Distinguished photographer's industrial prints
Amgueddfa Cymru holds in its photographic archives a number of prints taken by the distinguished industrial photographer Walter Nurnberg OBE. The images show interior views of the Rogerstone Aluminium Works in Gwent taken in 1968.
From Banking to Photography
Walter Nurnberg was born in Berlin on 18 April 1907. He followed his father into banking and became a member of the stock exchange, but found the work rather tedious. He became interested in photography while visiting the Reimann College of Art in Berlin, and in 1931 and enrolled for classes in the college.
Whilst studying, Nurnberg was greatly influenced by the works of Albert Renger-Pratsch and Selmar Lerski. In the 1920s they had revolutionised photography with an imaginative approach to the dramatic presentation of mundane objects. Nurnburg was also influenced by the new ideas of the 'Neue Sachlichkeit' (New Objectivity) school of thinking and by the work of the Bauhaus design institute at Dessau. Both emphasised an analytical approach to the photography of objects, revealing precision, realism and form.
From Berlin to London
During 1934 Nurnberg travelled to London and set up as a successful advertising and commercial photographer.
Nurnberg enlisted in the army pioneer corps during World War Two, serving until 1944. He became a naturalised British subject three years later. After leaving the army he set up an industrial photographic business. He described himself as 'one of those mad photographers who would hang upside-down on the end of cranes to achieve dynamic angle perspectives.'
Later on in life Nurnberg lectured at the Polytechnic of Central London and at Harrow and Ealing College. In 1968 he became head of the Guildford School of Photography at West Surrey College of Art and Design. He also wrote two text books on photographic lighting techniques.
Nurnburg preferred to use tungsten lighting, because he could see exactly the effect he wanted using lamps with sharp, clear light. He would even stop production lines if necessary and install extra power cables, to get his unique photographs. His photographs clearly show the effective use of lighting. They create a dramatic effect reminiscent of American films of the 1940s. The pictures are strong and dynamic, full of the power of the industrial world.
On his retirement in 1974 Nurnburg was awarded an O.B.E. for his services to photography and industry. He received many other awards for his achievements in photography. As well as Amgueddfa Cymru, collections of his photographs can be found at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, The Royal Photographic Society and the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the Polytechnic of Central London.
Walter Nurnberg died at the age of 84 in 1991.
Article Date: 6 July 2007