Family Lunch, 1943

1943 – A family has a festive dinner in Kiel, Germany. Scan © Mark Zanzig/

The story behind the image

This photo from our family archive is very interesting. First, it had been damaged over the nearly 80 years that have passed since it was shot: faded, countless spots and scratches, and even a drop of wall paint. As you can see, I have been able to recover it. But that is just a technical aspect.

I think the content is even more interesting. The photo shows (from left) my great-grandfather Paul, my grandfather Otto, my great-grandmother Eugenie, and my grandmother Edith. Clearly, they are having lunch or dinner, and looking at the clothes, it looks to me like a festive event. Maybe they have been celebrating a birthday? Or Christmas?

Otto had been the photographer in the family, and it’s fair to assume that he set up the camera on a tripod or nearby table and use a self-exposure timer or maybe a wired remote release to create this photo. But it’s quite a distance from the table to the position of the camera, so I’d say he used a self-exposure timer. The technology had been available at the time albeit not as an in-camera function. Here is an excellent page by a collector of hardware timers (in German.)

But there’s more to be discovered: The photo had been clearly staged. With a wry smile, Otto serves Paul, his father-in-law, a beer (?) while standing. Of course, he had to stand, because if he sat down on his seat, the camera would only see his back and block Eugenie from the image. So, he had to be somewhere else. But where, if everyone else is sitting? I guess under normal conditions he would have just filled the glass while sitting. But the idea behind this gesture is nice, too. The son-in-law is serving the most senior family member and shows a deep respect through this action.

And then there is the room. It’s the living room of their home in Kiel-Wik. It looks rather dark, yet the lights have not been switched on. So, it’s available light photography. The light was streaming in from behind camera-left, probably a window. So it must be either a dinner during summer, or a lunch during autumn or winter. However, in summer, they would have most likely used the patio, so I think it’s a lunch in autumn or winter.

All-in-all, it’s an interesting photo from an interesting period. I like it.

The high resolution image

Capture Date1943
LocationKiel, Germany
Image Source6 x 6 cm Print
Digital Image SourceEPSON Perfection 4870 Photo
Digital Image Source FormatTIFF, 48 bits/pixel, sRGB
Edited Image FormatJPEG, 24 bits/pixel, sRGB
Edited Image Dimensions2602 x 2602 Pixels
Copyright© by Mark Zanzig/

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