Rudolf Johannes Duhrkoop was born in Hamburg, Germany on August 1, 1848. The only child of working class parents Christian Friedrich and Johanna Frederica Emile Duhrkoop, he received only a rudimentary public school education before entering military service during the Franco-Prussian War. Afterwards, Mr. Duhrkoop returned home and married Maria Louise Caroline Matzen in 1872, with whom he would have two daughters, Hanna Maria Theresia and Julie Wilhelmine (known as Minya). To support his growing family, he found a job with the local railroad and later became a mildly successful merchant. Unlike his contemporaries, Mr. Duhrkoop was introduced to photography rather late in life. At age 35, he attended a series of lectures by art historian Alfred Lichtwark, founder and director of the Hamburg Kunsthalle. Deeply inspired by the Pictorialist movement, Mr. Duhrkoop began conducting experiments with the wet collodion process in his spare time. He received his commercial photographer's license in 1882 and published his first article entitled, “On the Use of Yellow Light in Developing Bromide Gelatin Plates.”
In 1883, he opened his first portrait studio at 26 Grosse Backerstrasse and enjoyed immediate success. Within six years, he would relocate his studio twice to accommodate the need for more space and also opened two additonal galleries in the Hamburg enclaves of Altona and St. Pauli. His daughter Minya joined her father in the family business at age 14. For the first few years, Mr. Duhrkoop focused solely on commercial photography. However, the growing popularity of the German Modernist movement shifted his focus to artistic portraiture. His works were first exhbited in 1899 at the 6th Salon of the Hamburg Society for the Encouragement . Of Mr. Duhrkoop, poet and art critic Sadakichi Hartmann wrote, “To him a portrait is not merely a record, not merely actuality, but the means by which he can give utterance to poetic sentiments and aspirations. He revels in the mysteries of light and shade.” For example, in Mr. Duhrkoop's portrait “The Lovers,” the interplay between light and shadows on the faces of the subjects powerfully emphasizes the emotional intensity of their feelings.
By the twentieth century, Mr. Duhrkoop's professional sphere extended far beyond Hamburg. He was elected to England's prestigious Linked Ring and Royal Photographic Society and received an honorary memberhip into the elite London Salon of Photography. On his first visit to the United States in 1904, he held court with famed American photographer Gertrude Kasebier. The following year, he published a compilation of his photographs, Hamburg Men and Women at the Beginning of the 20th Century. In celebration of his 60th birthday and the 25th anniversary of his first studio, Mr. Duhrkoop received several honors, most notably the "Medal of Progress" by the Suddeutschen Photographie-Verein. Relocating his Hamburg studio for a final time, he also opened a lavish studio in Berlin. In 1907, Mr. Duhrkoop was named Photographic Advisor to the German government, with whom it would consult on various copyright issues. During his later years, he became a strong advocate of photography as a means of German cultural development. After a brief illness, 70-year-old Rudolf Duhrkoop died on April 3, 1918. His daughter Minya (who used the professional name of Minya Diez-Duhrkoop following her brief marriage to photographer Luis Diez) became a famous photographer in her own right. She continued to operate the studios in Hamburg and Berlin until her death in 1929.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 449-451.
2014 The National Media Museum (URL: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/Collection/Photography/RoyalPhotographicSociety/CollectionItem.aspx?id=2003-5001/2/20608%20).
1915 The Photographic Journal of America, Vol. LII (New York: Edward L. Wilson, Inc.), p. 47.
1918 The Photographic Journal of America, Vol. LV (New York: Edward L. Wilson, Inc.), p. 358.
1978 The Valiant Knights of Daguerre (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press), pp. 261-267.
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