Photography as an analytical practice


Moriz Nähr, Ludwig Wittgenstein, undatiert, Detail aus Ludwig Wittgensteins Fotoalbum, 1930er Jahre © The Ludwig Wittgenstein Archive Cambridge, Foto: The Ludwig Wittgenstein Archive Cambridge

This exhibition shines the spotlight on Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951), one of the most important 20th-century philosophers, whose bourgeois family made essential contributions to the evolution and promotion of Viennese Modernism. Rather than focusing on his ground-breaking philosophical writings or their influence on the visual arts, however, the presentation explores Wittgenstein as a photographer – as an author, collector and arranger of photographs. Thus, the exhibition uncovers a hitherto largely unnoticed sideshow which is now analyzed for the first time in detail and with a broadly defined understanding of photography. 

The exhibition showcases Wittgenstein’s previously unpublished photo album from the 1930s, the famous composite portrait of Wittgenstein and his sisters, photo booth pictures and other staged self-portraits, photographs of the house for Margarethe ­Stonborough-Wittgenstein he had designed together with Paul Engelmann, excerpts from his Nonsense Collection as well as a representative selection of his picture postcard correspondence with family and friends, which reveals a communication practice that invariably also includes the image plane of this medium. Against the background of his deliberations on photography, which went as far as his intention to write a “Laocoon for photographers”, these materials invite a contemporary reappraisal of Wittgenstein’s understanding and use of the medium of photography.


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