Ellen Auerbach. Photographic works

The bequest of artistic photography by Ellen Auerbach (1906-2004) comprises about 400 mounted prints authorised by the photographer in her lifetime and about 3,000 negatives with about the same number of prints. The photographs, taken between the late1920s and the 1980s, include portraits and commercial works by the photography studio ringl + pit, which Auerbach ran with Grete Stern until 1933 in Berlin, photographs taken during her exile in Palestine, England and  the United States and on her many journeys to places such as South America and Europe.


Ellen Auerbach was born Ellen Rosenberg on 20 May 1906 in Karlsruhe and studied at the local Badische School of Art from 1924 to 1927. In 1928, she transferred to the School of Applied Arts in Stuttgart before she moved to Berlin in 1929 to take classes under photographer Walter Peterhans. Through him, she met Grete Stern, with whom she opened the photographic studio ringl + pit in 1930. The two photographers became successfully established in portrait and commercial photography. Ellen Rosenberg also met her future husband, set designer Walter Auerbach, in Berlin.

She had already emigrated to Palestine by 1933, where she opened the photographic studio Ishon (apple of my eye) with Liselotte Grschebina, specialising in children’s portraits. After a failed attempt to settle in London in 1936, she married Walter Auerbach in 1937, with whom she then emigrating to the United States. From 1939 to 1940, the couple lived in Philadelphia, where Ellen Auerbach worked as a photographer for a private art collection. During this period, she was able to complete experimental photographic studies and learn the carbro printing technique. From 1939 to 1955, she spent a lot of time on Great Spruce Head Island (Maine) where she worked without commission under her own direction. In 1945, she separated from Walter Auerbach and, in 1946, took up a  job at the Menninger School of Psychiatry in Topeka, Kansas, documenting behavioural studies of children and infants. In 1954, she taught photography at the Junior College of Arts & Crafts in Trenton, New Jersey, before embarking on a four-month trip to Mexico with Eliot Porter in 1955 to photograph local churches. Ellen Auerbach continued to travel widely, to places such as Mallorca, Argentina, Greece and Norway, and made travel and street impressions an important part of her photographic oeuvre. From 1965 to 1984, she worked as a therapist for children with learning disabilities at the Educational Institute for Learning and Researching in New York and hardly photographed at all.

Her photographic works, especially from the Weimar Republic era, were rediscovered from the late 1970s and a series of group exhibitions in the United States and Germany followed. In 1998, the Akademie der Künste, Berlin organised the exhibition Die Fotografin Ellen Auerbach. Retrospektive. In the same year, Ellen Auerbach gave the majority of here photographic works to the Akademie der Künste and established the Ellen Auerbach Scholarship for Photography, which is awarded by the Akademie every two years.

Ellen Auerbach died in New York City on 30 July 2004.

Archive and collection

The collection entails photographs from the photographic studio ringl + pit, such as Ei des Kolumbus or Hut und Handschuh (both 1930) and portraits of Grete Stern, Edwin Denby and Claire Eckstein, among others; Pictures from her time in exile in Palestine and England (1934/1935) and photographs from the United States (after 1939). These are primarily works from New York, Great Spruce Head Island (Maine) and Big Sur in California. Photographs from her trips to Argentina in 1947, Greece in 1953, Mexico in 1956 and Mallorca in 1959, among others.

The bequest also includes works by Grete Stern, Walter Peterhans, Barbara Klemm and others.


History of the holdings

Ellen Auerbach’s bequest was donated to the Archives of the Akademie der Künste by the photographer. The artistic photography is held in the Art Collection and the written bequest in the Ellen Auerbach Archive of the Visual Arts Archive.


Akademie der Künste [AdK], Berlin, Kunstsammlung, Ellen Auerbach