“A SINGULAR FIGURE IN PHOTOGRAPHIC AND PHOTOBOOK HISTORY”: FIRST EDITION OF LERSKI’S KÖPFE DES ALLTAGES, 1931, WITH 80 DRAMATIC PHOTOGRAVURES, SCARCE IN ORIGINAL DUST JACKET
LERSKI, Helmar. Köpfe des Alltages unbekannte Menschen. [Everyday Heads of Unknown People]. Berlin: Hermann Reckendorf, 1931. Tall quarto, original flexible black cloth, original photographic dust jacket. $4500.
First edition of Lerski’s first photobook, with 80 black-and-white photographic plates by this pioneer of Weimar photography and German Expressionist cinema.
After the Swiss-born Helmar Lerski began his career in America as a stage actor, he returned to Europe in 1915, where he helped define German Expressionist film through his cinematographic contributions to masterpieces such as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927). As a still photographer and portraitist, Lerski also became “a key influence on Germany’s Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity movement” (Roth, 68), and a pioneering figure whose work was showcased at the influential 1929 “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, creating an effect that “is eerie and transfixing” (Roth, 68). It is this iconic, “intensely dramatic” sculptural effect that firmly establishes Lerski as “a singular figure in photographic and photobook history” (Parr & Badger I:130). With Germany on a path toward fascism, Lerski immigrated to Palestine one year after the publication of Köpfe des Alltages to continue his work in portraiture and cinema. Introduction by Curt Glaser, text in German. First edition, in spiral-bound full cloth, with exceptionally rare original dust jacket. Open Book, 98.
Book fine with bright, fresh images; scarce, extremely good dust jacket with tape reinforcement to verso, some chipping with loss to upper edge of rear panel and affecting several letters of spine title.