born 1936 in Landshut, southern Germany, worked from 1957 to 1965 as a window dresser in Barcelona, Canada und Geneva before moving to New York to become a photographer. In 1970 he returned to Germany and became known for his charakter studies of artists, politicians and famous names from the world of arts and letters. For decades he as portrayed animals and flowers with the same intensity. 

A passionate explorer of physiognomy, Walter Schels sets out to make the essence and personality of a figure visible in the photograph. In various long-term photographic series, blind people, the disabled, prematurely-born children and young trans* people, for instance, Schels has pursued exceptional situations in human life. He has recieved many awards for his series depiction hospice patiients shortly before and after their death, in cluding the Hansel Mieth Prize, the World Press Photo Award, a gold medal fom the Art Directors Club, Germany and a Lead Award.


Walter Schels has lived and worked since 1990 in Hamburg. He has published various books and his works are includede in many siginificant art collections and have been shown in countless exhibiitons in Germany and wordlwide, including the German Hygiene Museum in Dresden, the DZ Bank in Frankfurt, the Wellcome Collection in London, C/O Berlin, the Mori Art Museum inTokyo, the House of Photography at the Deichtorhallen Hamburg, the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt and the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich.


Tory Burch and Humberto Leon unveil new LA concept store with cat-inspired interior
Tory Burch and Humberto Leon unveil new LA concept store with cat-inspired interior
On this date in  Photography – Animated
On this date in  Photography – Animated
The animal pictures by Walter Schels (*1936), currently showing at Galerie Peter Sillem at Dreieichstraße 2, Frankfurt am Main in the exhibition Tiere ('Anmals') until February 23rd., may serve to confirm the possibility, at least, of a true 'animal portrait' ... By James MM Cardle
read blog
Life before Death by Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta
Life before Death by Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta
Nr. 35 / April 2018
Verso la fine della vita
Verso la fine della vita
The Economist, Italy
to pdf-download
Death portraits shared around the world
Two days ago, the Guardian published in G2, and on the website, a series of photographs by a German photographer, Walter Schels, and his partner Beate Lakotta. The subject matter was death: the pictures consisted of a series of portraits of people both before and - crucially - after death. In the hours after the pictures and article went online, the Guardian website experienced its busiest day ever trafficwise, much of it driven by users keen to see the pictures and to read the interviews ...
to Guardian
April 3, 2008
Suddenly Everything Matters - Portraits of the dying
As Susan Sontag once mused, "all photographs are mememto mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality vulnerability, mutability." Today a photographic project such as Life Before Death may seem like a morbid pursuit, but from it's early history the photographic medium has offered distinctive documentation, acknowledgement and commemoration of death and the Aaron Schuman
foam magazine, 9.Dezember 2008
Walter Schels Animali
Portfolio and Interview by Rosanna Checchi
to pdf
January February 2010
In Schels' Schatzkammer
In Schels' Schatzkammer
Er gehört zu den profiliertesten Porträtfotografen der Gegenwart. Mit eindrücklichen Nahaufnahmen von Menschen und Tieren wurde er berühmt. In PHOTOGRAPHE zeigt Walter Schels erstmals seine neueste Arbeit: morbide Stilleben floraler Motive. Ein Studiobesuch.
to PDF

Photographie 05/2011
Letzte Fotografien. Totenbilder von Walter Schels
Die Fotografie fixiert den Augenblick, als wolle sie ihn einfrieren. Sie hält fest, was nicht festzuhalten ist: die Erscheinung einer Landschaft, eines Dings, eines Menschen. Indem sie den Zeitfluss unterbricht, vollzieht sie eine Art von Tötung ...
Von Thomas Macho
PDF Download (304 kb)
1. November 2004



All images are copyright. Any storage, processing or other use is prohibited and will be prosecuted.

If you want to use imagery or buy prints, please call at



Walter Schels, Fotograf

Domicile and Local Court Hamburg
Value Added Tax Identification Number after § 27a UStG: DE 118 054 620
Responsible in terms of § 55 of the broadcasting and telecommunications treaty (RStV)
Walter Schels

Privacy policy

We do not store or process any personal data of visitors to our website.

Our web server is set up by our service provider in such a way that no log files accessible to us are created about access to our website. We also do not use tools such as Google Analytics or similar. We therefore do not process any IP addresses or similar.

Our website only stores an anonymous session cookie in your browser. This is a small text file that is used exclusively for technical purposes and does not contain any personal data. Your browser deletes this cookie when you leave our website.