In 1953 Herbert Tobias was the first German photographer to work for “Vogue” in Paris. He was expelled from France in the same year however for protesting during a raid at a gay venue in the French capital. Success and failure were always Herbert Tobias’ twin companions. Having taken his first photographs as a soldier in the German army, after the war he worked as an actor and fell in love. After coming out in 1950, he escaped arrest by going to Paris where he found refuge at Willy Maywald’s studio. His initial success as a photographer was swiftly followed by his expulsion. Moving to Heidelberg, he competed successfully with 18,000 contestants to win a newspaper photography competition run by the “Frankfurter Illustrierte”. Tobias was on top again; much in demand as a photographer, his work was shown at exhibitions and he was also the subject of articles. But Tobias was not just a fashion photographer; his nude photography, his portraits and his documentary images would have graced any collection of contemporary art had art photography been more acknowledged and marketable at the time.
Today, his portraits of Hildegard Knef, Andreas Baader, Klaus Kinski or Amanda Lear are now considered classics in the art of portrait photography. Sadly, Herbert Tobias was not to experience this late recognition of his work. Finding it increasingly hard to submit himself to the daily madness of fashion photography, he withdrew from photography, preferring to work in film and appear as an actor. Herbert Tobias died in 1982 as a result of an Aids-related infection. His grave in Altonaer cemetery in Hamburg was later turned into a memorial – albeit not until 2007. This film illuminates the life and work of this artist in all its breadth and diversity.