Parisian melancholy:
“Claude in a bistro,
St. Germain des Prés”

Herbert Tobias (1924 – 1982)

Photograph by Herbert Tobias, silver gelatin paper, 34,5 x 34,6 cm
© Berlinische Galerie / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

The coarse-grained black-and-white photograph shows a young man with short black hair. He is shot from a low upward angle through a misty glass pane. A patch has been wiped clear to reveal his face. He looks out thoughtfully. The background is blurred.

The window pane is misty on the inside. The young man wipes a patch clear and looks out. Is he expecting somebody? Or just letting his thoughts wander?

Photographer Herbert Tobias (1924–1982) skilfully plays with light and dark, focus and blur, depth and surface in this melancholy scene. The picture was taken in Paris in 1951 and shows a friend, Claude. Tobias had followed his American lover Dick, who was studying art, to the banks of the Seine. Paris offered gays far more freedom than Germany, and Tobias was fascinated. He frequently depicted intimate, tender moments between men, paying meticulous attention to the setting. During this period he began taking nude photographs, but in those days they could not be printed or shown. Tobias earned his money first as a retoucher for Willy Maywald, a famous fashion photographer at the time. Soon he was publishing his own fashion pictures, and in 1954 he moved to Berlin, where for ten years his poetic, wistful style won him big commissions with reputable fashion houses and magazines.

Claude in a bistro, St. Germain des Prés, Paris
Gelatin silver print
34,5 x 34,6 cm
Gifted by Herbert Tobias Estate, 1986/1995

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