Unique insight from veteran photographer

Now 104 years old, Wolfgang Suschitzky is a veteran photographer and cinematographer whose career has spanned over 70 years.

Wednesday, 1st June 2016, 12:06 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 11:59 pm

Numerous books have been published on his work and recently his photographs of 1930’s/40’s London were celebrated at the Photographers Gallery in London. His credits for cinematography include Get Carter, Living Free, Ring of Bright Water and The Bespoke Overcoat.

Now for the first time his animal portraits are being exhibited at Lucy Bell Gallery in Norman Road, St Leonards.

Animal Logic is work close to his heart, shot between 1938 and 1990.

Wolfgang’s life-long love of animals began at school in Vienna thanks to a “very good zoology teacher”. He was unable to pursue these studies and left Vienna in 1935 to come to London, where he went on to enjoy a successful career in both his still and moving image work having worked for the War Ministry’s Department of Information.

Wolf has always regarded his animal pictures as portraits. “I was one of the first to take animal portraits – not straight zoological specimena with four legs and a tail, but close-ups of faces. You need a lot of patience to wait for the right attitude, position, and light.”

One of his most famous portraits is of Guy the Gorilla: “I loved photographing animals. I was already a friend of Julian Huxley with whom I had worked on the book Kingdom of the Beasts published by Thames and Hudson - and I had made friends with some of the keepers at London Zoo. This marvellous gorilla was living alone in a relatively small cage. Visitors threw him sweets, which could not have made him happy.

“I was allowed inside the public barrier, with a keeper to fend off any arms reaching out between the bars. When I needed to reload the camera, the keeper said he’d fetch some more grapes to keep Guy happy. While he was away, Guy unhooked the iron bar that the keeper had left hanging, took it into the cage and put down in front of himself. When the keeper came back he asked - give me the bar! Guy knew exactly what he was being asked, but there was no reaction. This carried on two or three times, when Guy picked up a piece of paper from the sweets, and in his fingers offered it to the keeper. After a few more attempts Guy finally handed over the bar to keeper.”

Many of Wolfgang’s pictures were taken on visits to zoos: “Nowadays, their role has changed to conservation; the importance is to lose as few animal species as possible.” Wolfgang’s portraits are expressive; there is understanding and compassion, capturing a spirit true to the animal and encouraging us to look again and to consider the future of our fellow species. For more info call Lucy Bell on 07979 407629