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IMAGO History

In 1970, researcher Werner Kraus from Daimler-Benz was commissioned to analyse the combustion process in the Wankel engine. For this he used high speed photography and developed a completely new optical system with extremely high light intensity and enormous focal length. The end photographic result was a system which produced photographic images at a scale of 1: 1, without curvature or distortion, over a 2 meter image circle. Werner Kraus used direct exposure onto positive photographic material. This called for very high light intensity. To meet the need he developed his own lighting and optical system with an extremely focused output fed by six flash generators. After completing his research assignment, he quickly became aware of the creative potential that lay dormant in his creation – the gestation period of the IMAGO camera began. However, the invention of the IMAGO Camera was not just a technical innovation, the technical innovation was the catalyst triggering imagination and creativity. Well-known artists such as Joseph Beuys, Hermann Nitsch, Arnulf Rainer, among many others, with their actions burst the firmly-established boundaries between viewer, artist and artwork.
Somewhat influenced by this, Werner Kraus, together with sculptor Erhard Hößle, created an interactive work of art that lures the viewer out of his passive corner to personally become part of the artistic process – a worldwide unique photographic experience that combines art, craft, science, and spectacular self-awareness and provides an experience diametrically opposed to the ego-hegemony of the digitized world.
In 1972 the IMAGO Camera was inaugurated in Munich. After a series of exhibitions it had to be withdrawn from public display and mothballed in 1978. The reason: Direct Photo Paper, essential for the operation of the camera, has to give way to other technologies and is no longer produced.
Not every revolution starts in the cellar – This one starts in an attic: By chance, in 2004, the daughter of the inventor Werner Kraus found a box in her father’s house in Munich containing the original design texts for the camera together with portraits from the IMAGO Camera of the 70s, the IMAGOgrammen. A successfull find, because the extraordinary magic of the pictures does not let go of the actress daughter. In order to reactivate the IMAGO, a source of direct positive paper needs to be found. After almost 2 years of intensive research, Susanna Kraus finds a partner in ILFORD Switzerland, which agrees to resume supply of the direct positive paper for the IMAGO Camera and, also, give it the legendary ILFOCHROME look. From that day on Susanna Kraus devotes all her energy as an artist to this unique light painting. In 2014, Susanna Kraus and her sons Paul and Jakob complete the IMAGO Fotour, the first replica and the first mobile version of IMAGO Camera. Since then, the IMAGO Fotour has been exhibited in Germany, China and the Netherlands.
  • 1970/72

    Construction of the first walk-in large-format camera IMAGO for the life-size reproduction of humans

    Idea and artistic realization: Werner Kraus and Erhard Hößle. After 2 years of production, the opening takes place as part of a major art event for the then Munich cultural scene.

  • 1970/78

    Various locations and exhibitions

    World Exhibition of Photography Nuremberg, Photokina Cologne, Herbstsalon Haus der Kunst, New Collection Munich, Galerie Hartmann, Munich.

  • 1978


    of the IMAGO Camera after production of the special photo paper was discontinued.

  • 2004/06


    Susanna Kraus discovers and reactivates the walk-in self-portrait camera IMAGO. She manages to persuade ILFORD Switzerland to re-introduce the direct positive paper.

  • 2006

    The Neue Sammlung der Pinakothek München

    returns the IMAGO Camera to Susanna Kraus. The camera is restored by Susanna Kraus together with her two sons in the rooms of the Akademie der Künste, Munich, under the patronage of Dieter Rehms.

\”The large format springs from the yearning for the\” perfectly faithful reproduction \”, the actual promise of photography: Life-size! Because without life size, there is no true picture of life.\”
Without the support of individuals and companies, re-activating the camera would not have been possible. For your never-ending passion and love for the IMAGO, we would like to thank you with a heartfelt \”light on all roads!\” With the following people and companies: Gisela Kaiser, Munich – Ilford Switzerland – Harman Technology, Mr. David Peter Jones, Ex CEO of Ilford, Photokina / Messe, Cologne – Connecting Images, Berlin – The Photoautomaten, Berlin – Lomographic Society Vienna – Thomas Schenck (SM Filmdienst) – Florian Huf-nagel (Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich) – Peter Weibel (ZKM Karlsruhe) – Gottfried and Gerda Haberer – Dieter Rehm (Academy of Arts) – Floris Neusüß, Stefan and Lisa Boerger (Delicut) – Christoph Kardinal Schönborn, Vienna – The Wiener & Münchner troupe the beginning hour, Flo-rian Peljak and Jakob Berr – Severin Matusek – Christoph Santner from RealMakers, Vienna – Yasmine Benhadj-Djilali / YBDD, Architektur Kunstraum, – Distribution Photo paper DPP Hans O.Mahn GmbH, MACO PHOTO PRO-DUCTS
IMAGO Camera