Gerd Ludwig was born in Alsfeld, Germany. Initially he studied German literature, political science, and physical education at the University of Marburg, but interrupted his studies to travel in Scandinavia and North America while supporting himself with jobs as a bricklayer, sailor, gardener, and dishwasher. After his return to Germany, he studied photography for five years with Professor Otto Steinert at the Folkwangschule (now Folkwang University of the Arts), graduating in 1972 with a degree in Photo Design from the University of Essen. The following year, he co-founded VISUM, Germany’s first photographer-owned photo agency. In 1975, he moved to Hamburg and began working for Geo, Stern, Spiegel, Zeit-Magazin, Time, and Life, as well as photographing advertising campaigns.
In 1984, Gerd re-located to New York and continued to photograph for major international publications. In the early 1990s, he signed on as a contract photographer for National Geographic Magazine, focusing on environmental issues, and the social changes in Germany and Eastern Europe. This work resulted in the publication of his book, Broken Empire: After the Fall of the USSR, a ten-year retrospective published by National Geographic in 2001.
Gerd Ludwig is perhaps most well known for his long-term coverage of the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He first photographed Chernobyl in 1993 for National Geographic Magazine, and returned again in 2005 for a cover story, bringing him deeper into the contaminated reactor #4 than any western photographer. In 2011, on the eve of the 25th Anniversary of the disaster, Gerd launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to return to the Exclusion Zone to continue his coverage as a personal story. These images led to the publication of an iPad App, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl, published by Lightbox Press in 2011. With partial funding by the VG Bild-Kunst, Gerd returned in 2013 to focus on the changes in the Zone, and soon after, began work on a 20-year retrospective photo book, again engaging the Kickstarter community to help fund the printing of the book. Published by Edition Lammerhuber in May 2014, The Long Shadow of Chernobyl is a 252-page large format photo book, combining images from his 20-year-long coverage of the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear disaster.
Gerd’s work beautifully captures all the complexities life has to offer. Whether it is the sweetness of a hug and a kiss or the poignancy of children born with serious birth defects, his photography resonates with a full scale of emotion. By combining strong composition, socio-economic content, and a journalistic style, Ludwig creates images that broaden the mind and touch the soul. His ongoing coverage of post Soviet Russia has garnered his distinction as being the world’s foremost color photographer documenting the region.
Now based in Los Angeles, Gerd is represented by the exclusive INSTITUTE for Artist Management. While he continues to work primarily for National Geographic Magazine, he photographs personal projects; exhibits in museums, galleries and festivals, such as the Perpignan Visa pour L’Image; lectures at universities; and conducts workshops internationally. Gerd is a veteran of the renowned A Day in the Life book series, occasionally shoots advertising, and has won numerous photographic awards, including the IPA’s 2006 Lucie Award for International Photographer of the Year and the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize from the German Society of Photography in 2014.
To learn more, please visit Gerd Ludwig Photography.