Photography in the Third Reich: Art, Physiognomy and Propaganda

Christopher Webster (Editor), Christopher Webster, Rolf Sachsse, Ulrich Hägele, Eric Kurlander, Andrés Zervigón, Amos Morris-Reich, Pepper Stetler

Research output: Book/ReportEdited book


Photography in the Third Reich is a photo-historical survey of the work of select photographers who embraced National Socialism and through a Selbstgleichshaltung (a self-co-ordination with the regime) continued to practice as photographers during the twelve years of the Third Reich. With an emphasis on the idealised representation of the German body and the use of physiognomy (a very popular pseudo-scientific fad predicated on the belief that the face and body can be read like a book to reveal a person’s nature and character), the book sets out to explore how select völkisch photographers created a visual myth of the ‘master race’ and its antitheses and continued to do so under the auspices of the National Socialist state. This richly illustrated and descriptive historical text provides an overview of specific aspects of photography during the Third Reich as well as case studies, the influence of Modernism and the utilisation of 20th century photographic technologies. It asks the question whether we can talk of a ‘Nazi photography’ and suggests that if it exists it lies in the stylised representation of the body as constituent parts of the Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community) by these often passionate völkisch photographers. The book will focus specifically on analysing historical source photographs as material culture, examining their production, their construction and their proliferation (how, why and where).

Areas covered in the book include: ideology and the body in photography; the qualitative effect of propaganda photography; the politicisation of photography; photography and physiognomy; photography in print media; the utilisation of technology such as colour film; the photograph as ideological metaphor. The book considers the use and proliferation of photographic imagery as a tool of furthering National Socialist ideology over Germany by contributing to the states desired visual ‘norms’. Such visual ‘norms’ include the image of the hard-working peasant, the physically fit, the industrious labourer, the National Socialist family, working the land, etc. The book will introduce to the reader a series of themed chapters based on new research by academics from Germany, the UK and the US. This detailed and informative text will be a valuable resource to anyone studying the Third Reich as well as being of interest to a general readership.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon (worldwide)
PublisherOpen Book Publishers
Number of pages310
ISBN (Electronic)9781783749164, 9781783749171, 9781783749188, 9781783749195
ISBN (Print)9781783749140, 9781783749157
Publication statusPublished - 07 Jan 2021


  • National Socialism
  • photography
  • nazi
  • Physiognomy
  • somatic studies
  • propaganda
  • ideology
  • art


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