“I am a very lucky man… My good luck enabled me to survive two world wars, the London blitz; it helped me escape the holocaust. I was never called up to military service. I survived three marriages, and again I was so lucky to find a younger partner to share my old age. She happens to like older men!” — Wolfgang Suschitzky 2005
Wolfgang Suschitzky was born in Vienna in 1912; his father was a remarkably progressive man for his time, a non-practising Jew and a prominent socialist publisher. Wolfgang found a love for photography, seeing it as a profession of freedom that could be followed in any country irrespective of the language spoken. He went on to study photography in Vienna under the tuition of Rudolf Koppitz.
“Among my fellow students was a girl from Holland. We fell in love. It did not take much to seduce me. When our three years of study came to an end we lived together for a few months. The situation in Austria became very difficult in many ways. There was great poverty. It still was the time of the big depression. Fascism grew, on the Italian model, but Nazism soon got the upper hand. Workers armed themselves and in 1934 civil war broke out. The workers had to face the much better equipped army, which did not hesitate to use artillery to shoot into workers blocks of flats. There were about 190 deaths of police and army, but up to 2000 on the other side.” — Wolfgang Suschitzky
In 1934 they left his homeland for Holland and arrived in Amsterdam, to live on the Prinsengracht. He photographed Amsterdam, the place that he continues to hold dear to him. He documented a city in a state of flux and witnessed the Jordaan Riots of 1934.
“We tried to earn a living by making portraits, photographing children from our little flat in Amsterdam. Nobody knew us; we had a difficult time… My good luck held. [my wife] left me for another man after one year. Had she not done that I would have remained in Holland, perished there.” — Wolfgang Suschitzky
He left Holland for London, where he has continued to live for 70 years, in 1935. In 1937 he joined Strand Films as a documentary cameraman, a career which was to span 65 years and innumerable feature films, including Ring of Bright Water (1969), Entertaining Mr. Sloan (1970) and the cult classic Get Carter (1971), fictional shorts and over a hundred documentaries.
“Soon after the war had ended, autumn of 1945, I was sent to make a film in Bosnia about the reconstruction of a railway and its bridges. There were no houses standing, no electricity and the dead were in their coffins waiting for the ferry, we were the lucky ones.” — Wolfgang Suschitzky
In between filming Suschitzky was employed as a photojournalist for Illustrated and Picture Post magazines. It was during this time that he began creating his own huge archive of personal projects, including The Charing Cross Road series and images of the East End of London, which show the insular, intellectual atmosphere of streets filled with bookshops and teahouses and in contrast, the poverty of children. The fascination of these photographs remains not simply with the places but also with the people and their industries of book-selling, shoe-shining etc…, many trades of which have, like the buildings, vanished or have been changed beyond recognition.
Throughout his career, travelling extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia in the 1950s and ‘60s, Suschitzky also carried his stills camera, a Hasselblad - producing a remarkable and little-known archive of documentary images. His expert involvement in both photography and film is unusual, and allows for a fascinating exploration of the links between the two media.
Comprising of some 40 photographs this exhibition, of key Western cities including: Amsterdam, Paris, London, Venice, Salzburg and San Francisco during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, is the first solo exhibition in Holland, of the images of Suschitzky, one of Europe's greatest photographers.
Wolfgang Suschitzky continues to photograph today and his work is represented in the permanent collections of, amongst others; the Archives of the City of Amsterdam, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Jewish Historic Museum, Amsterdam (where he was guest of honour at the opening of their exhibition ‘Waterlooplein’ in 2005), The National Portrait Gallery, London, the University of Texas, Austin and The Victoria & Albert Museum, London.
All work is available for purchase – please note that the exhibition also includes rare vintage prints, which are also available for purchase.