Noir, Photography

Fred G. Korth – Silent Winter

Korth was an industrial photographer in Chicago who moonlighted as a pictorialist. His work was seen in salons and photographic periodicals during the 1930s and 1940s. He wrote a few articles on technique and published a small picture book on Chicago. 

Fred G. Korth was born in Germany on October 24, 1902. In 1926, he moved to Chicago, where he made a living doing commercial, illustrative, and, primarily, industrial photography. In 1933, he was the official photographer for Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition. Three years later, he opened his own studio, which he maintained until retiring in 1963. He produced promotional photographs of tools, food, and other products and worked freelance for the magazines Commerce and Fortune. In 1949, The Chicago Book was issued, with well-printed images by him showing the city’s architecture, industry, culture, and street life. 

Pictorialists admired Korth’s commercial work, which was characterized by high contrast, dramatic lighting, and strong diagonals. Salon juries often accepted photographs he initially made on assignment. His image Galvanized Sheets, for instance, was commissioned by Ryerson Steel and turned up in the 1948 Chicago photographic salon. 

Korth was active among American pictorialists for two decades. He was a member of the Fort Dearborn Camera Club, where he sometimes gave talks, and one of his prize winning pictures was reproduced in the December 1930 issue of Photo Era. He exhibited at salons about this time, showing up to fourteen prints a year at Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Buffalo, Rochester, New York, Toronto, London, and Madrid. He was known for his bird’s-eye views of the Chicago River, and his pictures were also reproduced in Camera Craft andPopular Photography. He wrote articles for these magazines on equipment, freelancing, and still-life photography. Among his specialties were photomontage and bas-relief effects, which he used for both Christmas cards and photographic illustrations. Fred G. Korth died on May 2, 1982, in his home in Wilmette, just north of Chicago. 

Cars parked in the snow outside the Pine Apt Hotel in Chicago, circa 1945. (Photo by Fred G. Korth/Archive Photos/Getty Images)