Documenting the history of Munich for almost 50 years, Heinz Gebhardt showcases industrial cityscapes alongside portraits of famed individuals throughout the decades. Telling imago his photographs are works for later generations to judge and relive the events of time, Gebhardt brings to life the city for those around the globe. We spoke to him to find out all about his time as a photographer.

Let’s kick off, how did you get started in photography and why?
My mother took a lot of photos and gave me a “photo kit” for Christmas when I was 11 years old, with which I could develop films in a darkened bathroom and make prints in the red light. From then on I had nothing else on my mind than photography. I started my 2-year training at the Bavarian State School for Photography at the age of 17, and have been a freelance photographer in Munich since 1968.

What was your first experience with a camera?
At the age of 13 I photographed cycling races in Munich, sold the photos to the racing cyclists and, since 1961, to the “Münchner Merkur”. With the earnings I was able to buy my first Leica M 3 in 1962. Until the end of analog photography, I only worked with Leica.

What five words describe your photographic style or captured message?
Critical distance, humorous closeness, honesty.

IMAGO / Heinz Gebhardt
Photo: IMAGO / Heinz Gebhardt

What is the best element about being a photographer, and most challenging?
My photographs are a kind of diary about 50 years of Munich city history, which will live on in the Munich city archive after my death. Like in a mirror, later generations can relive and judge the people and events of my time. A challenge, however, is to archive around 600,000 photos as negatives, slides and files so neatly that you can immediately find the right photo for every keyword even in 100 years.

To you, what is the role photography has in the world?
A photo is worth a thousand words!

What one important lesson has your work taught you?
“Don’t take yourself so seriously!” Because there are so many nice people who also take beautiful photos!

What is currently really getting you frustrated or annoyed?
In the years of analog photography, you had to personally bring the colour slides or paper prints to the editorial offices, chat with the editors and colleagues over a cup of coffee, hear the latest gossip and maybe get the next job. Since the digital revolution, however, one no longer speaks to each other, one only writes impersonal e-mails, sends the photos via the server and no longer sees the people with whom one does business – sad, but it can no longer be changed.

“A photo is worth a thousand words! ”

HEINZ GEBHARDT

If you could photograph any historical event, what would it be and why?
I would have liked to have been there in 1838 when Carl August Steinheil and Franz von Kobell took a cardboard tube of the Frauenkirche in a window of the Old Academy in Munich: they took the first photographs in Germany.

What does success look like to you?
You don’t have to achieve everything that you set out to achieve, just as much as you can…

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