L.Fritz Gruber, “ Mr Photography”, has died
Professor Dr. hc L.Fritz Gruber was an initiator and creative genius of photography. He was the friend of famous photographers from August Sander and Ansel Adams to Sebastiano Salgado, from Man Ray to Cecil Beaton, from Henri Cartier Bresson to Bob Capa. He was the friend of photographic editors and publishers from Arthur Dalladay to Andor Kraszna Krausz , Bert Kepler and Roger Montel.
L.Fritz Gruber was born in Cologne on 7th June 1908 and went to School and University there. In 1932 he edited the newspaper Koelner Kurier which was closed down by the authorities and made him emigrate to London where he honed his journalistic skills, until just before the outbreak of war in 1939, when his sick mother recalled him to Germany, where he was trapped by the war, in which he was not eligible to fight, as a result of childhood illness.
During the war he was a studio portrait photographer and had a document-photocopying business in Minden. 1950, to compliment the technical and industrial trade-fair “Photokina”, he initiated the famous Photokina thematic cultural exhibitions, and created 300 in all until 1980. His innovations are countless, he got architects and designers, from Chargesheimer and Michael Sanders to Manfred Heiting and Swoboda to style his exhibitions and he produced their resplendent catalogues, which are now rare, historic, collectors’ items.. He travelled the world to bring new and old applications and manifestations of photography to his exhibitions and met and befriended the great and famous photographers in America, Europe and Asia. I met L. Fritz Gruber at the first international Photokina in 1951. He showed me around his exhibitions and then he came back to London for me to show him around my Festival of Britain. Since then we were best friends for 54 years and travelled and worked together.
He started to collect photographs when he was still at School and his vast, wonderful Gruber-Collection is now the pride of the Ludwig Museum in Cologne. In the 1950s he initiated and made films of still photographs; made early films for TV about photography and photographers, which broke new ground then and inspired the creation of photographic galleries and museums, and he initiated the DGPh, the German Photographic Society.
After his retirement from photokina in 1980, at the age of 72, he continued, right to the end, together with his wife Renate, his dynamic and restless quest for photography, writing articles, producing books and exhibitions, and collecting new and young photographer friends and their photographs. His London years had transformed him into an English gentleman. He was always of striking appearance, immaculately and fashionably dressed, and thus was a favourite subject for photographers, press and TV and was much honoured by them.
L. Fritz Gruber died in Cologne on 30th March 2005. The photogenic light that had illuminated and sparkled up his 96 years through, with and for photography, has finally flickered out. He is survived by his wife Renate and his daughters Anneli and Bettina, the video-artist.
Charles E. Fraser