Erich Lessing

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Erich Lessing (born on July 13, 1923 in Vienna ; died on August 29, 2018 there ) was an Austrian photographer .

Live and act

Erich Lessing came from a Jewish family in Vienna. The father was a dentist, his mother a concert pianist. Erich grew up in a typical Viennese community building , the Ludo-Hartmann -Hof, which was built in 1924/1925 in the 8th district of Vienna , Albertgasse. He was then also a student at the Albertgasse grammar school. Transferred to a Jewish class there , he managed to emigrate to Palestine in 1939 , while his family stayed in Vienna and were murdered. The ship on which he was able to travel arrived in Haifa , Palestine, on December 31, 1939 . Seventy years later Lessing remembered the help he received from Teddy Kollek , a Viennese exile and later mayor of Jerusalem .

Lessing learned radio technology and worked in a kibbutz and in various professions. Eventually he turned his youth hobby into a profession and began working as a photographer, which eventually led him to the British Army.

After returning to Austria in 1947, he met his first wife, Gertraud (Traudl) Wiglitzky from Vienna, whom he married in the same year and with whom he was married until her death in 2016. The marriage has three children. She worked as a journalist for the Associated Press agency . Through her he became an Associated Press photojournalist, an activity he carried out until 1949. Since 1951 he was a member of Magnum Photos . He also took photos for other magazines, such as Life and Paris Match ; its main activity was in Eastern Europe.

Lessing took a photo that went around the world on the occasion of the signing of the Austrian State Treaty on May 15, 1955: Leopold Figl and the Allied Foreign Ministers on the balcony of the Belvederes in Vienna. Lessing was the only one who photographed the scene from the perspective of the audience gathered in front of the Belvedere.

Other well-known pictures were taken in Budapest in 1956 , where he took photos during the Hungarian uprising . But numerous well-known personalities were also captured by him in photos, such as Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle .

Erich and Traudl Lessing, who had previously been in Geneva , moved permanently to Vienna in 1957 and settled in a bungalow in the 17th district in Dornbach .

Erich Lessing was also active as a reportage photographer for well-known films such as The Sound of Music , Alexis Sorbas and the literary film adaptation Moby Dick by John Huston .

In 2006, on the 50th anniversary of the Hungarian popular uprising, many previously unknown photos were shown in a retrospective in Vienna's Leopold Museum . In 2011, 30,000 guests visited his photo exhibition Erich Lessing - The Making of Sound of Music in Salzburg in one month . In 2012, at the age of 89, Erich Lessing himself opened a photo gallery in Vienna, at Weihburggasse 22 in the 1st district. He published over 40 art books.

In the summer of 2013 he donated his 60,000-photo archive to the Austrian National Library . Erich Lessing was married to the psychotherapist Renée Kronfuss-Lessing for the second time. As announced by the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien , he died on August 29, 2018 at the age of 95 in Vienna.

Hannah Lessing , daughter of Erich and Traudl Lessing, is General Secretary of the National Fund of the Republic of Austria for Victims of National Socialism .


Works (selection)

  • Erich Lessing, Alistair Crawford: From holding on to time: Reportage photography 1948-1973 , Christian Brandstätter Verlag, Vienna 2002 ISBN 3-85498-194-5
  • Erich Lessing: Budapest 1956. The Hungarian Revolution , Christian Brandstätter Verlag, Vienna 2006 ISBN 3-902510-75-7 .
  • Erich Lessing, Rainer Bishop : Herbert von Karajan . (Illustrated book). Böhlau Verlag, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-205-77730-4 .
  • Erich Lessing: Joseph Haydn and his time in pictures . (Illustrated book). Lesethek Verlag, Vienna 2009, ISBN 978-3-99100-001-3 .
  • Erich Lessing: Images of people from the darkroom . Reche, Neumarkt in der Oberpfalz 2010, ISBN 978-3-929566-92-5 .
  • Erich Lessing (illustration), Herman Melville (text): Moby Dick Filet No. 135 - The Chase. Third day. Harpune Verlag, Vienna 2012 (no ISBN).
  • Erich Lessing, Michael Gehler: Austria after 1945. From liberation to freedom. Tyrolia-Verlag, Innsbruck 2014, ISBN 978-3-7022-3415-7 .
  • Erich Lessing: Elsewhere. Nimbus, Wädenswil 2014, ISBN 978-3-907142-98-1 .
  • Erich Lessing: Hallstatt. Pictures from the early days of Europe. Jugend und Volk, Vienna 1980, ISBN 3-7141-6797-8 . (Awarded one of the “most beautiful books in Austria” 1980.)

Individual evidence

  1. a b Austrian photographer Erich Lessing died. In: The Standard. August 29, 2018. Retrieved August 29, 2018 .
  2. Magnum photographer Erich Lessing: "Only a convinced atheist can understand religion". Retrieved October 29, 2014 .
  3. Erich Lessing opens the photo gallery on ORF on March 17, 2012, accessed on March 17, 2012.
  4. Erich Lessing donates his photographic life's work to the Austrian National Library ( Memento from September 7, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Press release from the Austrian National Library accessed on August 21, 2013
  5. Mag.a Hannah M. Lessing at:, accessed on August 29, 2018

Web links