The photographers Nini and Carry Hess

Exhibition at the Museum Giersch in Frankfurt am Main | Spring 2022

With the photographers Nini (1884-1943) and Carry Hess (1889-1957), the Museum Giersch of the Goethe University will introduce two outstanding Frankfurt artists of the Weimar Republic starting in spring 2022 - two photographers who worked with Ullstein in Berlin for many years. The planned exhibition, with around 180 original photographs, will for the first time provide a differentiated overview of the biography and work of the Frankfurt sisters, whose lives and careers were destroyed by the Nazis because of their Jewish origins. The main focus is on portrait and theatre photography, but works from the fields of dance, nude, fashion and architectural photography will also be part of the exhibition.

Two photographers whose studio in the Börsenstraße in Frankfurt was one of the most respected in Germany will be remembered. The two sisters had founded it in 1913 and specialized in portrait photography. They found their clientele mainly in the upper middle classes of the Frankfurt City Society.

Equipped with a general contract with the city of Frankfurt, the Hess sisters also captured the stage events of those years in a large number of photographs of scenes and role portraits. They also created numerous civil portraits of stage stars such as Heinrich George, Fritta Brod, Constanze Menz and Gerda Müller, but also of famous dancers such as Mary Wigman, Niddy Impekoven and Anna Pavlova.

The quality of their photographs and their good networking in artistic circles ensured that they were regularly photographed for leading magazines such as the "Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung", "Querschnitt" or "Uhu" - the publications of the Ullstein Verlag in Berlin. Illustration commissions for the women's supplement of the "Frankfurter Zeitung" were added. Celebrities like Carl Zuckmayer, Alfred Döblin, Thomas Mann, Max Beckmann, Paul Hindemith, Ferdinand Kramer or C. G. Jung had their portraits taken by Nini and Carry Hess.

During the Reichsprogromnacht 1938, members of the SA completely destroyed the sisters' studio and picture archive. In 1942 Nini Hess was deported, as was her mother, and probably murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. Carry Hess had emigrated to Paris in 1933. After liberation, her attempt to work there as a photographer again failed. The last phase of her life was marked by the humiliating struggle with the German authorities for financial compensation.

(Text: Museum Giersch of the Goethe University, Frankfurt)

The exhibition catalog Die Fotografinnen Nini und Carry Hess is published by Hirmer München, with essays by Katrin Bomhoff, Heike Drummer, Roland Jaeger, Eckhardt Köhn, Miriam Szwast. Contribution by Dr. Katrin Bomhoff, ullstein bild / Axel Springer Syndication, on "Frankfurt-Berlin: Nini and Carry Hess at Ullstein - Photographs from the ullstein bild collection," pp. 169-177.

In our gallery you can see a selection of original photographs by Nini and Carry Hess from the ullstein bild collection.

You can find the entire collection of Nini and Carry Hess at


Dr. Katrin
Senior Manager Asset & Exhibition
+49 30 2591 73164