Issue #146  7/24/2008
Photographer Lutz Dille Dies in France

By Stephen Bulger
Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

Photographer Lutz Dille died in France on July 6, 2008.

Dille arrived in Toronto in 1951 and worked in a variety of odd jobs until the late fifties, when CBC television producer Ted Pope saw Lutz's Paris photos and decided to animate them into a short film for television. Following this Lutz started to receive assignments and was able to turn freelance. Apart from his commissioned work, whenever time and money allowed, he set out without any particular social message in mind or preconceived ideas, simply to photograph people. The personal assignments took him across Europe, the United States and Latin America. Three more films featuring his photographs were produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation: Ring of Time, Mexico 1960; Speakers Corner, London 1961; and New York Live In, New York City, 1962.

In 1967, the National Film Board of Canada organized the exhibition, "The Many Worlds of Lutz Dille". A catalogue of the same title was published by the NFB at this time, the first of their IMAGE series. In the same year at the Bytown International Exhibition he received the Yousuf Karsh award for the best collection of photographs in the exhibition.

By this time, Lutz was working in film as well as photography. In the early 1960s he'd bought his first movie camera and had started to work freelance for television, particularly in the area of Social Documentary. As an independent filmmaker he produced a number of documentaries and experimental films in which he often utilized both still and moving images. In photography he began to experiment with color printing, texture and form. He explored these aspects in his series "Lanes" which he photographed in the back alleys of downtown Toronto. He exhibited this work at the Arnolfini Centre for Contemporary Art, Bristol, England in 1982.

In 1975 and again in 1977 he visited Salford, an industrial town in the North of England, which was going through a period of drastic social change. Whole neighborhoods were being demolished and people were being uprooted and re-housed in high-rises. Lutz chose to photograph mostly in color and, in fact, this was the only time he chose to photograph people in color.

Lutz returned to Europe in 1980, accompanied by his second wife Mary and soon after their son Oliver was born. Dille was sorely missed by a legion of Toronto friends and colleagues who had grown accustomed to his dominant social presence. He lived in Wales from 1980 until 1985 where he taught a course in Filmmaking at the Newport College of Art, Gwent. He was awarded a British Arts Council Film Grant to make a documentary on the potter Walter Keeler titled "The Mudspinner".

From 1985 until the time of his death, Lutz Dille lived in the south of France, where in recent years his photography has been widely exhibited. In 1990 his Parisphoto series '1951' was edited and distributed by the Griffelkunst in Hamburg, Germany. Between 1993 and 1995 the FNAC Photo Galleries, Paris, organized a retrospective "Lutz Dille, Street Photography" 1951-1968. This exhibition toured major cities in France, Antwerp, Belgium and Germany.

His photographs are found in many private, corporate and public collections, including: National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada; The Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa Canada; The National Collection of Photography: The Public Archives of Canada; The Museum Of Modern Art (MOMA) New York; The Museum of the City of New York; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris; Bibliotheque Historique de la Ville de Paris; Griffelkunst-Vereinigung, Hamburg, Germany; The Museum of London, U.K.

In 1995, the "Centre de la Photographie" in France organised a lecture and exhibition titled "Lutz Dille Photographies". In 2004, the catalogue On the Street : Photographs of the 1950s and 1960s by Lutz Dille was published in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition curated by Martin Eberle for Stadtisches Museum, Braunschweig, Germany.

Mary Dille passed away on October 25th, 2006. Lutz is survived by his two daughters from his first marriage, Maya and Zoe, two grandchildren, Francesca and Satchel, and Lutz and Mary's son Oliver.