Will McBride

United States 1931 - 2015


Will McBride
Will McBride
United States
December 19, 2014
Ok, I know it's so damn corny to quote somebody just to describe yourself, let alone Confucius, but this quote says all about my relationship with Widewalls, so forgive me for doing this: Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. Am I forgiven?

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.

The peculiar photography of this American captured German society in difficult situation after the war
Will McBride – John F. Kennedy, Willy Brandt, Konrad Adenauer vorm Brandenburger Tor, Berlin, 1963 – image via lempertz

Photography As a Media of Choice

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).

The astounding fragments of post-war Berlin

His works were on view in paris and other European galleries after Mcbride passed away in 2015
Will McBride – Strasenbahn in der Tauentzenstrase, 1956 – image via co-berlin

The German Love affair

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.

Master at capturing sexuality and the tenderness of adolescence

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Will McBride Berlin – Wannsee, 1959 – image via pinterest (Left) / Untitled – image via pinterest (Right)

The Affiliation of Will McBride With The Outsiders

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 rebellious and misunderstood on photos of Will McBride

The artist had help from Berlin locals of his age with whom he spent time in privacy
Will McBride – Christoph killed by TV – image via pinterest

The Seventies and Sexual Revolution

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.

The freed body has been of McBrides’s particular interest

The photography changed after Mcbride introduced different view on sexuality so his art served as progressive newsletter
Will McBride – Flachenspiele im Strandbad Wannsee, 1958 – image via co-berlin

Show Me!

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.

The erotically edgy atmosphere made him famous

The photography of Will McBride was progressive and radical in regards to youth culture and sexuality
Will McBride – Untitled – image via pinterest

The Notable Photographic Opus of Will McBride

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

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2014Will McBride - I was in love with this cityC O Berlin , BerlinSolo
2014LoveCamera Work , BerlinGroup
2014Open Eyes! 100 years Leica PhotographyDeichtorhallen Hamburg , HamburgGroup
2014Do you smoke but …Raab Galerie , BerlinGroup
2014Kids WorldGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinGroup
2013Will McBrideGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinSolo
2012The collection Gunter Sachs by Max Ernst to Andy WarholMuseum Villa Stuck , MunichGroup
2012We are the others - We are the othersArt Foyer DZ Bank Art Collection , FrankfurtGroup
2012Road Atlas. Street Photography from the DZ Bank Art CollectionArt Museum diesel power station in Cottbus , CottbusGroup
2012Fascination New York Gallery Argus photo, art , BerlinGroup
2011Will Mc Bride: One Person ShowGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinSolo
2011FameArt Foyer DZ Bank Art Collection , FrankfurtGroup
2011Road Atlas - street photography from the DZ Bank Art CollectionOpel villas , RüsselsheimGroup
2011Polaroid (Im) PossibleWest light. Showplace for Photography , ViennaGroup
2011The Wall. The Wall. Le MurGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinGroup
2011Between ideals and moralsKunsthalle birdman , HeilbronnGroup
2010Nude Visions - 150 years of body image in the photographWest light. Showplace for Photography , ViennaGroup
2010NUDE VISIONS 150 YEARS OF BODY IMAGES IN PHOTOGRAPHYMuseum of Fine Arts Leipzig ,LeipzigGroup
2010Eros and Stasi - East German PhotographyLudwig Forum für Internationale Kunst , AachenGroup
2010Zeitgeist Becomes FormAustralian Centre for Photography , Sydney, NSWGroup
2010Nude Visions - 150 years of education body in photographyVon der Heydt Museum ,WuppertalGroup
2010The XX. Century - People-Places-TimesGerman Historical Museum - DHM , BerlinGroup
2010Nude Visions. 150 years body images in photographyMKG - Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg , HamburgGroup
2010exposed - nude photography of the XX. Centuryin focus Galerie , CologneGroup
2009Will Mcbride Solo ShowArt Foundation Poll , BerlinSolo
2009Images, drawings, photographsGalerie Poll , BerlinSolo
2009EX nugis SERIA d'Afrique et d'ailleurs …Maison d'Art Bernard Anthonioz , Nogent-sur MarneGroup
2009The memory is often the most beautiful. Photographic portraits of Romy SchneiderArt Museum diesel power station in Cottbus , CottbusGroup
2009170 years PhotographyCamera and Photo Museum Leipzig , LeipzigGroup
2009Nude Visions - 150 years of body image in the photographMunich City Museum , MunichGroup
2009Works of artist portraits from six decades of 30 photographersGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinGroup
2008Photographic portraits of Romy SchneiderOpel villas , RüsselsheimGroup
2008Zeitgeist Becomes Form: German Fashion Photography 1945-1995Dunedin Public Art Gallery, DunedinGroup
2007Will McBride - A legend of the German photojournalismKunsthaus Kaufbeuren , KaufbeurenSolo
2007RomyCamera Work , BerlinSolo
2007MODE: PICTURESNRW-Forum Kultur und Wirtschaft , DusseldorfGroup
2006Will McBride: Solo ExhibitGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinSolo
2006My CollectionMuseo Ken Damy , BresciaGroup
2006Portrait and People PictureSK Stiftung Kultur , CologneGroup
2005Will McBrideGalleria d'Arte Moderna di Bologna - GAM , BolognaSolo
2005Great photographer of the 20th century: Will McBrideCamera and Photo Museum Leipzig ,LeipzigSolo
2005Female nudesGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinGroup
2004Relating to Photograph - Highlights from private collectionsFFI - Photography Forum International , FrankfurtGroup
2004A short time long ...Dany Keller Gallery, MunichGroup
2002Will McBrideDany Keller Gallery, MunichSolo
2001Will McBride Gallery Argus photo, art , BerlinSolo
2001Collection Schupmann - Photography in Germany after 1945Kunstverein Rüsselsheim ,RüsselsheimGroup
2001Collection Schupmann. Photography in Germany after 1945Museum für Photographie Braunschweig , BraunschweigGroup
2001Anniversary Exhibition - "BERLIN IN THE MIRROR OF TIME"Gallery Argus photo, art , BerlinGroup
1998The promise of photography. The collection of the DG Bank Hara Museum of Contemporary Art , TokyoGroup
1998L. Fritz GruberGallery bright spot , CologneGroup
1997Will Mcbride Solo ShowGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinSolo
1996Will McBrideGallery Argus photo, art , BerlinSolo
1996The German eye - Photojournalism In GermanyDeichtorhallen Hamburg , HamburgGroup
1993Contemporary American-German photographerAmerika Haus eV North Rhine-Westphalia , CologneGroup