Elfriede Stegemeyer is a German photographer you’ve probably never heard of. Why? Because her work was destroyed during the allied bombing raids of Berlin.
Stegemeyer was a modernist photographer in 1930s Germany. She studied experimental photography at the Kunstgewerbeschule Köln (School of Applied Arts Cologne), travelled to Paris with the abstract painter Otto Coenen and teamed up with Raoul Hausmann, leading figure of Berlin Dada and former partner of Hannah Höch. She was well connected. Stegemeyer was part of that generation of excellent young women, such as Grete Stern and Ellen Auerbach, who only now populate the histories of photography.
You can see from these examples that her work reflected the key experimental approaches of Neue Sehen (New Vision) photography: unusual camera angles, abstracted compositions of everyday subjects, darkroom experiments, an aesthetic of boldness and simplicity.
It’s our loss that not only was most of her work destroyed by the Allied blitzkrieg, but after the war she abandoned photography and took up painting.
Elfriede Stegemeyer, self-portrait, 1933
Elfriede Stegemeyer, Glass of Water on corrugated cardboard, 1934
Elfriede Stegemeyer, Untitled (Electrical Lines), ca. 1938