From Photography to Film and Back Again. Helmar Lerski’s Dramaturgy of the Human Face

Carolin Duttlinger


Helmar Lerski’s Köpfe des Alltags (1931) stands out among Weimar photobooks for its experimental approach to photographic narrativity. By moving away from the single, representative portrait to the photo-group or series, Lerski tries to capture human identity in its intrinsic diversity. His expressive portraits and sequential arrangements reflect his background as a cameraman working on silent film productions. Yet his answer to film is not simply to invest his images with a narrative quality but rather to play with the viewer’s preconceptions. The article shows how the arrangement of his photos blurs the boundaries between sitters and challenges the notion of identity as stable and discrete. Lerski’s recording method, in turn, reveals the inherent contradictions of his approach: while purporting to put those at the margins of society center stage, he demands complete passivity from his models to enact his creative vision.

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