Born on 29th August 1912 in Vienna, Austria, Wolfgang Suschitzky was not only an established documentary photographer but also a cinematographer who has worked on over 200 feature films, TV productions and documentaries.
Like many of his contemporaries, he was deeply influenced by the Foto-Auge exhibition in Stuttgart of 1929. In 1944 he founded the DATA film cooperative and worked closely with Paul Rocha, one of the forefathers of the British documentary film.
Andrew Pulver has described Suschtizky as "a living link to the prewar glory days of the British documentary movement."
Suschitzky's father was a social democrat of Jewish origin, but who had renounced his faith and become an atheist, or "konfessionslos". He opened the first social democratic bookshop in Vienna (later to become a publishers), and Suschitzky was born in the apartment above the bookshop. His sister was photographer Edith Tudor-Hart (1908-1973).
In an interview at the age of 95 in September 2007, Suschitzky recalled boyhood memories of the excitement that greeted the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Suschitzky's first love was zoology, but he realised he could not make a living in Austria in this discipline, so instead, influenced by his sister, he studied photography. In 1934 he left for London, where his sister lived.
In London Suschitzky gained a reputation both as a photographer and as a cinematographer. Before the Second World War, he began working for the distinguished documentarist Paul Rotha: "I showed him some things, and he gave me a job on some zoo films. That suited me, because when I was growing up in Vienna, I always wanted to be a zoologist."
He also worked on propaganda films such as Reoprt on Steel (1948) which promoted the steel industry: "They wanted to make films that were useful to society, and so I was really glad that I could join them. We made films on housing problems, on problems in hospitals and down coal mines, so I got into places other people normally never go."
Suschitzky's work has been exhibited at the National Gallery, the Austrian Cultural Forum and at the Photographer's Gallery in London. He is the father of cinematographer Peter Suschitzky and classical musician and writer, Misha Donat.
British Photography / The Hyman Collection