Shooting in Austria

The History of Photography in Austria

Most Prominent Austrian Photographers

Only a few know that the origins of photography leads back to Austria in the 18th-century. Voigtländer, established in 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtländer, was one of the oldest companies dealing with photography techniques. In those days the Vienna-based family company was dealing with the innovation of essential tools for marine navigation but in the early 19th century, after the death of the founder, they started to manufacture optical devices as well, such as periscope glasses and theater binoculars.


After the birth of photography in 1839, the first camera lens based on analytical calculations was produced by this company. This was one of the first landmarks on the journey towards the practical use of photography. These lenses had been designed and calculated by the Hungarian born mathematician József Petzval and was further developed by Voigtländer’s grandson. He reduced the exposure time dramatically (from 20-30 minutes to 1-2 minutes) by using the new lenses. These lenses were used for decades as a basic tool for portrait photography, therefore the company became one of the keystones of photography.


In the year 1849 Voigtländer produced the first camera made of metal (instead of wood). By 1868 they had produced 10,000 camera lenses, which counted as a huge amount back those days and by the end of the 19th century Voigtländer was already one of the biggest companies in the photo market.

Only a few know that the origins of photography leads back to Austria in the 18th-century. Voigtländer, established in 1756 by Johann Christoph Voigtländer, was one of the oldest companies dealing with photography techniques. In those days the Vienna-based family company was dealing with the innovation of essential tools for marine navigation but in the early 19th century, after the death of the founder, they started to manufacture optical devices as well, such as periscope glasses and theater binoculars.


After the birth of photography in 1839, the first camera lens based on analytical calculations was produced by this company. This was one of the first landmarks on the journey towards the practical use of photography. These lenses had been designed and calculated by the Hungarian born mathematician József Petzval and was further developed by Voigtländer’s grandson. He reduced the exposure time dramatically (from 20-30 minutes to 1-2 minutes) by using the new lenses. These lenses were used for decades as a basic tool for portrait photography, therefore the company became one of the keystones of photography.


In the year 1849 Voigtländer produced the first camera made of metal (instead of wood). By 1868 they had produced 10,000 camera lenses, which counted as a huge amount back those days and by the end of the 19th century Voigtländer was already one of the biggest companies in the photo market.

Camera Clubs

Between 1890 and 1914 thanks to the revolutionary technical innovations, the Art of Photography was thriving and camera clubs became a popular scene of social life. Camera clubs were established near to Vienna in Graz, Salzburg and Linz. These were based on British and French clubs.

The Viennese club’s intention was to bring together people interested in photography, both amateurs and professionals. But after not long amateur members were forced to create their own clubs as they could not keep up with the rapidly developing new techniques. The members of camera clubs were fond of new innovations and techniques. Their mission was to make photography accepted as a new branch of the Arts. From 1894 they started publishing the monthly “Wiener Photographische Blätter” journal, which showed the artworks of the members.

The Aula of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Published in Wiener Photographische Blätter, 1894Photo: Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

As a result of the increasing number of daily journals, from the beginning of the 20th century the aim of photography was not only to create art, but to assist news journalism.


Between the First and Second World War, more and more press photographers became interested in conveying idyllic and everyday scenes of ordinary life after reporting so many traumatic events during the war. Artistic self-expression still remained an important element. The goal of a photograph was not only to reflect reality but also show the individual character and style of its photographer.

Inge Morath, A Master of Photography

Inge Morath was one of the most successful Austrian female photographers whose self-expression and realistic portrayal meant the key to success of her career.
She was born as Ingeborg Hermine Mörath in Graz 1923. Shortly after her birth her family moved to Darmstadt, then later to Berlin. After her studies in Berlin and Bucharest she returned to Austria and after the Second World War she continued working as a journalist in Salzburg and afterwards in Vienna. Between 1946 and 1949 she worked as editor and translator for the United States Information Service. She edited literary texts, radio plays and articles, as well as being the picture editor of the Kulturzeitschrift Heute.


In 1949 with the help of Ernst Haas she moved to Paris where she had the chance to work as an editor journalist for the famous, world-wide known photo agency Magnum founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David „Chim” Seymour, George Rodger and William Vandivert. This was when she became interested in photography, so in 1951 she enrolled to a photography course in London as the student of Simon Guttmann.


It was not long until 1953 when she started working as a photographer for Magnum and also for other well-known magazines such as Vogue, Life or Paris Match. Soon she became prominent as an independent photographer and during her many journeys she took photos in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Mexico, Tunisia, the USA and all over Europe.


In 1956 she published her first book called "Guerre à la tristesse" and in the same year her first exhibition opened in the Viennese gallery Würthle. By the end of the 1950’s Morath was working on numerous film productions and during the shoot of the movie Misfits played by Marilyn Monroe, she got to know Monroe’s husband Arthur Miller. After their divorce, in 1962 Morath and Miller married. With Miller she could share her passion in travelling and the arts.


During the 70’s and 80’s she had plenty of exhibitions in the USA, in Europe and also in Japan. She has always liked to work on her own projects but she never refused requests either. Over the years she has become known mainly for her artistic portraits.

In 2010 Vienna’s 12th district, Morathgasse was named after her. Also in her hometown Graz the street Inge-Morath-Straße and in Salzburg the square Inge-Morath-Platz are both keeping her memory alive.

Contemporary Photo Scene in Austria

By the end of the 20th century, due to the loosening up of social standards more and more space was given to the Arts to expand, to make more explicit and cheeky artworks acceptable. The culture of the century was shaped by modernisations, but still the respect for the old times continued. Abstract imaginary, photo collages, artistic self-portraits, fashion photography and images of the naked human body were all typical of Visual Art at that time.


Austrian photographer, Andreas H. Bitesnich took advantage of the weakening moral norms due to which he has become one of the most famous nude photographers of the world.

Widely considered to be one of the greatest nudes photographers of our era, through his sumptuous, evocative and often controversial images, Vienna born Andreas H. Bitesnich has changed the way in which we look at the human body.”Stewart Bywater
Roy, Vienna 1995 #01 © Andreas H. Bitesnich

He was born in 1964 in Vienna, and he started to take photos without specialist education in 1988. He has become famous for his unique way of representing statue-like human bodies and as well as the perfect lighting in his nude photos. He takes fashion and nature photos as well. His first book called ‘Nudes’ was published in 1998 and it that year won the Kodak Photography Book Prize. Beside taking photos, Bitesnich is also considered as a talented composer.


Interestingly enough, one of his former assistants, Mario Schmolka has become one of the most well-known photographers of contemporary fashion and portrait photography.


Mario Schmolka was born in 1975 in Vienna. After finishing his studies in Vienna and then in Milan, he moved there where he got involved in productions for clients such as Moschino, Prada, Versace, to name a few.

After his return to Vienna he worked independently for international brands and magazines such as the German Vogue, the Italian Vanity Fair, Glamour or Marie Claire, as well as the Austrian fashion and photography magazine Peng! The photos from his first book ‘Intense’ (published in 2005) were exhibited twice in Vienna. Besides his fashion and beauty work, he also portrayed several celebrities including Bar Refaeli, Manolo Blahnik and Tommy Hilfiger. In 2012 he won the Austrian Fashion Award.


Mark van der Loo shot by © Mario Schmolka

In the 21st century Austria is still playing an outstanding role in the progression of photography, just like it did 200 years ago. Plenty of museums, galleries and festivals provide and popularize the art of photography among tourists and Austrian citizens. Westlicht and Ostlicht galleries in Vienna are scenes for many historic and contemporary exhibitions and festivals, such as the Vienna Photobook Festival which allows amatour and professional artists to sell their own photobooks.

Austria’s biggest photography festival is the ‘Eyes On’ which is held every two years in November; the month of photography. Hundreds of Austrian and international photographers exhibit their artworks in the galleries, museums, libraries and public places of Vienna. Beside the exhibitions the visitors can also attend book launches, concerts, talks by experts and workshops. Furthermore, there are outstanding photography events in Graz as well organized by the journal Camera Austria International. So, all in all, talented Austrian photographers have many possibilities to show their masterpieces to the world and reach world-wide fame.

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