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Le Pavillon Populaire : Dr Paul Wolff, The Man with the Leica


Le Pavillon Populaire, located in Montpellier, France, presents Dr Paul Wolff, L’homme au Leica, the very first French retrospective devoted to one of Germany’s most emblematic photographers of the 1930s. As a pioneer of the small-format 35-millimetre Leica camera, which he began using in 1926, Paul Wolff is known for his multi-faceted work, venturing into both advertising and sports photography (notably the 1936 Olympic Games in Munich).

The exhibition brings together 140 images that witness the photographic modernity of his era, it exhibit the work of one of the most well-known, yet rarely exhibited, German photographers of the interwar years in its multiple forms. Paul Wolff, rather than being an artist in the conventional sense of the term, founded a photographic agency alongside his associate Alfred Tritschler, which provided ample documentation (almost 700,000 photographs) of the troubled period in Germany from the Weimar Republic to the National Socialist and post-war years. This exhibition will display an extensive collection, marked by the growing popularity of 35 mm small format photography launched by the Leica brand, with Paul Wolff becoming its top proponent from 1926.

For thousands of amateur photographers of his time, Paul Wolff played the role of a “purveyor” of the forms of photographic modernity of his times, from the New Objectivity to the New Vision. His incredible international popularity (his book, My First 10 Years with the Leica (1934) was published in several languages, and tens of thousands of copies were sold) made him a ubiquitous photographer, too often overlooked in conventional photography history books. Wolff’s photographs were included in over 300 publications in total and appeared in newspapers throughout the world. His photography covered sports (notably the 1936 Olympics), work, leisure, industry, advertising, street scenes and travel. No subject was off limits for Paul Wolff.

His work has rarely been exhibited, perhaps because, although he never belonged to the National Socialist party, a good half of Paul Wolff’s photographs were taken during the Nazi regime, from 1933 to the end of the war. It can be said that he therefore passively accepted the state of affairs, with his work sometimes echoing National Socialist values.

Éditions Hazan are the publishers of the exhibition’s catalogue.


Dr Paul Wolff, L’homme au Leica
from January 17 to April 14, 2024
Opening Wednesday January 17, 2024 at 6:30 p.m.
Pavillon Populaire, Espace d’art photographique de la Ville de Montpellier
Esplanade Charles-de-Gaulle
34000 Montpellier, France

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