Figure 1: Arnold Newman 1963. Alfried Krupp.
Updated 17 July 2017
THE PORTRAIT OF ALFRIED KRUPP
The 1963 environmental portrait of Alfried Krupp taken for Newsweek by Arnold Newman, provides one of the best examples of allegories in photography. To better understand the context of the portrait, we must first, have some knowledge of both the subject and the photographer.
Born in 1918, Arnold Newman was an eminent American photographer of Jewish heritage. During his career, Newman worked as a freelance photographer for Newsweek and Fortune Magazine. It was Newsweek that commissioned Newman to photograph the infamous Alfried Krupp environmental portrait. At the time when Newsweek assigned Newman for the portrait, he told them, no, citing that Krupp was the devil, a view also shared by Newsweek.
Krupp, who had inherited the steel company, Friedrich Krupp AG Hoesch-Krupp (now the public company ThyssenKrupp AG), was a war criminal, a Nazi supporter whose 100 factories in German occupied countries used over 100,000 people from concentration camps for slave labour, sending thousands of people to their death, primarily those of Jewish heritage.
Newman would have been 27 years old in 1945 when the horrors of Nazi Germany were revealed.
Alfried Krupp’s was born in 1907 to Gustav von Bohlen und Halbach, a German diplomat and Bertha Krupp, daughter of Friedrich Krupp, founder of the family empire. Bertha inherited the Krupp family business at 16 years old when her father committed suicide.
According to Peter Chen, creator of the World War II Database website, Alfried Krupp became a passionate supporter of the Nazi regime at 26 years old when he joined the SS in 1933. Chen in a 2009 article, described Krupp as a ‘lonely, chain-smoking’ soulless man who during the 1930s isolated himself behind a barbed wire 15-bedroom family home and dwelled in self-inflected loneliness. After World War II had ended, Krupp, along with his senile father Gustav were sentenced by the Nürnberg tribunal to 12 years in 1948 for human rights violation, Krupp's assets worth estimated between 45 and 48 million dollars were confiscated at the time. He was released only after serving three years, and his assets returned.
Twelve years after Alfried Krupp’s release from prison, Arnold Newman would come face to face with the devil, only the devil according to Newman looked like a handsome older man.
It’s against this backdrop that we observe Newman’s portrait of Alfried Krupp.
What we are observing is a construction built upon the history of good and evil, life and death, light and darkness, two men, two very different destinies, and a painful reminder that “Evil prevails when good men do nothing” (Edmund Burke).
"We do not take pictures with our cameras, but with our hearts and minds...” - Arnold Newman
The Portrait – Platform of Allegories
When a photographer sets out to capture a portrait of a person, he or she is setting out to capture a glimpse into the soul of the individual, the photographer like the writer, is providing us with information about that person. No truer or challenging is that information more important than environmental portrait.
Arnold Newman environmental portrait of Alfried Krupp remains one of the best portraits in photography’s history. What Newman accomplished was not only to depict the career of Krupp but most wittingly, he ingeniously captured the horrors of Krupp’s soul with eerie symbolism.
Newman was renown for his detail and metaphoric portraits such as Igor Stravinsky (1946) and Man Ray (1948). Newman had the ability to capture his subjects’ souls and their environment with remarkable foresight. His portraits were very detailed with the allegoric context further highlighted by the use of large format cameras that brought ‘hidden’ truths to the forefront. At the soul of Newman’s work was his dedicated work ethic, curiosity for life, reflective and humble nature. Most of all, he was a hard worker, always showed up.
For Krupp’s portrait, Newman had a platform built to rise above and create a sense of grandeur against the steel factory behind provide clues about Alfried Krupp’s life.
Newman’s use of a camera angle that removes eye level viewership by going slightly higher but not too high which would paint a more ‘vulnerable’ man. Newman shrewdly captured Krupp in a sort of belittling manner by looking down but rising over him just enough to project a complex set of feelings he had regarding Krupp. In addition, Newman placed Krupp in front of two spot-splattered, number-stamped, concrete columns that frame the industrial world that Krupp had presided over, we know this because of the executive suit he wears, the way he claps his hands and the self-assured, confident and sinister look reflected in his eyes.
Newman has removed frontal lighting, selecting side lighting which gives a sense of darkness, the light that highlights the edges of his suit provides us with enough information to recognise it. One thing that struck me most was Krupp's hands – the reduction of light made them appear rusted, even dirty, could it be Newman’s symbol of “he has dirt on his hands”.
The portrait of Krupp is not one that leaves us with a sense of empathy for its subject, if you had no prior knowledge of Krupp and what he has done, looking at the portrait, one is left feeling indifference to him. Perhaps, this was one of the points Newman wanted to convey: Here is Alfried Krupp, an industrial executive with blood on his hands, he is not as powerful as he thinks he is, and the masses will view his portrait with much hate or indifference.
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