Walter Schels

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.

"Walter Schels' gaze is profoundly searching, empathetic, and despite its close-up vision (...) maintains respectful discretion" F. C. Gundlach

Press

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
Walter Schels brings cat-and-mouse game to Tory Burch store
to designboom
VIDEO Deichtorhallen
VIDEO Deichtorhallen
Fotograf Walter Schels: A master of portraiture
Fotograf Walter Schels: A master of portraiture
For more than 50 years, photographer Walter Schels has been taking haunting black and white portraits of celebrities such as Andy Warhol and the Dalai Lama, but also of animals, which he portrays as if they were equal counterparts. His current theme is a long-term project: he accompanies the gender reassignment process of transgender young people. An exhibition at the Hessian State Museum in Darmstadt is now focusing on Schels' studies of faces....
By Pauline Herrmann
to pdf
07.09.2022
The undisguised face
The undisguised face
Walter Schels has been photographing people and animals for five decades. The Hessian State Museum presents black and white photographs that show him as a master of portraiture.
to pdf
HANDS
HANDS
Who are we, when we are born? Are we a blank slate waiting to be written on? Photographer Walter Schels has a passion for human physiognomy...
Deutsche Welle English
By Lutz Pehnert
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22.11.2016
Walter Schels – Animals
Walter Schels – Animals
For the first time in decades, Walter Schels, one of the most important German photographers of his generation, is showing a selection of rare vintage prints of his famous animal portraits. A cabinet exhibition will also feature some of his dog photographs from the seventies.
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Walter Schels
Walter Schels
The particular interest in human behavior has framed the work of Walter Schels and made him perhaps one of the most prolific German photographers in the post-war period. The long lasting artistic career of his reflects the artist’s constant examination primarily of the face as the mirror of the soul. His black and white photographs perfectly depict one’s psychological state and are often intimate, quite emotional, compassionate and respectful. Although portraits are his forte, Schels has also released over the years a notable series of urban landscapes and animal portraits which follow the same logic in the sense of composition and approach ...
By Hugo Hess
to widewalls
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
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How One Photographer Overcame His Fear of Death by Photographing It By David Rosenberg
How One Photographer Overcame His Fear of Death by Photographing It By David Rosenberg

As a child growing up in Munich toward the end of World War II, Walter Schels was greatly affected by death, having witnessed the casualties of air raids.  

“I was afraid of death and coffins my whole life and I avoided seeing any dead bodies, even those of my parents,”
to slate

17. August 2014
Life before Death by Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta
Life before Death by Walter Schels & Beate Lakotta
Nr. 35 / April 2018
Powerful Portraits of Individuals Before and Directly After Their Death
Powerful Portraits of Individuals Before and Directly After Their Death
Photographer Walter Schels was terrified of death, so much so he refused to see his mother after she passed away. Upon entering his 70s, Schels finally decided to overcome his fear through a bold, bizarre project – photographing individuals before and directly after their death. The black and white portraits are a clinical confrontation with the the unknown...
By Jenna Garret
to feature shoot
September 24, 2014
Verso la fine della vita
Verso la fine della vita
The Economist, Italy
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 Faces of Life and Death
Faces of Life and Death
The faces of hospice patients before and after death are captured in a stirring art exhibit that opens in London this week. The collection of photographs is by German photographer Walter Schels, 72. They are accompanied by vivid and poignant interviews that his partner, Beate Lakotta, recorded with the portrait subjects in the final days of their lives ...
to blog
April 9, 2008
This is the end
This is the end
German photographer Walter Schels was terrified of death, but felt compelled to take these extraordinary series of portraits of people before and on the day they died. His partner Beate Lakotta recorded the poignant and revealing interviews with the subjects in their final days. The couple tell Joanna Moorhead how facing death changed how they felt about dying – and living
PDF Download 
April 1, 2008
Death portraits shared around the world
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 dead....by Aaron Schuman
PDF DOWNLOAD
foam magazine, 9.Dezember 2008
"Ich musste alles selber lernen"
"Ich musste alles selber lernen"
Walter Schels ist einer der großen deutschen Fotografen unserer Zeit. Seine Charakterstudien von Künstlern und Politikern brennen sich ebenso in die Köpfe der Betrachter wie seine Fotos von Neugeborenen oder die mehrfach ausgezeichnete Hospiz-Reportage Noch mal leben vor dem Tod. Im Interview mit unserem Redakteur Christian Popkes blickt Schels zurück auf sein eigenes Leben – auf die Musik, seine Zeit in Amerika, die ersten Jobs und schicksalhafte Begegnungen.
Interview: Christian Popkes
to pdf
June 2013
Vom Zauber des Verblühten
Vom Zauber des Verblühten
Fotograf Walter Schels zeigt Blumenstilleben in der Galerie Hilaneh von Kories.
Von Belinda Grace Gardner
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11.11.2012
Walter Schels - Nature Morte
Walter Schels - Nature Morte
In seiner neuen Serie widmet sich der Hamburger Künstler Walter Schels in der für ihn typischen Bildsprache dem Motiv der Blume. Schönheit und Vergänglichkeit, Pracht und Verfall, Liebe und Tod....
Profifoto 1/2012
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Walter Schels Animali
Walter Schels Animali
Portfolio and Interview by Rosanna Checchi
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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
Gesichter des Lebens
Gesichter des Lebens
Mit seiner Kamera fängt Walter Schels Extremsituationen des menschlichen Lebens ein.
Von Eva Eusterhus.
to PDF
27th March 2010
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
Under the guise of medical history, the Mori gets radical
Under the guise of medical history, the Mori gets radical
Don't be distracted by the big names showing at "Medicine and Art: Imagining a Future for Life and Love" – Da Vinci, Okyo, Damien Hirst – the jewels of the show lie in the obscure - timeworn or contemporary (...) Personally, I found the surgical saws and ocular tools implied a more real gruesomeness. But Walter Schels' works will make you forget whatever came before...
By Donald Eubank
PDF DOWNLOAD



Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Walter Schels!
Herzlichen Glückwunsch, Walter Schels!
Ein Photonews-Fragebogen zum 80. Geburtstag.
PDF-Download
03/2016

Books

Animal Portraits
Animal Portraits

Language: English

Walter Schels, a passionate portraitist and photographic researcher of the human physiognomy, photographs animals as great portraitists photograph people: with sincerity and a deep desire to capture the very essence of those portrayed.
Preface: Dennis C. Turner

Zürich/New York, Edition Stemmle, 2001
118 pages, 70 fullpage images
Hardcover, 36,5 x 27,5 cm
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Walter Schels. Life
Walter Schels. Life
Modular Work Catalog Vol. 02
Language: English

Since the 1990s, photographer Walter Schels has dedicated himself to his long-term projects: Portraits of people in extreme situations of life, sensitive, respectful - and yet with characteristic closeness and directness. Schels' cycles deal with birth and death, they show blind people, people with disabilities and young people who feel they were born in the wrong body. "Walter Schels. Life" shows a cross-section of this diverse oeuvre.

Fotografenverlag
64 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm
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Andy Warhol – Joseph Beuys
Andy Warhol – Joseph Beuys
Modular Work Catalog Vol. 10
Language: German / English

In 1980, two world artists met: Andy Warhol and Joseph Beuys, whose work superficially has little in common, exhibited together in a Munich gallery. The art collector and great Beuys supporter Franz-Joseph van der Grinten described this as a "star encounter". The photographer Walter Schels, then at the beginning of his artistic career, used the opportunity to take portraits. In classic black-and-white portraits, movement studies, solarizations, overpaintings and collages, he dealt with both revolutionaries of contemporary art. This publication, produced with the kind support of Neustart Kultur and the German Cultural Foundation Fund, makes the diversity of this cycle of works visible for the first time.

With texts by Franz-Joseph van der Grinten and Walter Schels

Fotografenverlag
63 illustrations, 88 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm
oder now

Gullydeckel
Gullydeckel
Modular Work Catalog Vol. 6
Language: German/English

"In the late sixties, I moved to New York to become a photographer. On my walks through the city, I discovered the variety of manhole covers, which is particularly large in New York. Since then, I have brought manhole cover photos home from every trip. My collection includes pieces from Reykjavík, Tokyo, Paris, Shanghai, Bangkok, Istanbul, Frankfurt ... there are thousands. And yet, when I have one on the light table or a contact sheet in front of me, I can almost always tell where it was taken." Walter Schels

With texts by Walter Schels and Manuel Gasser
49 ilustrations, 48 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm
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Menschen
Menschen
Modular Work Catalog Vol. 03
Language: German/English

As one of the great German portrait photographers, Schels became known with character studies of celebrities such as Andy Warhol, Joseph Beuys, Angela Merkel or the Dalai Lama. "Three factors determine every portrait: posture, eye contact, facial expression"; says the photographer . "But what is a good portrait? And who should like the picture - the photographer, the sitter, the audience?" ...
With a text by Walter Schels

Fotografenverlag
65 illustrations, 64 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm 
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Walter Schels. Trans*
Walter Schels. Trans*

Modular Work Catalog Vol. 11
Language: German/English

For several years, photographer Walter Schels and journalist Beate Lakotta accompanied young people who perceive themselves as girls but were born in a boy's body and vice versa. Schels' portraits make the difficult process of becoming one with oneself visible. In interviews, the trans girls and boys talk about self-rejection and self-discovery, solidarity and exclusion, friendship and bullying, experiences with parents, siblings and first love.

Fotografenverlag
91 illustrations, 104 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm
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NY Street Photography
NY Street Photography
Modular Work Catalog Vol. 04
Language: German/English

In the late sixties, Walter Schels went to New York to become a photographer. He had no training; until then he had earned his living as a window dresser. As a "complete beginner with a Leica around his neck" (Schels on Schels), he kept a diary with his camera as he wandered through Manhattan. The great portraitist's interest in people can already be seen in his early, previously unpublished reportage pictures. The photos taken during this period are published here for the first time.

Fotografenverlag
44 illustrations, 64 pages
Softcover, 22.5 x 28 cm
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Life Before Death. Encounters With The Terminally Ill
Life Before Death. Encounters With The Terminally Ill

Modular Work Catalog Vol. 14
Language: English

Few experiences are likely to affect us as profoundly as an encounter with death. Yet most deaths occur almost covertly, at one remove from our everyday lives. Death and dying are arguably our last taboos – the topics our society finds most difficult. We certainly fear them more than our ancestors did. Opportunities to learn more about them are rare indeed.

The photographer Walter Schels and the journalist Beate Lakotta spent over a year in hospices in northern Germany. They made portraits of 26 peoloe who were very close to death. All of them agreed to be photographed shortly before and after death. The project articulates the experiences, hopes and fears of the dying, and gives them one more opportunity to be heard.

Fotografenverlag
55 illustrations, 126 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm
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BLUMEN | Flowers
BLUMEN | Flowers

Modular Work Catalog Vol. 08
Language: German/English

"Withering flowers achieve their own beauty and independence, because they have a life behind them - unlike all the uniformly fresh blooming tulips, roses, sunflowers. I photographed my series of old flowers from 2010-2016, partly with old Agfa, Kodak and Perutz films from the 40s to 60s. And I am an old photographer with old cameras." Seen in this light, the series shows a tribute to old age." Walter Schels

Fotografenverlag
41 illustrations, 68 pages
Softcover, 22,5 x 28 cm
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Animals. Memory Game
Animals. Memory Game
Sheep, elephant, lion, rabbit - they all show character here!
40 pairs of animals, 4-page leaflet with game instructions and motif overview in German and English
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Dogs. Memory Game
Dogs. Memory Game
Poodles, dachshunds, boxers, bassets - they all show character here!
40 pairs of dogs, 4-page leaflet with game instructions and motif overview in German and English
Order now
Manhole Covers. Memory Game
Manhole Covers. Memory Game
New York, Nairobi, London, Berlin: discover the works of art in the asphalt of the metropolises!
40 pairs of manhole covers, 4-page leaflet with game instructions and motif overview in German and English
to Fotografenverlag Shop
HÄNDE
HÄNDE
With texts by Beate Lakotta
192 pages
S.Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt, 2016
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Contact

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 
mail@walterschels.com


Design: www.qart.de
Programmierung: www.karnbrock.biz

Impressum


Walter Schels, Fotograf
mail@walterschels.com
www.walterschels.com

Domicile and Local Court Hamburg
Value Added Tax Identification Number after § 27a UStG: DE 118 054 620
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Walter Schels