The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Paul Günter: Studio Portraiture to Art Photography


Real photo postcard of Paul Gunter on the front of a German-language New Year's card from 1911. He is tipping his hat and holding a jester's scepter, very much in the Vaudeville-style. Translated, the card reads "Good luck for the new year."

In conjunction with the 2021 Louisville Photo Biennial, the Filson is proud to present this virtual exhibit, Paul Günter: Studio Portraiture to Art Photography.

Immigrating from Hanover, Germany in 1886, Paul Günter (1857-1936) settled in Louisville, KY, establishing himself as a commercial and art photographer. Coming from a family of photographers, one can assume that Günter immigrated to the United States in hopes of opening his own photographic studioShortly after arriving to Louisville, Günter is listed as an artist with Stuber and Bro. a prominent photographic studio located at 616 East Chestnut street. By 1891, he is listed as the successor to Daniel Stuber’s studio, another notable German photographer. Günter’s work documents three major aspects of his career and lifeStudio photographyworkhe created to make a living, Family photography—snap shots of intimate views of his family and friends, and Art photography—where he focused on capturing the natural world, architecture, and people, including several unique views of the African American community.

Like other prominent Louisville photographers of the time, Paul Günter’s work undoubtedly is represented in the personal collections of countless Louisville families and in the photograph collections of many historical institutions. What makes this collection so significant is that it is Günter’s personal collection, and more completely documents and preserves the legacy of his work. The photographs reveal more than Günter’s skill as a commercial photographer. In them is seen his favorite subject material as well as his interest in and experimentation with evolving photographic techniques, such as lighting and focus. This exhibit provides insight into the life and legacy of Paul Günter through the photographs he left behind.


Heather Potter, Curator of Photographs & Prints; Danielle Spalenka, Associate Curator of Digital Projects; & Abby Briney, Filson's University of Louisville Commonwealth Center Exhibit Intern