Night in a Small Town

Umbo (Otto Umbehr) German

Not on view

Otto Umbehr began his studies at the Weimar Bauhaus in Johannes Itten's preliminary course in 1921. Two years later he moved to Berlin, where he worked on Walter Ruttmann's innovative film "Berlin, Symphony of a Great City" (1926). He began to experiment with photography, making expressionistic portraits of friends and eventually teaching at Itten's private art school for two years. In addition, Umbo worked as a photojournalist for the Berlin picture agency DEPHOT from 1924 until its dissolution in 1933.
Umbo's work has an uncanny, surreal edge that pushes it beyond simple documentation, less the result of experimental darkroom practices than of his exploration of the psychological parameters of photographic description. This photograph of Salzburg at night was taken with a long exposure from a high vantage point. The solid, volumetric mass of an apartment block is compressed into a flattened silhouette, while the path of a solitary car, delineated by the parallel tracings of its headlights, is etched into the street below. The mood is one of impenetrable darkness and impending doom, strongly expressionistic in its vertiginous projection of a nightmare.

Night in a Small Town, Umbo (Otto Umbehr) (German, Düsseldorf 1902–1980 Hanover), Gelatin silver print

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