Otto Umbehr

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Umbo, born Otto Maximilian Umbehr (January 18, 1902 – May 13, 1980), was a German photographer.


Otto Umbehr was born in Düsseldorf and is known for his photo journalism as well as artworks.[1] Umbehr was the second of six children of industrial architect Karl Friedrich Umbehr. His mother Frieda died when he was a young boy. He was trained in Duisburg, Aachen and Düsseldorf. In 1921, he studied at the Bauhaus in Weimar where he became acquainted with Johannes Itten, Oskar Schlemmer, Paul Citroen, Wassily Kandinsky and Eva Besnyö. He was influenced by László Moholy-Nagy.

With Citroen's help, Umbehr took on the artist name of Umbo and started a photo studio in 1926. He made photo collages as a camera assistant for the 1927 film by Walter Ruttmann called Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis.[2] In 1928 he became one of the founding members of the agency Dephot (Deutscher Photo Service GmbH) where he was friends with Felix H. Man and Robert Capa.[2] The agency was closed by the Nazis in 1933. During the Nazi period, Umbo worked as a photojournalist. In 1943 his photo archives, containing 50,000–60,000 negatives, were destroyed in a bombing raid on Berlin. Only a few of his works from that period have survived.

After the war Umbo returned to Hanover with his wife, the graphic designer Imgard Wanders, and their daughter. He lost his left eye, but that did not prevent him from continuing his art. He is known for photos of the ruins of postwar Hanover and he later taught photography at the School of Applied Arts there.

He died in Hanover in 1980.


  1. ^ Otto Umbehr in the RKD
  2. ^ a b Robert Capa: A Biography, by Richard Whelan on Google books

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