We were in Münster the other day, not too far from Enschede, and visited the excellent LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, the high-spot of which was seeing the exhibition Augenblick (The Blink of an Eye). After reviewing the current Claude Cahun show at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam we were keen to see the exhibition in Münster of another, basically pre-war, female photographer.
Annelise Kretschmer (1903-1987) was one of the first women to open her own photographic studio in the Weimar Republic and to show her works internationally. She is best known for her haunting portraits of artists, industrialists, workers, farmers and children.
Kretschmer was born in Dortmund where her parents owned a clothing store in the region. Her father was born into a Jewish family, but was a practicing Protestant who ran an antiques shop. Kretschmer described her upbringing as being in, what she called, “an unconventional merchant family.” She studied drawing and bookbinding for two years, but did not pursue it further.
Dissatisfied with her career direction, Kretschmer volunteered at a local photography studio. She later moved to Essen to work in the portrait studio of E. von Kaenel.
Moving on again, in 1924 she became a master disciple of Franz Fiedler in Dresden. It was here that she developed her photographic printing skills. In 1926, at the suggestion of Fiedler, Kretschmer became a member of the Society of German Photographers and participated in a number of group exhibitions with them. The qualification allowed to start her own studio
Due to her Jewish heritage, Kretschmer and her family considered fleeing Nazi Germany, but with three small children and an established business, the task was not so simple. They ultimately family remained in Dortmund, living in fear of persecution.
During World War II, Kretschmer’s studio work consisted of passport photos for soldiers. The family fled Dortmund after heavy bombing raids on the city in March 1945.
Annelise Kretschmer’s work is not only worthwhile in its own right but is a personal testimony of an artist who fought against the handicap of being a woman in a male dominated world. And, to make it worse, she lived through a regime that threatened her very existence, not only as an artist but as a human being. Michael Hasted 19th June 2022
The exhibition continues until 14th August 2022