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Object of the month: Photographic obituary for Rüdiger Trautsch

1. November 2021

Rüdiger Trautsch contributed an important part to the visibility of queer people with his photographies which deal with queer life in private and public. But the photographer was not only known for his documentation of Hamburg’s queer subculture: He even portrayed personalities such as Andy Warhol. Until the end, he was very involved in the planning of his next exhibition at the SMU.

Trautsch’ works were displayed at the SMU numerous times: The museum dedicated an exhibition to him in 2012, where his graphic works were on show for the first time. Trautsch said in an interview back then: “For the first time, I see my images in a greater context, because they laid dormant in files and boxes until now.” After this, a few of his photographies where on display in the exhibitions “Tapetenwechsel” (2017) and “100 Objekte” (2020). Another exhibition of Trautsch’ creative activity was planned for 2020 – it had to be postponed again and again due to the pandemic.

Very early in his career, Trautsch was interested in capturing the personal, and every-day life with the camera. He already concluded his studies at the Hochschule für bildende Künste Hamburg with an impressive work for which he documented an older homosexual man with his camera over the span of a year. Such intimate, complex artistic perspectives on homosexuality and queerness were rare in the early 80s. Also later, he depicted gay, lesbian, or queer people in their every-day lives, at home on their couch or in bed, for example in his series “Paare” (“Couples”). What few people know: Trautsch, who completed an extensive artistic education, also made drawings. In 2018, he gave his his pre-morten bequest that contains not only his photographies but also a few drawings to the SMU. When he sorted through his works here at the museum, he commented on the amount of women’s portraits: “As you can see, Rüdiger also does women!” Archive director Dr. Peter Rehberg descirbes the holdings of the photographic and graphic works of Rüdiger Trautsch as one of the most significant at the Schwules Museum.

Rüdiger Trautsch passed away on October 21, 2021 after a long illness. Archive director Dr. Peter Rehberg summarizes:

“With him, we lose an important photographer in Germany, and a very loveable person who had many friends at the museum and, until the end, was curious about the queer world of the present.”

Trautsch’ photographies are not only an instrumental part of the archive but will also have a lasting impact on the museum’s exhibitions.

Meret Oppenheim, photograph by Rüdiger Trautsch. Galerie Levy, Hamburg 5.11.1982. Photo: Orlando Brix/SMU.