Hans Günter Flieg

Photograph: Hans Günter Flieg, photographer
Self-portrait of Hans Günter Flieg, circa 1950
© Hans Günter Flieg / Instituto Moreira Salles Collection

Hans Günter Flieg

Vielleicht sollte man das Wort Heimat ausschalten und einfach davon sprechen, wie dicht man an den Sachen dran ist.

[Maybe we should discard the word homeland, and instead talk only of how close we can get to things. (ed. trans.)]

Hans Günter Flieg in an interview, 18 April 2013

Bornon 3 July 1923 in Chemnitz, Germany

After Jews were almost completely deprived of rights within the German Reich, Hans Günter Flieg, just 16 years old, left Chemnitz with his family in 1939 and headed for Brazil. By that time he had already undergone private photography training with Grete Karplus, the photographer for Berlin’s Jewish Museum. 

In São Paulo he continued his training in lithography and photolithography and soon found advertising work with such firms as L. Niccolini Indústria Gráfica Ltda. Meanwhile his parents established the machine embroidery company Bordados Flieg, which his younger brother later took over.

After the end of the Second World War, Flieg turned freelance and became one of Brazil’s most respected documentary photographers. He documented the lives of German-Jewish exiles in Brazil, but even more so the development of São Paulo, a city he saw growing before his lens. Looking at Flieg’s industrial photographs of a modern Brazil, we can see why writer Stefan Zweig, also in Brazilian exile, described it as the land of the future.

In 1965 Flieg received Brazilian citizenship and lives in São Paulo to this day. It was only in 2008, when he visited a retrospective of his work at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, that he finally saw Germany again.

Further reading:
Derenthal, Ludger und Titan, Samuel (Hg.): Brasiliens Moderne. 1940 – 1964. José Medeiros, Thomas Farkas, Marcel Gautherot, Hans Gunter Flieg. Ausstellungskatalog Berlin. Bielefeld: Kerber 2013
Mössinger Ingrid und Metz Katherina (Hg.): Hans Günter Flieg. Dokumentarfotografie aus Brasilien (1940 – 1970). Ausstellungskatalog Chemnitz. Bielefeld: Kerber 2008