For more than 50 years, Walter Schels has engaged like almost no other photographer of his generation. The exceptional photographer became known in the 1980s for his character studies of well-known personalities such as Angela Merkel, Leonard Bernstein or the Dalai Lama. Equally legendary are his portraits of animals, which he takes in the style of a classical studio photographer in front of a neutral background. He detaches the figure from its social habitat and concentrates entirely on its facial expressions and posture.

Schels' photographic universe is characterised by the complex relationship between the photographer and his subject. This has earned Schels a reputation as a thoughtful existentialist in the field of contemporary portrait photography. With his own black-and-white style as a mixture of documentary and art photography, he has succeeded in breaking away from the usual canon of representation. In this way, he developed an authentic visual language that captures the viewer's attention not only out of aesthetic but also social interest.

Schels often works in series and long-term studies. In his most recent, currently ongoing long-term study, Schels explores the process of gender reassignment of transsexual youth. He accompanies them on their way to the body they feel is right for them, asking questions about the essence of human beings, about their individual essence.

The exhibition at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt presents four of Walter Schels' best-known photo series: the animal portraits, the series of portraits of Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol, the trans* series and the flower studies, which explore the beauty of withering. The exhibition shows a representative insight into the extensive oeuvre of Walter Schels and is the largest show of his work after the exhibition at the Hamburg Deichtorhallen in 2019.

Born in Landshut in 1936, Walter Schels first worked as a window dresser in Barcelona, Canada and Geneva before moving to New York in 1966 to become a photographer. In 1970 he opened his own studio in Munich and worked for magazines such as Stern and Geo. He has received several awards, including the Art Directors Club Gold Medal for Germany, the Hansel-Mieth Prize and the World Press Photo Award 2004. Walter Schels is a member of the Freie Akademie der Künste Hamburg and an honorary member of the Berufsverband Freier Fotografen und Filmgestalter e.V. (BFF). He lives and works in Hamburg.

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Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
Friedensplatz 1
64283 Darmstadt


Dr. Martin Faass
T 06151 3601-201


Extended until 12 February 2023




8 Euro, reduced 6 Euro

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