Issue #204  7/1/2014
Four Photography Giants Pass Away: Rudolf Kicken, Roger Mayne, Michael Schmid and Robert Lebeck

By Alex Novak

The last month was a sad one for Photography. Four giants of the photography market have passed away: Rudolf Kicken, Roger Mayne, Michael Schmid and Robert Lebeck.

Rudi Kicken by Harald Thierlein
Rudi Kicken by Harald Thierlein


Rudi Kicken was not just a colleague but a dear friend. His passing on Tuesday, June 17th, is a tragedy for his family and friends. As one of the last true giants in the field of photography, Rudolf’s presence and experience will be sorely missed. Words seem inadequate in this instance in the face of this loss.

He suffered from a series of brain tumors, the last one was removed in surgery last August, but returned. He was only 67.

Rudi's eye was one of the great ones in the photography field. His pioneering work exploring and selling photography set the bar for all of us who followed. His booths at fairs, his impressive catalogues, and his exhibits at his gallery were some of the most creative and educational in the field. You can't help but admire his contributions to photography.

But he was also a man with a huge and generous heart and a wonderful sense of humor, who greatly loved his family. I remember him and his wife Annette showing me an album of beautiful photographs that Rudy had just taken of his children. The caring and love that he felt for them was so very evident. My heart goes out to Annette and their children.


Roger Mayne, Self Portrait, 1956
Roger Mayne, Self Portrait, 1956

According to his gallerist Tom Gitterman, Roger Mayne had a heart attack and died Saturday June 7th at the age of 85.

"Mayne's body of work focused on the working class neighborhoods of London in the 1950s and early 1960s. It made him one of the most important post-war British photographers. Photography was a way for Mayne to connect with people and explore the world around him. His honest and empathetic approach to photography is evident in the candid response from his subjects and has influenced generations of photographers."

"Throughout this period Mayne worked as a freelance photographer and his photographs were reproduced regularly in magazines and newspapers. His work was included in group exhibitions at the Combined Societies, a progressive group of local photographic societies in Britain that broke away from the Royal Photographic Society. His work was also included in Otto Steinert's Subjektive Fotografie in Germany, a series of group exhibitions and books of international photography that emphasized personal expression and the aesthetic potential of the medium. Mayne had solo exhibitions in 1956 at the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y. and at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. As early as 1956-57 the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Art Institute of Chicago acquired his work."


The German photographer Michael Schmidt, who was known for dramatic sequencing of imagery, died in Berlin on May 24 of cancer. He was 68.

His work was shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Berlin and Venice biennales. He published more than a dozen books and exhibition catalogs.

Just days before Schmidt passed away, Kofi Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, announced that Schmidt had won the Prix Pictet, a global award given annually to a photographer whose work is of outstanding quality and has contributed to environmental consciousness.

Schmidt, who was reported to be too ill to attend the event, won the prize for a project he titled "Lebensmittel," which roughly translates as "Foodstuffs." The award jury called it "an epic and hugely topical investigation into the ways in which we feed ourselves."

Schmidt once described himself as a "blind-alley photographer," likening his creative approach to walking into a cul-de-sac and scrambling to find a way back out. "Failure or making mistakes," he said, "is an integral part of my working."

He is survived by his wife, Karin, and a daughter.


Robert Lebeck, Self Portrait
Robert Lebeck, Self Portrait

Franziska Schmidt of Villa Grisebach told me about Robert Lebeck's death. She had seen him recently. "Robert Lebeck was at a good age, and it was nice to see him at his 85th birthday party at Gallery Johanna Breed in Berlin. He looked so young and happy at that moment, although he was very ill."

Self-taught as a photographer, he started in 1952 as a freelancer selling to various newspapers and magazines in Heidelberg. Lebeck then went on to be employed by the magazines Illustrierte wie Revue and Kristall, and finally by the German weekly news magazine Stern. He worked for Stern for 30 years as a photojournalist, with a brief sabbatical during 1977 to 1978, as editor-in-chief of the monthly educational magazine Geo.

Novak has over 45 years experience in the photography-collecting arena. He is a long-time member and formally board member of the Daguerreian Society, and, when it was still functioning, he was a member of the American Photographic Historical Society (APHS). He organized the 2016 19th-century Photography Show and Conference for the Daguerreian Society. He is also a long-time member of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers. Novak has been a member of the board of the nonprofit Photo Review, which publishes both the Photo Review and the Photograph Collector, and is currently on the Photo Review's advisory board. He was a founding member of the Getty Museum Photography Council. He is author of French 19th-Century Master Photographers: Life into Art.

Novak has had photography articles and columns published in several newspapers, the American Photographic Historical Society newsletter, the Photograph Collector and the Daguerreian Society newsletter. He writes and publishes the E-Photo Newsletter, the largest circulation newsletter in the field. Novak is also president and owner of Contemporary Works/Vintage Works, a private photography dealer, which sells by appointment and at exhibit shows, such as AIPAD New York and Miami, Art Chicago, Classic Photography LA, Photo LA, Paris Photo, The 19th-century Photography Show, etc.