B.A., Social/Political Science, SUNY at Albany, 1967
M.F.A., Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 1971
Professor, MSU, Art Department/Photography, 1971 to present
Coming from a large family with artistic inclinations Klaus Schnitzer’s first ambition was architecture. The political climate of the ‘60s with anti-war demonstrations and rallies on universities triggered a strong interest in photography while working for the student newspaper. Images taken during his undergraduate studies and later as a graduate assistant for photography at SUNY Albany fit in the tradition of photographs as social documentary – straightforward, immediate and sympathetic. Outstanding in his early work are black & white pictures of rock stars on stage such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan.
After a short, quite successful exploration of lyrical, unassuming street scenes in the manner of Cartier-Bresson, Klaus Schnitzer begins his lifelong love affair with sequential imagery in the early ‘70s – the first grid arranged pieces appear; most famous the Ellis Island series. Narratives of decaying structures and objects tell the stories of immigrants who once passed through this ‘Gateway to America’. Often combined with evocative text passages (a collaboration with the printmaker Robert Sennhauser since 1976) one finds a strange monumentality and quiet beauty in abandoned rooms, broken furniture, forgotten trinkets presented like artifacts. Sometimes the pieces take on a more humorous quality when shown reused, in a contemporary setting. Sequential setups with image-text combination span a wide variety of subjects, from military structures at Sandy Hook, tenement buildings in New York City and historical prisons to terrorist phantasies and cynical Thanksgiving dinners.
Most of Klaus Schnitzer’s work is done in black & white, especially memorable when he uses his beloved platinum technique. Color, which only occasionally appears in the first 20 years, gives his more recent work, photographs of ordnance, a new powerful dimension. Images increase in size and stand now alone.
A genuine interest in cars fostered Klaus Schnitzer’s ‘other’ career as an internationally renowned automotive photographer and writer. Assignments take him all over the world and have resulted in books, feature articles and more than 110 cover photographs for national and international publications. His name appears on the mastheads of Bimmer, Sports Car International and Roundel magazines.