Renger-Patzsch was born in Würzburg and began making photographs by age twelve. After military service in the First World War he studied chemistry at Dresden Technical College. In the early 1920s he worked as a press photographer for the Chicago Tribune before becoming a freelancer and, in 1925, publishing a book, The choir stalls of Cappenberg. He had his first museum exhibition in 1927.
A second book followed in 1928, Die Welt ist schön (The World is Beautiful). This, his best-known book, is a collection of one hundred of his photographs in which natural forms, industrial subjects and mass-produced objects are presented with the clarity of scientific illustrations. The book's title was chosen by his publisher; Renger-Patzsch's preferred title for the collection was Die Dinge ("Things").
In its sharply focused and matter-of-fact style his work exemplifies the esthetic of The New Objectivity that flourished in the arts in Germany during the Weimar Republic. Like Edward Weston in the United States, Renger-Patzsch believed that the value of photography was in its ability to reproduce the texture of reality, and to represent the essence of an object. He wrote: "The secret of a good photograph—which, like a work of art, can have esthetic qualities—is its realism ... Let us therefore leave art to artists and endeavor to create, with the means peculiar to photography and without borrowing from art, photographs which will last because of their photographic qualities."
Among his works of the 1920s are Echeoeria (1922) and Viper's Head (ca. 1925). During the 1930s Renger-Patzsch made photographs for industry and advertising. His archives were destroyed during the Second World War. In 1944 he moved to Wamel, Möhnesee, where he lived the rest of his life.
- Schmied 1978, p. 134.
- Gernsheim 1962, p. 172.
- Hambourg 1993, p. 356.
- Schmied 1978, p. 86.
- Schmied 1978, p. 135.
- Gernsheim, Helmut (1962). Creative Photography: Aesthetic Trends, 1839-1960. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0486267504.
- Hambourg, Maria M., Gilman Paper Company., & Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.). (1993). The Waking dream: Photography's first century: selections from the Gilman Paper Company collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 0870996622.
- Michalski, Sergiusz (1994). New Objectivity. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen. ISBN 3-8228-9650-0
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- Gelderloos, Carl. "Simply Reproducing Reality—Brecht, Benjamin, and Renger-Patzsch on Photography," German Studies Review 37.3 (2014): 549–573.
- Jennings, Michael. “Agriculture, Industry, and the Birth of the Photo-Essay in the Late Weimar Republic,” October 93 (2000): 23–56.
- Pfingsten, Claus (1992). Aspekte zum fotografischen Werk Albert Renger-Patzschs (in German). Witterschlick/Bonn: M. Wehle. ISBN 3925267573.