The Landesgalerie Linz’s two collections by Hans Frank and by Gerda and Erich Walter represent two important records of 19th and 20th century photography in Austria. The combined collections document a broad spectrum of photography’s different possible applications and functional relationships in a period spanning over 150 years. At the same time they represent a long tradition of patterns of reception, in which the relationship between art and photography has been time and again redefined and related to different historic, theoretical and conceptual contexts.
Particularly due to their specific profile the two collections also reference the differentiated concepts, according to which Salzburg photographer Hans Frank (1908-1987) and Steyr doctor Erich Walter (1944-1999) collected the photographs.
The historic photo collection dates back to the erstwhile private collection of Hans Frank. As one of the first in the German-speaking area he compiled an important cultural history collection on the history of photography. The collection consisting of pictorial objects (photographs) and historic cameras was purchased by the State of Upper Austria in 1975. In 1975 the Marble Palace in the Kaiserpark in Bad Ischl was rented as a site for exhibitions and presentations for the term of 50 years. The “Photomuseum des Landes Oberösterreich” [Photography Museum of the State of Upper Austria] was opened on 29 June 1978: it became the first and to date only museum of photography in Austria.
The image holdings of the Frank collection are currently safeguarded and scientifically studied in the photographic collection maintained by the Landesgalerie Linz. Since 2012 the Photomuseum Bad Ischl has presented itself with a completely redesigned permanent exhibition, which shows highlights from the Frank collection.
The historic photographic collection includes a total of approx. 15,000 photographic objects from the Frank collection. Its content is dedicated to the history of analogue photography. The timespan thereby essentially ranges from the early days of the medium in 1840 to the interwar period of the 20th century.
In addition to the historic portfolio, the photographic collection also contains extensive contemporary holdings, which are constantly being expanded through new acquisitions. With the two collections of Hans Frank and Gerda and Erich Walter the Landesgalerie Linz has two important records of photography in Austria in the 19th and 20th century. Due to their specific profile, the two collections also reference differentiated collection concepts.
Hans Frank’s access was as a photo historian. His aim was an encyclopaedia of the history of photography. He strived to document photographers and their studios, various techniques and functions of the medium. Two excellent moments in his outstanding historical impact were the establishment of his own museum for photography in Bad Ischl in 1978 and his contribution to the development of the “History of photography in Austria” in the early 1980s.
Erich Walter, who established the photo gallery "7-Stern" in Steyr in 1980 and ran it until 1991, was less interested in the history of photography than its use in contemporary art. His commitment was hence also representative for a new and changed awareness, which understood photography as an instrument of widely diverse artistic concepts. At the same time with his collection and exhibition activities Walter was able to provide support for the product and reception of photography in Austria. Several young photographers found him to be an important patron.
A highlight of the Landesgalerie’s photography collection is the work of August Sander, who is considered one of the most influential artist personalities towards establishing photography as an artistic medium, above all due to his large-scale portfolio “People of the 20th Century”.
Although Sander is now considered one of the 20th century’s outstanding artist personalities and is represented worldwide in important museum collections there is little knowledge of the fact that he ran a studio in Linz, Austria, from 1901 to 1909. The Linz years in particular proved to be an important phase for Sander and illustrate a complex background of experience for the further development of his work through the various informal and professional events, social contact with citizens of Linz and the wide variety of creative influences this period held for him.
The photographs by Bernhard Fuchs, whose work has focused on photographing people since the early 1990s, offer us an excellent indication of August Sander’s historical impact. In the past few years photographs of cars, landscapes and farms have been added to the meanwhile internationally recognised portraits as concentrated work groups.