The constant fascination with the youth as the driving force of human progress in the work of Will McBride marked him as one of the best chroniclers of social and political changes of then times. In a documentary style, the photographer captured astounding moments fulfilled with a dose of positivity and vigor. Due to his affiliation to the nude portrayal, McBride was even exposed to censorship. In general, he was governed by the idea of one’s unlimited freedom regardless of any canons, especially in regards to artistic expression and creativity.
Will McBride was born in 1931, in St. Louis. He spent his youth in Chicago, attending Gross Point High School and subsequently the University of Vermont (where he privately studied with Norman Rockwell), Art Institute of Chicago, National Academy of Design, graduating from Syracuse University in 1953. After 3 years of service with the Army (1953-1955), McBride settled in Germany to pursue his photographic work. In 2004 the photographer received the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize which is bestowed by the German Photographic Association (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie).
After settling in Berlin in 1955, Will McBride completely fell for the city and decided to carefully record the cities gradual resurrection. Despite ideological conflicts and general poverty, the economic growth of Western Germany offered undisturbed development of youth culture, and the photographer was perhaps the first who documented it. With unprecedented curiosity and a fresh perspective, the photographer captured not only the youth culture but the scenography of the city in ruins and the construction of the Berlin Wall as well. As a chronicler of youth, the focus of Will McBride’s work is much more on the newly-gained spaces offering freedom and lifestyle, new beginnings and experiments.
While in his early photographs there is a sense of wonder and astonishment about this city and the surreal after-effects of the war, in the years that follow his distance makes way for a keen sense of closeness, generating emotional portraits and news reports that are full of vitality. Berlin at the end of the fifties was an inspiring place and as an outsider and young beatnik, he slowly became part of the city and its inhabitants. With his Leica at close range, McBride documented situations and people with distinct subjectivity that led to the unique authenticity of his pictures. This personal documentary style practically made Will McBride as a forerunner of artists such as Nan Goldin or Wolfgang Tillmans.
The radical ideas of sexual liberation were sweeping through Europe in the late sixties. McBride has anticipated it with the photograph of his pregnant wife which was published in German youth magazine Twen and was considered scandalous. His nudes were considered shocking at the times, but that did not discourage him at all. Almost a decade later, he collaborated with psychoanalyst and sex educator Martin Goldstein on The Sex Book (Lexicon der Sexualitat), which was based on the idea to create a visually honest encyclopedia on sex.
In 1974 Will McBride in collaboration with psychiatrist Helga Fleischhauer-Hardt released the sex education book for children and their parents under the title Show Me!, or in German, Zeig Mal!.A year later it was translated into English and was available in bookstores on both sides of the Atlantic for many years. Nevertheless, the book has become the subject of allegations on child pornography laws in the United States, while in Germany, it was followed in 1990 by a second edition that even included a discussion of the AIDS epidemic.
During the course of time, Will McBride has established himself as one of the foremost documentary style photographers. The number of photo series, publications and exhibitions are immense and his works are included in various private and public collections. At the end of his life, he focused more on painting although there were a couple of shootings for famous magazines. The immense influence on the works of other artists is reasonable due to liberating ideas he introduced in dim and difficult post-war times. Therefore, Will Mcbride can easily be perceived as a revolutionary since he redefined the notion of photojournalism, of sexual representation as well as the thin line between professional life and intimacy.
Will McBride passed away in 2015, in Berlin.
Featured image: Book signing with Will McBride – image courtesy of CO Berlin
All images are used for illustrative purposes only
|2014||Will McBride - I was in love with this city||C O Berlin , Berlin||Solo|
|2014||Love||Camera Work , Berlin||Group|
|2014||Open Eyes! 100 years Leica Photography||Deichtorhallen Hamburg , Hamburg||Group|
|2014||Do you smoke but …||Raab Galerie , Berlin||Group|
|2014||Kids World||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Group|
|2013||Will McBride||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Solo|
|2012||The collection Gunter Sachs by Max Ernst to Andy Warhol||Museum Villa Stuck , Munich||Group|
|2012||We are the others - We are the others||Art Foyer DZ Bank Art Collection , Frankfurt||Group|
|2012||Road Atlas. Street Photography from the DZ Bank Art Collection||Art Museum diesel power station in Cottbus , Cottbus||Group|
|2012||Fascination New York||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Group|
|2011||Will Mc Bride: One Person Show||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Solo|
|2011||Fame||Art Foyer DZ Bank Art Collection , Frankfurt||Group|
|2011||Road Atlas - street photography from the DZ Bank Art Collection||Opel villas , Rüsselsheim||Group|
|2011||Polaroid (Im) Possible||West light. Showplace for Photography , Vienna||Group|
|2011||The Wall. The Wall. Le Mur||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Group|
|2011||Between ideals and morals||Kunsthalle birdman , Heilbronn||Group|
|2010||Nude Visions - 150 years of body image in the photograph||West light. Showplace for Photography , Vienna||Group|
|2010||NUDE VISIONS 150 YEARS OF BODY IMAGES IN PHOTOGRAPHY||Museum of Fine Arts Leipzig ,Leipzig||Group|
|2010||Eros and Stasi - East German Photography||Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst , Aachen||Group|
|2010||Zeitgeist Becomes Form||Australian Centre for Photography , Sydney, NSW||Group|
|2010||Nude Visions - 150 years of education body in photography||Von der Heydt Museum ,Wuppertal||Group|
|2010||The XX. Century - People-Places-Times||German Historical Museum - DHM , Berlin||Group|
|2010||Nude Visions. 150 years body images in photography||MKG - Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg , Hamburg||Group|
|2010||exposed - nude photography of the XX. Century||in focus Galerie , Cologne||Group|
|2009||Will Mcbride Solo Show||Art Foundation Poll , Berlin||Solo|
|2009||Images, drawings, photographs||Galerie Poll , Berlin||Solo|
|2009||EX nugis SERIA d'Afrique et d'ailleurs …||Maison d'Art Bernard Anthonioz , Nogent-sur Marne||Group|
|2009||The memory is often the most beautiful. Photographic portraits of Romy Schneider||Art Museum diesel power station in Cottbus , Cottbus||Group|
|2009||170 years Photography||Camera and Photo Museum Leipzig , Leipzig||Group|
|2009||Nude Visions - 150 years of body image in the photograph||Munich City Museum , Munich||Group|
|2009||Works of artist portraits from six decades of 30 photographers||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Group|
|2008||Photographic portraits of Romy Schneider||Opel villas , Rüsselsheim||Group|
|2008||Zeitgeist Becomes Form: German Fashion Photography 1945-1995||Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin||Group|
|2007||Will McBride - A legend of the German photojournalism||Kunsthaus Kaufbeuren , Kaufbeuren||Solo|
|2007||Romy||Camera Work , Berlin||Solo|
|2007||MODE: PICTURES||NRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft , Dusseldorf||Group|
|2006||Will McBride: Solo Exhibit||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Solo|
|2006||My Collection||Museo Ken Damy , Brescia||Group|
|2006||Portrait and People Picture||SK Stiftung Kultur , Cologne||Group|
|2005||Will McBride||Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna - GAM , Bologna||Solo|
|2005||Great photographer of the 20th century: Will McBride||Camera and Photo Museum Leipzig ,Leipzig||Solo|
|2005||Female nudes||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Group|
|2004||Relating to Photograph - Highlights from private collections||FFI - Photography Forum International , Frankfurt||Group|
|2004||A short time long ...||Dany Keller Gallery, Munich||Group|
|2002||Will McBride||Dany Keller Gallery, Munich||Solo|
|2001||Will McBride||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Solo|
|2001||Collection Schupmann - Photography in Germany after 1945||Kunstverein Rüsselsheim ,Rüsselsheim||Group|
|2001||Collection Schupmann. Photography in Germany after 1945||Museum für Photographie Braunschweig , Braunschweig||Group|
|2001||Anniversary Exhibition - "BERLIN IN THE MIRROR OF TIME"||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Group|
|1998||The promise of photography. The collection of the DG Bank||Hara Museum of Contemporary Art , Tokyo||Group|
|1998||L. Fritz Gruber||Gallery bright spot , Cologne||Group|
|1997||Will Mcbride Solo Show||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Solo|
|1996||Will McBride||Gallery Argus photo, art , Berlin||Solo|
|1996||The German eye - Photojournalism In Germany||Deichtorhallen Hamburg , Hamburg||Group|
|1993||Contemporary American-German photographer||Amerika Haus eV North Rhine-Westphalia , Cologne||Group|