Erwin Blumenfeld's early career began in an older photographic age. Born in Germany in 1897, his business took off in the 30s, where he photographed customers at his leather goods shop in Amsterdam. From the start he was very much influenced by the idea of photography as art, valuing sincerity above commercial considerations. He saw himself not as a photojournalist, but as someone who explored how best to show a fashionable object without documenting it. His life and work impressively document the socio-political context of artistic development between the two World Wars, while highlighting the individual consequences of emigration.
In the first years of his career, he worked only in black and white, but as soon as it became technically possible he enthusiastically used color. He transferred his experiences with black-and-white photography to color; applying them to the field of fashion, he developed a particularly original repertoire of forms. The female body became Erwin Blumenfeld’s principal subject. In his initial portrait work, then the nudes he produced while living in Paris and, later on, his fashion photography, he sought to bring out the unknown, hidden nature of his subjects; the object of his quest was not realism, but the mystery of reality.