Lothar Wolleh was a German photographer.
Berlin, Germany 1930 - 1979 London, England.

Contact Sheet

The Underrated Vintage Print

Lothar Wolleh Archive
  • Author Oliver Wolleh

In Lothar Wolleh’s lifetime, digital photography did not exist. Wolleh’s archive is thus purely analogue with the contact sheet taking an important function.

One aspect of the use of film by many photographers in the analogue era was the contact sheet, in German often referred to as ‘Kontakt’. To create a contact sheet, the entire roll of film negatives is laid on photographic paper and exposed, producing a positive print of all negatives. Technically, the contact print is not an ‘enlargement’, but rather a copy of the negatives.

6 cm x 6 cm

Wolleh almost exclusively used film rolls in which a single negative has a size of 6 cm x 6 cm. To produce contact prints, he also used paper specially developed by Agfa for this purpose: paper with black edges to distinguish it from paper for regular prints. As a result, the contact print images are easy to look at with the naked eye and give a good quality impression of the overall composition of the photos.

The Wolleh contact sheets are the size of an A4 sheet and always contain 12 shots from each film roll. After printing, the contacts were then filed with their negatives.

Collage of contact sheets (Jan Schoonhoven)

An overall view of a photographic archive

Lothar Wolleh printed practically all his film material on contact sheets. Today, these prints are invaluable for accessing the archive. Wolleh often labelled the images, noting the place, date and name of the person depicted. The images selected by Wolleh and authorized for use today are individually marked, and in some cases provided with extra references, such as the right exposure time for certain enlargements. This makes it easy for the Lothar Wolleh Estate to identify the right negatives to create ‘modern prints’, according to Lothar Wolleh’s specifications. 

The contact sheet, a photo-technically simple copy of the negatives, becomes what it always was: a fast, easy-to-use, dense source of information that provides an overall view of a photographic archive.