My grandfather Dr. Paul Wolff was a well known German photographer.
His son Klaus drew and painted watercolors, Klaus’ daughter draws, paints, illustrates and takes pictures, my sister and sons draw too, though they don’t enjoy it enough to practice much.
A propensity towards written and visual creativity seems to run in our family.
Paul Wolff took fascinating photos of a huge range of subjects. Thorsten Overgaard wrote an essay about one of his photos that is great reading. My favorite quote from this article makes my grandfather come alive for me.
“In his book “My Life with The Leica” Walther Benser recalls the period where he would assist Dr. Paul Wolff. Benser was a Leica employee who had gone through the full technical training in Wetzlar and later spent many years traveling with the Leica Slide Show. He recalls:
“Dr. Paul Wolff had skills which I found myself envying. Without any optical aid from the Leica viewfinder in the new (Telyt) reflex housing, he could dissect the surroundings with his naked eye in the search for a suitable subject and position. He invariably picked out the perfect spot for taking the picture with the focal length he had already selected”.
“He was a master at keeping his photographic intentions undetected for as long as possible. He never carried the camera in front of his body in the usual manner but kept it, suspended on its strap, hidden behind his back with his right hand. This had become second nature to such an extent that he kept his right hand behind his back even when he was not holding a camera”.
I’ve chosen just a few of my favorite images of his to share, focusing on ones that remind me most of the way I, too, see the world.
I can see where I’ve acquired the habit of framing a view with foreground objects, and my fascination with close ups of nature.
I love the shallow focal field in this photo of my Dad at play as a child.
This one-lit by car headlights-is my all time favorite. Oh, to have snows like this again!
I never knew my grandfather. He and my grandmother divorced and he and my father became estranged. I did learn that he went on to marry a fellow photographer Annette Beiger and they had another son in 1943. If anyone reads this and can put me in touch with my half uncle Stephen Wolff and his family I’d be grateful.