I picked this Aenne Biermann 60 Fotos reprint up after a recommendation from (who else) Jorg Colberg, and like many other books before it, I’m glad I did.
Aenne Biermann’s 60 Fotos was the second of a planned 8 volume set of books put together by Franz Roh in Weimar Germany. Only this book and the first volume (Moholy-Nagy’s 60 Fotos) actually saw the light of day, and this is the only collection of Biermann’s work to survive. Biermann passed away, reportedly due to liver disease, in 1933, and her husband lost most of her archive when the Nazi regime confiscated his business and then when he fled Germany in 1940.
Biermann was entirely self taught, first picking up a camera in the early 1920s to document her children and make some pictures on holiday. A geologist acquaintance hired her to make some photographs of rocks, and she went on from there. Her work is loosely related to the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement, but her work is all her own.
The 60 photos are all over the place: extreme close ups of minerals; close ups of plants and vegetables, fruits, eggs, etc.; portraits of various people, mostly just the face, almost never in a landscape; photographs of her children at various ages; a couple of landscapes; fireworks. It’s almost all straight photography (there are a couple of double exposures, but no photomontages or anything like that) and speaks to an appetite for photography that I wish I (still) had. Who knows what else she might have made had she lived a bit longer, and who knows what all was lost? At least we still have these 60.
First edition copies of 60 Fotos can be found online for around $500-600, but this near-identical reprint can be had for $25 or less ($23.40 at Barnes & Noble at time of writing), so if you’re interested go pick one up. The new essay from Hans-Michael Koetzle gives some background and information that is absent from the original brief biographical blurb, but the English translation leaves something to be desired. It’s about as readable as something run through Google Translate.
Stick to the 60 Photos.