Hoffmann & Hitler – Portrait of a Dictator
Heinrich Hoffmann (1885–1957) was Adolf Hitlers’ personal photographer and portraitist. Himself a convinced National Socialist, he was active from the NSDAP’s early days as its most important chronicler and contributed significantly to the formation of Hitler’s image as “leader”. Like no other, he knew the image Hitler wanted to present, his public self-presentation and also his vanities and uncertainties. The relation of Hitler and Hoffmann proved to be profitable for both sides: after Hitler’s takeover, the Munich press photographer’s small business became Hoffmann’s business empire, which daily sent out thousands of photos to the press and produced propaganda for the German dictator with countless protrait prints, photo books and even postcards. A prime example of the cooperation between Hoffmann and Hitler are the portraits Hoffmann made from 1923 to 1939 in numerous sittings. With ever-changing poses, Hitler worked on his self-stylization into charismatic “Führer”.
Fotomuseum presents a selection of 100 Hitler portraits, many unpublished. The exhibition traces the development of the official Hitler image from the “period of struggle” to the “phase of peace” of the Third Reich up to the outbreak of World War II, together with the question of the photograph’s image-forming significance. The Hitler portraits which are still often used as documents of an historical reality today, are stagings of reality. His overestimation of himself demonstrated in the portraits, the grotesque poses and theatrical mimicry are as absurd as they are ghastly and horrible – a lesson in the demagogic possibilities of photography.
The exhibition was curated by Dirk Halfbrodt. Realisation in Winterthur: Urs Stahel. A collaboration with the Bavarian State Library, Munich.