How were you first exposed to Karlheinz Weinberger's work, and what led you to editing Rebel Youth?
Martynka Wawrzyniak: Around 10 years ago Jack Pierson showed me a copy of Weinberger's first [self titled] monograph. At the time I was the co-editor in chief of Issue Magazine and we featured some of Weinberger's work. In late 2008 I saw the Karlheinz Weinberger: Vintage Prints, Belt, Jackets, Couples, etc., show at Anna Kustera and was instantly reminded of how much I loved this work. Anna mentioned that Weinberger had passed away and that his previous monograph was selling for over $900—I was determined to edit his next book!
Bruce Hackney: Back in 2002, when I was the director of Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, a co-worker showed me this booklet published by The Photographer's Gallery in London. On the cover was an arresting image of this grungy biker sporting a jacked up wardrobe topped off with a swastika pendant. After devouring the images in that booklet, I decided I had to find a way to show the work in New York. I got in touch with Weinberger's Zurich gallerist and proceeded to put together a mini survey of his oeuvre; from his beginnings as a "beefcake" photographer for a ground breaking homophile journal, through the "Halbstarke," to his images of hard core biker gangs. Because of his age and health at that time, Karlheinz wasn't able to come over for the show so I never got a chance to meet him in person; something I've always regretted.
In his forward John Waters refers to the youth as the “Verlaustan” (lice-infected ones) while Guy Trebay calls them the “Halbstarke” (half-strong). Can you explain the difference between these two terms for the same group?
Patrik Schedler (Heads the Estate of KHW in Warth Switzerland): The word “die Halbstarken” represents the group of those young guys (mostly men), it is more ironic (because they saw themselves as really strong!), meanwhile the word “die Verlausten” is very disrespectful, because it calls them kind of dirty, unwashed, stinky... as sick as untended animals are. The adjective “verlaust” means: full of lice, lousy. You can compare it a little with “gay” and “queer.” The young rebels began to name themselves as “Halbstarke,” but they never used the word “verlaust” for describing themselves.
The oversized belts are really something else. How do you view the significance of fashion in the portraits?
BH: I've always understood the Halbstarke "fashion" as completely intuitive element: these kids just wanted to wear anything that made them stand out, let them feature their "rebel" idols around their necks or around their waists, and thumb their noses at the Swiss bourgeois.
Rebel Youth (Rizzioli, 2011) is available now at amazon.com
All images ©The Estate of Karlheinz Weinberger, from Rebel Youth, Rizzoli New York, 2011.