14 February 2012

Atelier Binder

From the late 1920s through the 1930s, Atelier Binder was the largest photo studio in Europe. The star photos of this Berlin studio can be found on countless Ross Verlag postcards. Founder was Alexander ‘Alex’ Binder (1888–1929).

Camilla Horn
Camilla Horn. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 4845/1, 1929-1930. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Truus van Aalten
Truus van Aalten. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6584/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin.

Lilian Harvey
German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 6277/1, 1931-1932. Photo: Atelier Binder, Berlin/Ufa.

The Mecca of the European Film Industry

Alexander Binder was born in Alexandria in 1888. The photographer was Jewish and probably of Swiss origin. He studied engineering, but interrupted his studies prematurely. From 1908 to 1910 he attended the Lehr- und Versuchsanstalt für Photographie, Chemie, Lichtdruck und Gravüre (Teaching and Research Institute of Photography, chemicals, light pressure and engraving) in Munich and then went to Berlin. There he opened in 1913 his first photo studio, Atelier für bildmäßige Porträt Photographie in a room in the Motzstraße. Two years later he moved his studio to Kurfürstendamm 225, in a posh shopping and entertainment area in the centre of Berlin. He soon became one of the leading photographers of Berlin. Binder created advertising and portrait photography. His focus was primarily on celebrity and fashion photography. Binder’s photos were exhibited in 1921 at the first Annual Exhibition of Photography at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in Berlin. In 1925-1926 he had an exhibition in London. Berlin was at the time the Mecca of the European film industry. Binder photographed all the stars of the German silent cinema, including Conrad Veidt, Lilian Harvey, Leni Riefenstahl, the Italian Carmen Boni, the Dutch Truus van Aalten and the Hungarian Lya de Putti. During the filming of Die Freudlose Gasse/The Joyless Street (1925, G.W. Pabst), he also portrayed the young Greta Garbo. His photographs appeared in the monthly photo and film magazine Die Linse, and in many other magazines.

Reinhold Schünzel
Reinhold Schünzel. German postcard by Photochemie, Berlin, no. K. 1838. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Vladimir Gajdarov
Vladimir Gajdarov. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1978/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Alex Binder.

Walter Slezak
Walter Slezak. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3443/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Deported to Theresienstadt

Alexander Binder’s photos were also used for the popular star postcards, published by Ross Verlag and Photochemie. These photos have the sign ‘Alex Binder Photogr. Atelier’, ‘Alex Binder, Berlin’ or ‘Phot. A. Binder, Berlin’. Many photographs also contained the signature tie in the photo. Since 1921 Alex Binder had his own logo ties: his signature inscribed in a rhombus. He signed with the tie or as ‘A. Binder’. These ties stopped to appear in 1929. Alexander Binder had suddenly died in February 1929 in Berlin. During the late 1920s his studio had been 'the largest photo studio in Europe ...'. Mark Goffee writes on his excellent Ross Cards website that his death date is interesting, and wonders how Ross cards could appear with photos of Atelier Binder until 1937. German Wikipedia describes how after Binder’s death, his studio was moved to the Kurfürstendamm 205 in 1929. The business name was changed into Atelier Binder, under which name new photographs were published. The photographer was probably Hubs Floeter (1910 - 1974), who was employed at the studio as first operator until 1938. The owners of the studio were now Binder's widow, Mrs. Binder-Allemann and their two daughters. Manager was the Jewish Elisabeth Baroness von Stengel, who was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1943, writes Wikipedia. It also cites other sources that claim that Stengel was deported in 1938 and died in 1978 in Ascona. However, in 1938, the Nazi Labour Inspectorate closed the studio. Aryan photographer Karl Ludwig Haenchen then moved in and continued to make celebrity portraits, which also were published on star postcards by publishers as Film-Foto-Verlag. After World War II, the Hasse und Wiese company took over the studio in 1948 or 1949.

Lya de Putti
Lya de Putti. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 1028/1, 1927-1928. Photo: Alex Binder.

Lilian Harvey
Lilian Harvey. German postcard by Ross Verlag, no. 3759/2, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Lucy Doraine
Lucy Doraine. German postcard by Ross Verlag, Berlin, no. 3438/1, 1928-1929. Photo: Alex Binder, Berlin.

Sources: Mark Goffee (Ross Cards), Deutsche Fotothek (German), and Wikipedia (German and Dutch).

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