Danish | 1920-2013
Keld Helmer-Petersen is recognised as a pioneer of colour photography. His self-published book 122 Colour Photographs, appeared in 1948. The photographs were ground-breaking in their use of colour as subject and their abstract qualities. As Martin Parr observes ‘...for the 1940s it was sensational – way ahead of its time.’
I don’t want my pictures to ‘look like something’. They should just look like pictures.
Keld Helmer-Petersen, Life, November 28, 1949
But significantly, over a career that spanned six decades, the vast majority of Helmer-Petersen’s work involved black and white photography – often portraying a very graphic sensibility achieved by exposing high-contrast film negatives.
Keld Helmer-Petersen lived and worked in Copenhagen, Denmark. From the late 1960s onwards he taught
at the School of Architecture, Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen; and at the School of Graphic Design, Copenhagen. Helmer-Petersen had his first ever London solo exhibition at Rocket in 2005 at the age of 85. This exhibition featured some of his 1940s colour photographs; vintage Chicago Silhouettes from Keld’s time spent studying at the Institute of Design, Illinois; and his colour series Danish Beauty, an abstract vision of the industrial areas of Copenhagen. Rocket presented further solo exhibitions in 2008 and 2012.
In June 2019 the Royal Danish Library in Copenhagen presented a major retrospective exhibition based on the archive of photographs that Keld Helmer-Petersen bequeathed to the institution. This exhibition continued into 2020 in celebration of Keld’s centenary. Rocket will also mark the centenary with a solo exhibition in London featuring rare vintage pieces and will publish the artist’s book Winter Graphics.
The Estate of Keld Helmer-Petersen is represented by Rocket & we hold a small inventory of photographs
view available works
Keld Helmer-Petersen | 1920-2013