Ruth Hallensleben: Gelsenberg Benzin AG, 1952–1954
That industrial photography was usually considered to be heavy man’s work is emphasized by a reviewer in an article about Ruth Hallensleben (1898-1977) in the magazine Foto-Prisma in October 1954. The achievements of the photographer who at the time could look back at about 20 years successful work in this field were in fact remarkable. Ruth Hallensleben opened her studio in Cologne in 1934 and at first she published landscape photos. In 1935 she received her first industrial commission, which was followed by many others, so that it became an important field of work to her. Her works were published in company magazines, in anniversary issues and journals as well as in photographic magazines. At the time this was common practice, which she used skillfully.
At the end of the Second World War however, industrial production and its adjoining fields had been destroyed so that opportunities for work were limited. But the reconstruction work which soon commenced as well as the developing economic stabilization signified an increase in commissions for Hallensleben too. She had left Cologne in 1943 and worked from Wiehl in the Bergisches Land, which remained her base until she moved to Wuppertal in 1961.
One company for which the photographer was active in the 1950s on a number of occasions was the Gelsenkirchener Bergwerk AG. The mining company looked back at an eventful history, was known as the Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG at one time and up until 1945 controlled over 20 mining sites in the Ruhr Region. A subsidiary of the company, the Gelsenberg Benzin AG, was founded in 1936 for the purpose of coal liquefaction and between 1952 and 1954 Ruth Hallensleben took a picture of rows of tanks on the site. At that time it was an oil refinery. The black and white photo shows large round tanks positioned one behind another, and the slightly diagonal perspective imparts a form of dynamism into them. In the foreground pipelines with valves can be seen, contrasting as linear elements with the round shape of the tanks. The photographer reacts to found shapes with great perception for aesthetic constellations which she presents to us in a straight, documentary manner – a form of presentation which was appreciated by the companies who commissioned her as well as in photographic circles. For example, on the occasion of Ruth Hallensleben’s 70th birthday a journalist wrote: “[…] we always find pure, objective, technically excellent, clear photography. She is opposed to fiddly jobs and photographic tricks.” (FotoPrisma, Vol. 6, June 1968)
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur