1904 - 1967

Hein Gorny´s life in pictures

Collection Regard

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of Hein Gorny 14.06.1967

About Hein Gorny
Hein Gorny was a much sought-after industrial and commercial photographer in Germany. Many of his industrial commissioners attached high value to modernity, aesthetics and design, not only in terms of their architecture, production structures and products, but also in terms of their visual representation. Gorny‘s imagery draws on the photographic tendencies propagated in association with the theories of the Bauhaus and the Deutscher Werkbund. Whereas New Vision explored the outer limits of the visible with an experimental approach to light and materials, in New Objectivity the specific qualities innate to photography were considered essential to an objective representation of the world. Gorny managed to reconcile the economic interests of his clients with the qualities of both photographic approaches by toning down extreme perspectives and abstracted compositions and hence developing a commercial style.

Traveling through Italy and Egypt, Hein Gorny took his first photographs in 1924 in Gizeh, Egypt. They were published thanks to Hanns Krenz his friend and director of the kestnergesellschaft.

Hein Gorny lived a few months in Alexandria in a German family

Hein Gorny relaxing in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1924.
Back in 1925 in Hanover, he was associated very rapidely in the Kröpke-Kreis, the kestnergesellschaft as well as with the artist Käte Steinitz.

Ada, Theodor and Ruth Lessing.
In 1925 he portrayed the german philosopher Theodor Lessing (1872-1933). This is how he first met Lessing´s daughter Ruth who would later become his wife.

In 1928 he has already enlarged his repertoire to publicity, illustration and experimental photography and received numerous commissions.

Ruth Lessing

In 1930, Gorny undertakes a journey to Russia together with the writer Erich Kästner (left) and the cartoonist Erich Ohser (E.O. Plauen).

In 1931 he moves to Berlin, where he marries Ruth one year later.

A long term friendship binded Gorny and Umbo (1902-1980). Here to be seen in a park in Hanover with Ruth Gorny and Erika Koch.

In 1933 his father-in-law Theodor Lessing, a strong opponent to the National Socialists, is assasinated in his exile in Marienbad (Czech Republic).

In 1934 he tries to settle in France without success and gets a commission for the city of St Moritz. A large body of work is created.

Hein Gorny in St Moritz 1934

Hein Gorny is commissioned by many fashion manufacturers such as swim suits, stockings, shoes, bags and gloves. His photographies are being published in many magazines in Germany (Gebrauchsgraphik, der Querschnitt, usw...) , in France (Art et Métiers Graphiques, Photo-Cinégraphie), in the UK (Illustrated London News) as well as many books, such as those from Paul Eipper.

Ruth Gorny as a model for a glove manufacturer.
In 1935 their son Peter Hanns is born and Hein Gorny is appointed in the Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner (GDL).

What the new tendencies in photography had fostered – a new way of looking at and depicting the industrialized world – is shown most clearly in a number of experiments that he produced on his own or peripherally to commissions. Macro photographs and repeating, serial arrangements foregrounded the workmanship and form of the depicted items and at the same time created compositions verging on the abstract. How these principles of design were applied is particularly evident in the product photography. In these compositions Gorny intentionally employs dynamic structures but maintains the legibility of the image as a primary focus. Ultimately, standardized forms of representation were intended to underline their objectivity and to enable the viewer to quickly grasp the depicted products in terms of purpose and quality.

The largest german paper manufacturer of the time Feldmühle hires him for their jubilee publication (1985-1935). Over 400 photographs are being published in the monumental "Chronik der Feldmühle".

Pelikan GmbH Hanover commissions him for the jubilee publication of its 100th anniversary (1838-1938)

After a publication in the NSDAP newspaper „Das schwarze Korps“, Hein Gorny was denunciated for his marriage with a jewish woman and was asked to end the marriage. He refused.

In 1938 Gorny travelled to the USA in order to prepare the planned emigration visiting editorial offices. He travelled from New-York to Los Angeles along the Route 66 and the Grand Canyon.

However, the plan failed and they didn’t get a permission to stay. Hein Gorny came back to Berlin and moved back in their old studio at Kurfürstendamm 35 (in the former studio of Lotte Jacobi).

Because he was married to a jewish woman, Gorny was „unworthy to bear arms“ and therefore wasn’t allowed to serve in the military. Ruth Gorny managed the studio.

He had to deal with restrictions as a commercial photographer and had to accept propagandistic commissions for the regime. In 1938 he publishes the very popular „Ein Pferdebuch“ (A horse book).

1939. Bahlsen, Hanover, commissions him for the jubilee (50 th anniversary) publication of the company 1889-1939.
Birth of his daughter Katrin Barbara.

Further to the success of "Ein Pferdebuch", Hein Gorny proves again to be a great animal photographer with "Ein Hundebuch" (A dog book) published in 1941 by Bruckmann Verlag, Munich

In 1943-1944 he is commissioned by the stocking manufacturer ROGO, Oberlungwitz, to prepare in color the jubilee publication planned for 1946. The publication was never published.

In 1943, the photo studio is hit by a bomb, the water used to extinguish the fire destroys parts of his negative archive and many prints.

One year later, the flat of the Gorny family is struck by a bomb and is destroyed.

In 1945, Gorny divorced his wife Ruth to marry his assistant. The same year, he moves back to Berlin and divorces his new wife to re-marry Ruth in autumn 1945. In 1946, he divorces Ruth a second time.

1945-1946 he works with the american A.C. Byers (1913-1974) on a book about Berlin before and after the war („Berlin In Memoriam“) taking exceptional views of Berlin from the ground and from the air.

Thanks to the position of Byers in the american army they had access to planes. Their book was never published. The book "Hommage à Berlin" published in 2011 presents the „post-war photographs“.

Käte Steinitz, the German-American artist and art historian affiliated with the European Bauhaus and Dadaist movements and Hein Gorny in Munich 1957. The friendship lasted till the end.

After the war, Gorny was active in photography in Kassel as well as in art trade in Berlin. However, he had to deal with an illness and a drug addiction to pervitin (meth) that started during the war.

From 1957 he lived in a sanatorium in Ilten by Hanover, working on his photographic archive. Seriously injured by a fire in his flat, he died on the 14th of June 1967.

Gerda Schimpf (1913-2014) a photographer and longstanding professor of photography at the Lette Verein commented visiting an exhibition: "He was the greatest! The greatest of his generation."

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