Germaine Krull

Germaine Krull (1897–1985) was a member of the generation that revolutionised the practice of photography in the 1920s, and the originality of her work is the reflection of a very distinctive temperament. After early years marked by political involvement in the Spartacist uprising in Munich and Berlin and studio photography notable for the deep erotic ambiguity of her female nudes, she attained renown in the late 1920s, largely for the work published in the portfolio Métal (1928). With its low-angle shots of cranes and bridges and details of iron structures, it was a seminal statement of the New Vision aesthetic in France.

This landmark aside, Krull was one of the pioneers of modern reportage in her work for the photographic news magazine VU (founded in 1928) alongside André Kertész and Eli Lotar. During a period of intense activity between 1928 and 1931, she produced searching portraits of the more humble and marginal populations of Paris (tramps, fairgrounds, markets, bals musette, the ‘zone’), which attracted widespread attention and echoed the vision of the city evoked by Pierre Mac Orlan (author of Quai des Brumes), one of her staunchest supporters. Her photos were often founded on a spirit of contradiction and, at the same time, a strong sense of empathy. She was fascinated by machines, and her passion for cars led to numerous road trips during which she innovated by taking photos from inside the car. Equally new were her many ‘photography books’, a genre still rare in the world of publishing. Krull also created the fi rst photo-novel, or phototexte, in collaboration with Georges Simenon (La Folle d’Itteville).

Marginalised by new developments in reportage, she served the cause of Free France as a war photographer in 1943–1945. She later moved to Thailand, then settled in India, where she converted to Buddhism and worked to preserve its cultural heritage.


Texts by Michel Frizot.
Co-published by Jeu de Paume and Hazan.
Available in French and English, 264 pages, 35 euros

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