“A SINGULAR FIGURE IN PHOTOGRAPHIC AND PHOTOBOOK HISTORY”: FIRST EDITION OF LERSKI’S KÖPFE DES ALLTAGES, 1931, WITH 80 DRAMATIC PHOTOGRAPHIC PORTRAITS
LERSKI, Helmar. Köpfe des Alltags unbekannte Menschen. [Everyday Heads of Unknown People]. Berlin: Hermann Reckendorf, 1931. Tall quarto, original black cloth. $1350.
First edition of Lerski’s first photobook, with 80 black-and-white photographic plates dramatically lit by one of the leading figures of Weimar photography and German Expressionist cinema.
After Swiss-born Helmar Lerski (1871-1956) began his career in the United States as a stage actor, he returned to Europe in 1915, where he soon helped define German Expressionist film through his cinematographic contributions to masterpieces such as Paul Leni's Waxworks (1924) and Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927). As a photographer and portraitist, Lerski was chief among those in 1929 whose images were showcased at Stuttgart's influential "Film und Foto" exhibition. In Köpfe des Alltages, his first photobook, Lerski's close-ups of anonymous working-class people are lit with a distinctive Expressionist theatricality. It is this iconic sculptural effect, offering a striking appreciation of changeability, that establishes Lerski as "a singular figure in photographic and photobook history" (Parr & Badger, 130). With Germany on a path toward fascism, Lerski immigrated to Palestine one year after the publication of Köpfe des Alltages. There he continued his work in portraiture and cinema, producing another series of close-ups in 1936, Metamorphosis through Light, and directing films such as Avodah (1935). Introduction by Curt Glaser, text in German. First edition, spiral-bound and full-cloth; without scarce dust jacket. Open Book, 98.
Images fresh and bright. Light scattered foxing sometimes affecting margins of plates; slight rubbing to spine ends of original cloth. A highly desirable, near-fine copy.