Luise Rinser & Oswald Kettenberger, nach seinem Bild, 1969

Hard cover edition back and front

Hard cover edition back and front

 

Oswald Kettenberger certainly does not conform to any clichéd idea of a street/documentary photographer. He is a Benedictine monk, who has spent most of his life in the German monastery of Maria Laach. Sadly Kettenberger lost his eyesight at the very early age of 60, and so was forced to give up photography. Since then he has worked in the monastery’s postal department.
I discovered this book quite by chance, and it immediately drew me in. The title of this late 1960’s publication nach seinem Bild (in his likeness) is an obvious reference to the famous Bible passage (Genesis 1:127 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created Him; male and female He created them”). The book is certainly about people, but one can’t help feeling a sense of irony in the choice of title, whether or not this was meant. The book opens with a 25 page text by German writer Luise Rinser followed by four pages of the photographer’s own thoughts. The images begin with one of the most surprising and disturbing double spreads, two simple images; a grave, and a new born baby. It is not only a graphically stunning combination, but is a graphic illustration of the fragility of life, and the inevitability of death. There are other obvious juxtapositions (such as portraits of the young and the old), but the rest of the book concentrates mostly on the human experience. Kettenberger’s emotionally highly-charged, and obviously candid, images are always perfectly captured with his keen sense of composition. This book shows us the life of post World War II, but also life as it inevitably always is; filled with hope, angst, love, faith, fear and protest.

Published by Echter-Verlag Würzburg in 1969 as hard cover edition and soft cover with dust jacket, both with a 4-page text pamphlet with the photographer’s notes.

Hard cover

App. 24.5 x  30.3 cm

154pages

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Soft cover edition dust jacket back and front

Soft cover edition dust jacket back and front