Lothar Wolleh (January 20, 1930 – September 28, 1979) was a well-known German photographer.
Until the end of the sixties, Lothar Wolleh worked as a commercial photographer. He took portraits of international contemporary painters, sculptors and performance artists. Altogether, he photographed about 109 artists, including known personalities such as Georg Baselitz, Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, Jean Tinguely, René Magritte, Günther Uecker, Gerhard Richter, Edward Kienholz, Otto Piene, and Christo.
Lothar Wolleh spent his youth in a Germany stamped by war and Nazism. In the years from 1946 to 1948 he studied "concrete painting" in the elementary schoolclass at the Hochschule für angewandte Kunst in Berlin-Weißensee.
As a young man, he was arrested by the Russian occupying forces on suspicion of spying, and was condemned to 15 years forced labour and underground mining in Siberia. After serving 6 years at the Russian punishment camp Vorkuta, he was able to return to Berlin due to successful negotiations concerning German prisoners of war.
After his return from prison, from 1956 to 1957 Wolleh obtained an education in the Lette-Verein, a continuation school for photography, design and fashion in Berlin. He took part in a regular monthly recovery program of the World Council of Churches for war-disabled youth. This program made it possible for him to visit the Swedish island of Gotland in 1958, which was a motivation for his lifelong strong affinity towards Sweden, its culture, landscape and people.
From 1959 to 1961, Wolleh studied at the Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in Essen. One of his teachers was the German photographer Otto Steinert.
In his first years as a freelance photographer, he was most successful in advertising, recruiting customers such as Deutsche Bundesbahn orVolkswagen. In 1965, he photographed the Second Vatican Council in Rome. After that, he collaborated with Emil Schmitz to make the documentaryDas Konzil, II Vatikanisches Konzil. In 1975 he photographed the Jubilee celebration, and published the photographic folios Das Konzil (1965) andApostolorum Limina (1975).
In the late 1960s, at the request of his friend the German painter Günther Uecker, Wolleh began to systematically portray more than one hundred international well known painters, sculptors, and Actionists. Among those photographed were Gerhard Richter, Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.
Out of this project several comprehensive photobook-projects evolved:
- 1970- UdSSR (USSR)
- 1972- Art Scene Düsseldorf
- 1972- Apostolorum Limina
- 1973- Das Unterwasserbuch (The Underwater Book, together with Joseph Beuys.)
Lothar Wolleh had a very individual style with strict principles in his photo work. He used a characteristic square format for his images, with mostly symmetrical compositions. Throughout his career, Wolleh made portrait photos of at least 109 artists.
In 2007, the comprehensive retrospective Lothar Wolleh – Eine Wiederentdeckung: Fotografien 1959 bis 1979 (Lothar Wolleh - A Rediscovery: Photographs 1959 to 1979) was shown in Germany at Kunsthalle Bremen, Stadtmuseum Hofheim, Kunstmuseum Ahlen and the Deutschherrenhaus Koblenz.
Wolleh's photograph of René Magritte and his wife is said to have inspired Paul Simon to compose the ballad "Rene And Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After The War".