E.t was a rainy day in November ’61, said FC Gundlach on occasion when he was tidying up a bit in his Hamburg studio and suddenly the phone rang. It was Romy Schneider. She is in town and does not feel well. Which is why he suggested she come over. Then he started taking pictures of her. In different costumes at first. In the end, however, very calm. Without any effects, without any effort, even without a mask. No longer a star, but just a young woman who showed herself to him very openly, who became more and more thoughtful and looked very vulnerable when a moment of deepest sadness crossed her face. Suddenly, said FC Gundlach, I had Rosemarie Albach in front of the camera. That was the real name of Romy Schneider.
The portrait is perhaps the most beautiful shot from Gundlach’s barely manageable oeuvre of almost four decades as a photographer. It is not his most famous. That should be a fashion picture that he took five years later with two mannequins. They wear bathing caps with patterns in the style of Op Art and look skeptically towards the horizon, but not on the beach, but in the middle of the desert. In the background one of the pyramids of Giza rises into the sky.
Here the desire for surreal alienation, there the sincere interest in the essence of a person: this is a wonderful way to set the cornerstones of a work with other photographers. But it wasn’t that easy for Friedrich Christian Gundlach, whom everyone just called FC and who also spoke of himself like that. Even the role of photographer was not enough for him. As an entrepreneur, gallery owner and teacher, collector, curator and museum director, founder of the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen as well as donor and patron, he has made a significant contribution to anchoring photography in contemporary art and making Hamburg one of its centers. He called this a moral obligation. He kept his passion for the medium mostly hidden behind a Hanseatic coolness – which he must have acquired, because he was born in 1926 as the son of an innkeeper in Northern Hesse – externally underpinned by the always blue blazer with gold buttons and handkerchief. He liked to start conversations with the words “Oh, you know” before they quickly turned into a lecture.
The first camera at the age of ten
Gundlach got his first camera when he was ten. His first photo, taken with the self-timer, shows him with his brother and a friend on a ladder, he himself on the lowest rung because he still had to run to it. Later he always took two steps at a time. Studied in Kassel in 1946, then internship in Paris, at the beginning of the fifties self-prescribed tutoring in the Amerikahaus in Stuttgart, where he leafed through the reading room “Vogue” and “Harper’s Bazaar” for suggestions and did not shy away from secretly pages with pictures from Richard Avedon, for example and to tear out Irving Penn, with whose picture ideas he underpinned his own work.
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