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Wolf Suschitzky

  • The Viennese Wolf Suschitzky made a career as a photographer and cinematographer after emigrating to London in 1935.
  • Wolf
  • Suschitzky
  • 29-08-1912
  • Vienna (AT)
  • 07-10-2016
  • London (GB)
  • PhotographerCinematographer
  • The Viennese Wolf Suschitzky made a career as a photographer and cinematographer after emigrating to London in 1935.

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  • Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 6, 1938, cover photograph by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
  • Wolf Suschitzky made a career as a cameraman and photographer after emigrating to London. Suschitzky was an exponent of socio-critical photography and film work with an interest in people’s living and working conditions. He also made a name for himself with his widely circulated photographs of animals and children, which formulated a sensitive approach to his subjects. The photographer also disseminated the principles of his camera art through photo guidebooks.

    Wolf Suschitzky was the brother of the photographer Edith Tudor-Hart, who emigrated to London ahead of him. Both grew up in Vienna in a socialist, bibliophile parental home. Wolf Suschitzky did an apprenticeship at the Graphische Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt in Vienna. In 1935 he emigrated to London via the Netherlands and worked as a freelance photographer for magazines such as Illustrated, Lilliput and Picture Post as well as as a cameraman. In 1948, the photographer and photo historian Helmut Gernsheim, who, like Suschitzky, had emigrated to London, included him in his book The Man Behind the Camera, which presented nine contemporary photographers, including three emigrants – Felix H. Man, Wolf Suschitzky and Gernsheim himself. In 1955, the first volume of the Great Photographs series, published by Photography magazine, was dedicated to Suschitzky. It wrote: “For the last eleven years Suschitzky has worked as a camera-man on documentary films. He is one of those who have an essentially sympathetic approach to their subjects - whether these are human beings, animals or trees.” (Hall/Burton 1955, n.p.)

    On his arrival in London, Suschitzky wrote about how it felt to be a photographer in a strange city: “A foreigner notices things that are quite commonplace for locals. They take notice of things that natives take for granted and that they no longer notice.” (Suschitzky in Winckler 2003, 276) Wolf Suschitzky, who came from a family of booksellers, was particularly interested in the second-hand bookshops on Charing Cross Road, where he repeatedly took photographs. The photographs were published as a book in 1988 under the title Charing Cross in the Thirties, with text written by the emigrant journalist Peter de Mendelsohn, who was later to be on the editorial staff of the emigrant newspaper Die Zeitung.
    In 1937, Suschitzky worked as an intern for the director and cameraman Paul Burnford, who was commissioned by Strand Films and producer Paul Rotha to shoot the  documentary series Animal Kingdom at London and Whipsnade Zoos. Over two years, six films were made about the zoos and their animals (Barrington-Johnson 2005, 116). As an assistant, Suschitzky was responsible for the technical supervision of the apparatus, the transport of tripods and equipment, the exposed film rolls and shooting schedule lists (Omasta et al. 2010, 70). At the same time, Suschitzky photographically documented the filming with his own camera – a practice he would continue on future film sets where he worked as a cameraman. Wolf Suschitzky’s work on the zoo documentaries led to a long-term collaboration with Julian Huxley, then secretary of the Zoological Society of London, whom he photographed many times in later years. Suschitzky was occupied with animal photography throughout his life (Suschitzky 2006, 201). In 1939, he contributed 25 photographs to Lorna Lewis’s The Children’s Zoo, a book about the section of London Zoo where children could interact with animal babies, based on Julian Huxley’s idea (Winckler 2018, 73). Suschitzky also published in Animal and Zoo Magazine, founded by Huxley in 1936, which started with a circulation of 100,000 and was discontinued in 1941 during war. Suschitzky provided many cover and interior photographs taken at London Zoo and its rural Whipsnade branch.
    Wolf Suschitzky also used these and other photographs for his photography books and photo guides. Photographing Children (1940) and Photographing Animals (1941, with a foreword by Julian Huxley) were both published by The Studio. All About Taking Baby and Your Camera was published by Focal Press in 1952. Focal Press was a publishing house for photo guides founded by the emigrant Andor Kraszna-Krausz in 1938 that published emigrant photographers and authors such as Alex Strasser and Walter Nurnberg.
    Wolfgang Suschitzky’s photographs articulate an extraordinary understanding of animal photography by placing the animals in the picture as models at eye level. In his book Photographing Animals, Suschitzky suggests lying on the floor with small animals to reduce the distance between animal and photographer, and then to wait until the subject’s personality manifests itself through the viewfinder. Suschitzky writes about the “individuality” of the animal – “they have wills of their own”, of “photographing the animal from its own level” and of “returning to the subject from the animal’s point of view” (Suschitzky 1941, 17f.) In Suschitzky’s photographs, the animals appear neither passive nor as though they are courting attention; they are alert, intelligent creatures, each with their individual animal personality.
    Kingdom of the Beasts (1956), published by Thames & Hudson, a publishing house founded by émigrés, was the product of many years of collaboration between Suschitzky and Huxley. It shows a wide variety of animals such as giraffes, apes and penguins in full-page photographs, sometimes reproduced on a double page. Suschitzky shows the animals in close-up and thus from perspectives that no zoo visit could provide. It can be assumed that Suschitzky was able to visit the zoo at times when no other visitors were present. This privilege is conveyed in the photographs, whereby the context - cage bars, enclosures, visitors – is left out or only hinted at. Only rarely does a certain sorrowful mood shine through in his animal portraits, probably most clearly in his photograph of a gorilla, over whose body the shadow of the bars fall. The melancholy of this animal portrait distinguishes the work from Suschitzky’s other photographs and it probably became one of his most famous animal pictures for this very reason.

    In 1956, when Kingdom of the Beasts appeared, Suschitzky was already working successfully as a cinematographer in film. His filmography includes short films with an educational impetus such as Defeat Tuberculosis (1943) or Triumph over Deafness (1946), socially critical documentaries such as Children of the City (1944, directed by Budge Cooper) on child delinquency in Scotland, and feature films such as Cat & Mouse (1958) directed by Paul Rotha and Ulysses (1967) by Joseph Strick, based on the book by James Joyce. In older age and from the 1980s onwards, Wolf Suschitzky continued to garner attention for his photographic and cinematic work through exhibitions, monographs and exhibition catalogues. In 1992, the Three Generations of Suschitzky – Wolf, Peter & Adam Suschitzky exhibition opened at the Zelda Cheatle Gallery. It brought together the work of Wolf Suschitzky, his son Peter Suschitzky, the cinematographer responsible for such films as The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) and A History of Violence (2005), and his grandson Adam, who also works as a director of photography. In his flat in Maida Avenue in Little Venice, Wolf Suschitzky regularly welcomed researchers such as Brigitte Mayr, Michael Omasta, Ursula Seeber, Julia Winckler and also the author of this article, who met him in 2010. Exhibitions such as Wolf Suschitzky: A Photographer from Vienna, organised in 2006 at the Literaturhaus Wien, brought him recognition also in his country of origin. His photographic estate is housed in the Fotohof Salzburg, and in 2020 the Wolf Suschitzky Photography Prize was announced there.

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  • Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 6, 1938, p. 29 with photographs by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 6, 1938, p. 30 with photographs by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 3, no. 2, 1938, pp. 14–15 with photographs by Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Wolf Suschitzky (photographs) and Julian Huxley (text). Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames and Hudson, 1956, pp. 84–85 (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Animals. The Studio, 1941, cover (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Animals. The Studio, 1941, p. 21 (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Children. The Studio, 1940, cover (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Wolf Suschitzky. Photographing Children. The Studio, 1940, p. 53 (© Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
    Lilliput, vol. 6, 1940, p. 311: “London Snowstorm”, photo: Wolf Suschitzky (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky).
  • Auer, Anna. “No Resting Place. Encounter with Wolf Suschitzky / No Resting Place. Begegnungen mit Wolf Suschitzky.” Wolf Suschitzky Photos, edited by Michael Omasta et al., Synema, 2006, pp. 8–15.

    Barrington-Johnson, J. The Zoo. The Story of the London Zoo. Robert Hale, 2005.

    Forbes, Duncan. “Wolf Suschitzky in Vienna and London. Photographic Exchange and Continuity / Wolf Suschitzky in Wien und London. Kontinuität und Transfer in der Fotografie.” Wolf Suschitzky Photos, edited by Michael Omasta et al., Synema, 2006, pp.16–29.

    Gernsheim, Helmut. The Man Behind the Camera. The Fountain Press, 1948.

    Hall, Norman, and Basil Burton, editors. Great Photographs, vol. 1: Suschitzky. Photography, 1955.

    Omasta, Michael, et al., editors. Wolf Suschitzky Photos. Synema, 2006.

    Omasta, Michael, et al., editors. Wolf Suschitzky. Films. Synema, 2010.

    Omasta, Michael, and Brigitte Mayr, editors. Wolf Suschitzky: Seven Decades of Photography. Synema, 2014.

    Osman, Colin. “Der Einfluß deutscher Fotografen im Exil auf die britische Pressefotografie.” Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933–1945, exh. cat. Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 1986, pp. 83–87.

    Schreiner, Peter, et al., editors. Wolf Suschitzky – Work. Fotohof edition, 2020.

    Suschitzky, Wolf. Photographing Children (How to do it series, 26). The Studio, 1940.

    Suschitzky, Wolf. Photographing Animals (How to do it series, 29). The Studio, 1941.

    Suschitzky, Wolf. Faithfully ours. Cats and Dogs. Text by Cécile Smythe. Jarrold & Sons, 1950.

    Suschitzky, Wolf. Animal Babies. Thames & Hudson, 1957.

    Suschitzky, Wolf, and Raphael Samuel. Charing Cross Road in the Thirties (Photo-Library, 9). Dirk Nishen, 1989.

    Suschitzky, Wolf. “A Short Autobiography of a Long-lived Photographer / Kurze Autobiografie eines langlebigen Fotografen.” Wolf Suschitzky Photos, edited by Michael Omasta et al., Synema, 2006, pp. 194–205.

    Suschitzky, Wolf and Julian Huxley. Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames & Hudson, 1956.

    Winckler, Julia. “Gespräch mit Wolfgang Suschitzky, Fotograf und Kameramann, London 2001/2002.” Exilforschung. Ein internationales Jahrbuch, vol. 21: Film und Fotografie, edited by Claus Dieter-Krohn et al., edition text + kritik, 2003, pp. 254–279.

    Winckler, Julia. “‘Quite content to be called a good craftsman’ – an Exploration of some of Wolf Suschitzky’s Extensive Contributions to the Field of Applied Photography between 1935 and 1955.” Applied Arts in British Exile from 1933. Changing Visual and Material Culture (The Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, 19), edited by Marian Malet et al., Brill/Rodopi, 2019, pp. 67–92.

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  • My deepest thanks go to Peter Suschitzky who gave me permission to reproduce the works of Wolf Suschitzky.

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  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • London, GB (1935–2016).

  • Douglas House, 6 Maida Avenue, Little Venice, London W2.

  • London
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Wolf Suschitzky." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 20-06-2021.
  • Edith Tudor-Hart

    The Viennese photographer Edith Tudor-Hart emigrated to England in 1933 and made a name with her photographs focusing on questions of class, social exclusion and the lives of marginalised people.

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    Julian Huxley

    Julian Huxley was the director of London Zoo from 1935 to 1942 and worked closely with emigrant photographers, artists and architects, including Berthold Lubetkin, Erna Pinner and Wolf Suschitzky.

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    The magazine Lilliput, founded by the émigré journalist Stefan Lorant in 1937, gave work to emigrated artists and photographers such as Kurt Hutton, Walter Suschitzky, Walter Trier and Edith Tudor-Hart.

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    Die Zeitung

    From 1941 to 1945, the émigré German-language newspaper Die Zeitung was published in London, reporting on the war on the continent and on the situation in Germany.

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    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture

    Focus on Architecture and Sculpture by émigré photographer Helmut Gernsheim brought together his work and experience as a photographer for the National Buildings Record (NBR).

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    Thames & Hudson
    Publishing House

    The emigrants Eva Feuchtwang (later Eva Neurath) and Walter Neurath founded the Thames & Hudson publishing house in 1949, which published art history books, photo books and collection catalogues.

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