Worker Photography


The SLUB Dresden acquires literature concerning photography for its special interest collection "European Art History up to 1945 and General Art Studies," regardless of the time period covered

In addition to this extensive collection of literature, the Deutsche Fotothek image database (German Photographic collection) contains ca. 2,000 images (negatives and positives) from the Worker Photography movement. Around 750 motifs from this collection, ranging from 1925 to 1980, are available for online research.

A cooperative effort between the Deutsche Fotothek and the Institute for Saxon History and Folklore (IGSV) made it possible to fully digitalize and index these works. Since 2009, the DFG has funded the research project "The Worker’s Eye: Proletarian Amateur Photography of the Weimar Republic – a Saxon Case Study".

Research Collections

The Deutsche Fotothek (German Photographic Library) acquired photographs by Hans Bresler, Erich Meinhold as well as the estate of Kurt Beck during the time period between 1984 and 1986, when it was on its way to becoming the central institution for the history of photography in the GDR. These photography form the basis of the researchable collection of worker photography. In addition, photographs by Kurt Otto Burghardt, Albert Henning, Richard Peter Sr. and Abraham Pisarek are also in the collection.

Photos by Kurt Beck 1928-1932

The Concept of "Worker Photography"

Foto: Hans Bresler, 1929
Foto: Hans Bresler, 1929

While the term "worker photography" was first used to describe the work of all non-middle-class amateur photographers, its adoption into the GDR’s version of history led to its use in literature to denote members of the "Union of German Working-Class Photographers" (VdAFD), which was closely associated with the German Communist Party.

The main focus of "worker photography" lay in the workers’ immediate surroundings, their everyday life and work. Thus the everyday life of small farmers and seasonal or home workers was the focus of the rural "worker photography", while urban photographers tended to choose more industrial motifs.

Biographical Sketch

Kurt Beck

* 21 December 1909 in Bermsgrün
† 23 April 1983 in Erla

Links: German Photographic Collection | Artist's data


Kurt Beck was a member of one of the most active Saxon local groups of the the "Union of German Working-Class Photographers" (VdAFD), and from 1923 on, he was active in the Communist Youth Association of Germany (KJVD). He created images dealing with the social situation of small farmers in the Erzgebirge region of Germany, as well as dealing with the Community Party’s political work in rural areas.


Accused of having made "preparations for high treason," Beck was condemned in 1934 to two years and three months of custody in the Osterstein prison in Zwickau. Following his detainment, he cut back on photographic work. In the post-war period, Beck worked as a National Correspondent


The Deutsche Fotothek (German Photographic Collection) has 150 glass negatives and approx. 1400 small negatives (slides) of Kurt Beck’s work from the time period before 1945

You’ll find bibliographic information for literature on worker’s photography in the Deutsche Fotothek’s selected bibliography. You can easily carry out extensive image and text searches on this subject area using the search function.