Erna Lendvai-Dircksen


Erna Dircksen (German, 1883-1962) studied painting at the Kassel art academy from 1903 until 1905 and apprenticed photography at Berlin’s Lette-Verein from 1910 to 1911. In 1913 she had opened her first photo studio in Hellerau near Dresden, a base of progressive design, theatre and architecture. In 1916 the photographer, now married to Hungarian composer Erwin Lendvai, was based in Berlin and opened a portrait studio, which operated until 1943; a large number of prominent sitters from culture and politics went past her lens. Since the early days of the Berlin studio, Lendvai-Dircksen had pursued her studies of typological portraits published for the first time in 1930 under the title of Das deutsche Volksgesicht. Further publications on the subjects of children, people from Eastern German Reich or the Reichsautobahn, but also on landscape photography followed. Since 1940, the photographer, a member of the Nazi party, expanded the Volksgesicht subject into a series of several volumes. Das deutsche Volksgesicht with regional volumes was followed by Das germanische Volksgesicht, which extended to regions such as Flanders or Scandinavia. While her studio and archive were destroyed in 1943 air raids, the photographer fled to Upper Silesia, then in 1946 to the city of Coburg in Bavaria, where she opened her third and last studio and continued to publish old and new work. A member of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner since 1924, she was awarded the society’s David Octavius Hill medal for her life work in 1958. Lendvai-Dircksen’s work has been discussed with a critical eye since the 1980s. It was included in several exhibitions on women photographers such as Ute Eskildsen’s Fotografieren hieß teilnehmen (Museum Folkwang Essen, 1994), and in studies on the photobook (Franziska Schmidt, in Autopsie, vol. 2, 2014).