Unseen photos of rebels, outsiders, construction workers and more: celebrating the distinctive gay male gaze of Karlheinz Weinberger
This landmark entry in the lifework of Zürich photographer Karlheinz Weinberger gathers more than 200 never-before-published vintage photographic prints that were rediscovered in 2017. This unique collection pairs images of Weinberger’s most famous subjects, the “Halbstarke”—a loosely organized group of Swiss “rebels” in the late 1950s and early 1960s, carousing at local carnivals and on a camping trip—with a much more private side of Weinberger’s oeuvre: solo portraits of men from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s, whom he invited into his makeshift studio in the rooms of the apartment he shared with his mother.
The men in these portraits—construction workers, street vendors, bicycle messengers, outsiders—span a spectrum of fully clothed, arms-crossed poses to campy and flirtatious, fully nude and reclined, while others mimic art historical postures. All of these images, though, reveal a palpable tenderness between photographer and subject, offering an expansive, uncritical take on the male form in an era when being photographed was not the casual, ubiquitous record it is today. Though not a professional photographer (he worked as a warehouse stock manager), Weinberger captured his subjects with a distinctly gay male gaze, both carnal and artistic, and this collection is certain to earn his work a larger following and appreciation.
Born in 1921, Karlheinz Weinberger was a Swiss photographer whose work predominantly explored outsider cultures. Between 1943 and 1967 Weinberger published photos of male workers, sportsmen and bikers in the gay magazine Der Kreis under the pseudonym of “Jim.” In the late ‘50s and early ‘60s he concentrated on Swiss rock ’n’ roll youth, whom he photographed with both tenderness and a hint of irony. Weinberger placed little emphasis on exhibiting his work; his first comprehensive show took place only in 2000, six years before his death.