Ger­man pho­to­g­ra­pher Walde Huth (1923–2011) spent her en­tire ca­reer ex­plor­ing tex­tiles and fab­rics. Start­ing with com­mis­sions in the ear­ly 1950s, in­clud­ing those from the vel­vet fac­to­ry Gottlieb Ott Sohn, she was able to en­ter the in­ter­na­tio­n­al world of fashion as a pho­to­g­ra­pher, work­ing with de­sign­ers of the “New Look” such as Chris­tian Dior and Jac­ques Fath.

For three years be­tween 1953 and 1956, she trav­eled to Paris, Flo­rence, and Rome to pho­to­graph the lat­est col­lec­tions for Ger­man mag­azines. Her mod­els were the stars of the era; in­stead of po­si­tion­ing them in lux­u­ri­ous sett­ings, she placed them around the ci­ty, sur­round­ed by passers­by. “I had no need to re­fer to lo­ca­tions,” she lat­er ex­plained about her pho­to­graphs of even­ing gowns that were not tak­en in the opera or in a ball­room. “I saw it in terms of lines, forms, de­sign, in terms of the dress.” She al­so want­ed to get away from the sweet kitsch of smil­ing mod­els. Her pho­to­graphs are care­ful­ly com­posed and de­pict self-con­fi­dent wo­m­en whose cloth­ing be­comes a form that cor­re­sponds to the ar­chi­tec­ture of the ci­ty. That al­so ap­plies to Huth’s ny­lon lin­gerie and car­pet ad­ver­tise­ments that she did in the 1970s in col­lab­o­ra­tion with her hus­band, pho­to­g­ra­pher Karl Hu­go Sch­mölz, when they had estab­lished their own com­pany sch­mölz + huth. De­signed by Hans Schilling, their house and stu­dio Am Süd­park in the Marien­burg sec­tion of Cologne still con­veys their moder­ni­ty to view­ers to­day.

Start­ing in the 1970s she be­gan to cre­ate in­creas­ing­ly ab­s­tract artis­tic pho­to­graphs and Su­per 8 films such as 100 ungeschriebene Briefe. Fo­to­gra­fische Mo­d­u­la­tio­nen (100 Un­writ­ten Let­ters: Pho­to­graph­ic Mo­d­u­la­tions), de­pict­ing cur­tains flut­ter­ing in the wind. In ad­di­tion to fab­ric, two other com­po­nents were cen­tral to her pic­tures from the very be­gin­n­ing: light and the choice of pho­to­graph­ic ma­te­rial—­some­times col­or, some­times black and white. Huth’s ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in pho­tog­ra­phy be­gan ear­ly in her ca­reer when she worked at the Ag­fa pho­tog­ra­phy plant in Wolfen be­tween 1943 and 1946, where she mon­i­tored the qual­i­ty of the new Ag­fa films.

It is clear that we know much too lit­tle about Walde Huth. This pre­sen­ta­tion of­fers vis­i­tors the chance to get to know her work. It is al­so an in­vi­ta­tion to share me­m­ories and knowl­edge as well as to be­gin re­search on the cont­i­nu­i­ties and gaps be­tween her first years as a pho­to­g­ra­pher for Ag­fa and her ca­reer dur­ing the post­war “e­co­nom­ic mir­a­cle” in West Ger­many. On the oc­ca­sion of the cen­te­nary of Walde Huth’s birth, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig is pre­sent­ing its hold­ings of her work, which have been ex­ten­sive­ly en­larged since 2017.

Cu­ra­tor: Miri­am Szwast