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By Deborah Small

World-class artwork and poetry at the colonization of the Americas.

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Usually, the young warriors stood in what is called the ‘at-ease’ position, with a fixed and glassy stare directed on the camera, as if they were momentarily expecting a stream of Sergeant-Major’s incivilities to emerge from it. My motto was: Let us abandon the ‘memorial’ type of picture and have instead a more informal pose and a ‘smile, please’ expression. But my attempt was a dismal failure. I got one soldier to put one knee negligently on the edge of a chair, and the result was quite shattering – the Army, it appeared, enlisted soldiers with one wooden leg!

He was a master, too, of the oil and rubber pressure technique, and while I was with him I learnt a great deal. One of his ventures was the production of a volume, entitled Men of the XX Century, and to me he entrusted the task of photographing well-known British personalities; and in fulfilling my task I obtained an entrée into circles that otherwise would have remained closed to me. All sorts of famous people, whose names were on everybody’s lips, faced my camera, and it was not very long before I attained a definite style of my own, which earned the approval even of the Royal Photographic Society.

He also photographed the Russian Imperial family and worked in Switzerland and under the renowned E. O. Hoppé in England, before returning to Munich to set up a studio in his own right in 1909. 2 Hoffmann, therefore, was a talented and accomplished photographer already long before the world heard the name of his most famous patron. Hoffmann should also be counted as a pioneer of modern photo-journalism. Using the newly-developed Leica 35mm camera, he was amongst the first to take photography out of the stilted surroundings of the studio and into the real world beyond.

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