The automotive photographic art of Zoltan Glass

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A photograph of a driver sitting beside the Nürburgring course, reading a newspaper, his Bugatti racing car beside him. Zoltan Glass c. 1931.

Zoltan Glass was an amateur car racer and professional photographer who photographed many major racing events in Germany in the 1930s as well as commercial photographs for automotive clients like Mercedes Benz, Horch and Auto Union.

Glass, however, was Jewish, so things started to get difficult for him after the National Socialists came to power in 1933, although he worked hard, ironically doing publicity photoshoots with sitting cars. alongside Nazi planes, and covering partially sponsored auto races and events. by the party. After the Nuremberg Laws were passed in 1936, severely restricting the civil liberties of Jews, Peter de Peterson, a Glass associate of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency, helped Glass move his base of operations to London, from where he managed his photographic agency based in Berlin. Glass continued to travel to Germany to carry out advertisements for his clients. After widespread organized violence against German Jews erupted during Crystal night in 1938, and Jews were not allowed to run or own businesses, Glass moved to London permanently, taking all of his photographic negatives with him.

He struggled for a while but eventually established himself by working for advertising agencies and magazines. Many professional photographers who later achieved notable success began using his studio in exchange for royalties on the photos they created there. He ended up mentoring a generation of British commercial photographers. His work for a risky British magazine also led to a lucrative parallel career in “naturist” photography. Surprisingly, Zoltan Glass was never interested in British motorsport and his commercial work in the UK had almost nothing to do with cars. Glass died in 1981 and left his archive of negatives with the British National Media Museum, which digitized the photos. You can see more of his work on the Museum’s website, but I’ve included a nice selection of his racing and automotive advertising work in the gallery below.

Zoltan Glass was a superb photographer. Going through his photos, we notice that very few of his car photographs were of single cars, almost all of these photos include people and he had a skillful touch to capture their humanity.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars in depth, a realistic perspective on cars and auto culture and the original 3D cars site. If you found this article interesting, you can get a parallax view on Cars In Depth. If 3D scares you, don’t worry, all photo and video players used on the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS


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