An den StPauli Landungsbruecken undatiert, Sammlung Rosenthal USA

The photographer Max Halberstadt

" artistically gifted personality“

7 May 2021 - 3 January 2022

Max Halberstadt (1882-1940) was one of Hamburg‘s best known portrait photographers of the 1920s. His popularity was due, not least, to the iconographic photographs of his father-in-law Sigmund Freud, which became the official portraits of the father of psychoanalysis and are still published worldwide to this day. However, even though his Freud portraits are in constant use, the name Max Halberstadt is unfortunately almost forgotten today. You will look in vain for him in the relevant photographer‘s encyclopedias. 

The exhibition shows not only portraits of Hamburg artists and members of the Jewish community, but also touching photos of children, as well as atmospheric insights into city life in Hamburg in the 1920s. Numerous print proofs document the broad context in which Max Halberstadt‘s diverse photographs were used. An educational programme for young people and adults will accompany the exhibition that deals with the topics of German persecution of Jews, their emigration and forced exile. 

The exhibition, curated by the literary scholar and publicist Dr Wilfried Weinke, aims to recognise the photographer and confirm his deserved place in Hamburg‘s photographic history. 

Supported by


Part of Tage des Exils, organized by the Körber Foundation and Herbert and Elsbeth Weichmann Foundation.


Museum for Hamburg History

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Opening hours

Mondays 10 - 17
Wednesdays to Fridays 10 - 17
Saturdays & Sundays 10 - 18

Max Halberstadt, Sigmund Freud, undatiert Sammlung Spangenthal, England

Max Halberstadt, Auf dem Altonaer Fischmarkt, undatiert, Sammlung Rosenthal, USA

Max Halberstadt, Nächtlicher Blick über die Binnenalster, undatiert, Sammlung Rosenthal, USA

Biography of Max Halberstadt

Born in Hamburg in 1882, Max Halberstadt settled in the Hanseatic city as a photographer in 1907 after his apprenticeship in the renowned studio of Rudolf Dührkoop. Following early success as a portrait and landscape photographer, he was already running his own studio in downtown Hamburg at Neuer Wall 54 by 1912. He also gained a reputation as an excellent children's photographer. After serving in the First World War, Max Halberstadt was one of the founding fathers of the "Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner", today's "Deutsche Fotografische Akademie". The magazine "Photofreund," published in Hamburg, dedicated the "Max Halberstadt Special Issue" to him and his work in 1920.

Halberstadt's pictures appeared in various press publications such as trade journals. These included, above all, the illustrated supplements of Hamburg daily newspapers, which featured his portraits,  collages and photomontages. His photographs of Hamburg synagogues were used in the Jewish press and in commemorative publications and he documented the gravestones at the Jewish Cemetery in Altona. He also created first-class architectural and interior photographs of Hamburg villas for private clients.

After the National Socialists came to power in 1933 and the accompanying anti-Semitic policy of exclusion was formalised, Max Halberstadt experienced a dramatic deterioration in his financial and social situation. Leading industrial firms such as Reemtsma, Darboven and Dralle withdrew as customers because of his Jewish origins. After the forced sale of his studio, he emigrated to South Africa in 1936. In exile, he succeeded in reestablishing a studio, but was not granted the opportunity to continue his career even remotely successfully, before his untimely death in Johannesburg in 1940. Max Halberstadt's life and work thus exemplify the predicament of Jewish citizens under National Socialism, who were no longer able to live in their homeland and could only escape persecution and extermination by emigrating.



Max Halberstadt, Werbeblatt des Fotografen, um 1925, Sammlung Weinke

Max Halberstadt, Blick durch das Hauptportal des Hamburger Rathauses auf den Rathausplatz, undatiert, Sammlung Rosenthal, USA.