Gerd Ludwig

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Gerd Ludwig (birth name Gerhard Erich Ludwig, born March 17, 1947 in Alsfeld, Hesse, Germany) is a German-American documentary photographer and photojournalist.


Gerd Ludwig initially studied German literature, political science, and physical education at the University of Marburg, before leaving prematurely to travel in Scandinavia and North America, supporting himself with jobs as a bricklayer, sailor, and dishwasher. Upon his return to Germany, he studied photography with Professor Otto Steinert at the Folkwang Hochschule (now Folkwang University of the Arts) in Essen, graduating with a degree in Photo Design from the University of Essen in 1974. He co-founded VISUM [1], Germany's first photographer-owned photo agency in the same year. In 1978, he moved to Hamburg and began working for major international publications and advertising agencies.

He re-located to New York City in 1984. In the early 1990s, he signed on as a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine, focusing on environmental issues and the changes following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. His work in the region resulted in his exhibition and book, Broken Empire: After the Fall of the USSR, a ten-year retrospective published by National Geographic in 2001 [2]. His ongoing coverage of post-Soviet Russia has garnered his distinction as being the western world's foremost color photographer documenting the region.

Gerd Ludwig is a veteran of the renowned A Day in the Life [3] book series created by David Elliot Cohen and Rick Smolan. He also exhibits his work in galleries and festivals such as the Visa pour L'Image [4] in Perpignan (9), occasionally shoots advertising, and has won numerous photographic awards. Major awards include the International Photography Award's [5] 2006 Lucie Award [6] for International Photographer of the Year and the 2014 Dr. Erich Salomon Award (Dr. Erich Salomon Preis), dedicated to Erich Salomon, a lifetime achievement award for photojournalists given by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (Wikidata) (DGPh, or German Society for Photography). In 2015, he received the prestigious Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism [7] from the Missouri School of Journalism. He joined the exclusive INSTITUTE for Artist Management, an agency run by Frank Evers focusing on Fine Art and Documentary Photographers, in 2009.

Now based in Los Angeles, California, Gerd Ludwig continues to photograph mostly for National Geographic Magazine while working on personal projects such as Sleeping Cars [8] and bringing back into light work from his archive, such as early color portraiture of Joseph Beuys [9] and Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

Chernobyl Coverage and Crowdfunding[edit]

Gerd Ludwig first photographed the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster for National Geographic Magazine in 1993, and then later in 2005. After attempts to generate interest in covering the 25th Anniversary of the disaster were rebuffed by major publications, he turned to crowdfunding to finance the trip [10], becoming one of the first internationally recognized documentary photographers to utilize crowdfunding for a personal project [11] to utilize this new tool to finance a personal project. His Kickstarter campaign supported a return trip to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to continue his ongoing coverage of the aftermath of the world's worst nuclear disaster to date [12]. While the Kickstarter campaign was still in progress, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster brought renewed attention to Chernobyl and nuclear energy issues and his project, eventually pushing the funding to nearly 200% of its initial goal.

The images resulting from Gerd Ludwig's returned trip to Chernobyl have been published and exhibited globally including at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Headquarters in London [13]); presented at the LOOK3 Charlottesville Festival of the Photograph in Virginia (Video on YouTube); and led to the creation of his iPad app, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl [14], produced in collaboration with Lightbox Press [15]. In 2012, the app was awarded 1st place in the National Press Photographers Association's annual Best of Photojournalism [16] contest in the Tablet division [17][permanent dead link].

In 2013, he returned again to the Zone to report on the cleanup efforts and the progress of the Chernobyl New Safe Confinement. Having covered the aftermath of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster for two decades, he teamed up with Austrian publisher Edition Lammerhuber [18] to publish The Long Shadow of Chernobyl (essay by Mikhail Gorbachev, quotes by Svetlana Alexievich). The launch of the book took place at the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria and coincided with a major exhibition [19]. The book received international acclaim and was awarded the Photobook of the Year award by POYi [20].


"A great photograph touches the soul and broadens the mind." "Technique and composition in photography are equivalent to grammar and syntax in prose."


  • AO TEA ROA: Island of Lost Desire. Hundertwasser in New Zealand (Albrecht Knaus Verlag, 1979)[21]
  • BROKEN EMPIRE: After the Fall of the USSR (National Geographic Society, 2001)[22]
  • The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, an interactive photo book as iPad App (Lightbox Press, 2011)[23]
  • The Long Shadow of Chernobyl (Edition Lammerhuber, 2014)[24]


  • What Matters (Sterling, 2008)[25]
  • Wide Angle: National Geographic's Greatest Places (National Geographic Society, 2005)[26]
  • Witness: The World's Greatest News Photographers (Carlton Books, Ltd, 2005)[/1844424928]
  • A Day In The Life of Africa (Tides Foundation, 2002)[27]
  • National Geographic 50 Greatest Pictures (National Geographic Society, 2011) [28]

National Geographic Stories[edit]

  • "Museums-Magie" National Geographic Germany: December 2015
  • "On a Roll" National Geographic: July 2015
  • "Two Cities" National Geographic: March 2015
  • "The Nuclear Tourist" National Geographic: October 2014
  • "Störfall in der Todeszone" National Geographic Germany: October 2014
  • "Searching for King Arthur" National Geographic Germany: January 2014
  • "Tomorrowland" National Geographic Magazine: February 2012
  • "Crimea: A Jewel in Two Crowns" National Geographic Magazine: April 2011
  • "Soul of Russia" National Geographic Magazine: April 2009
  • "Jakob der Reiche" National Geographic Germany: March 2009
  • "Moscow Never Sleeps" National Geographic Magazine: August 2008
  • "Send Me to Siberia" National Geographic Magazine: June 2008
  • "Vitus Bering" National Geographic Scandinavia: October 2007
  • "Vitus Bering" National Geographic Germany: February 2007.
  • "Marktl" National Geographic Germany: May 2006.
  • "The Long Shadow Of Chernobyl" National Geographic: April 2006.
  • "Napoleon In Germany" National Geographic Germany: November 2005.
  • "The Salton Sea" National Geographic: February 2005.
  • "Nibelungen" National Geographic Germany: December 2004.
  • "Russia Rising" National Geographic: November 2001.
  • "Russlands Seele" National Geographic Germany: November 2001.
  • "The Brothers Grimm – Guardians of the Fairy Tale" National Geographic: December 1999.
  • "A Comeback for the Cossacks" National Geographic: November 1998.
  • "Russia's Iron Road (Trans-Siberian Railroad)" National Geographic: June 1998.
  • "Moscow. The New Revolution" National Geographic: April 1997.
  • "Reinventing Berlin" National Geographic: December 1996.
  • "Toronto" National Geographic: June 1996.
  • "Soviet Pollution," National Geographic: August 1994
    • "Lethal Legacy: Pollution in the Former U.S.S.R."
    • "Chernobyl: Living With the Monster"
  • "A Broken Empire" National Geographic: March 1993
    • "Russia: Playing by New Rules"
    • "Kazakhstan: Facing the Nightmare"
    • "Ukraine: Running on Empty"
  • "Main-Danube Canal Links Europe's Waterways," National Geographic: August 1992.
  • "The Morning After: Germany Reunited" National Geographic: September 1991.

External links[edit]