Bertha Wehnert-Beckmann was a German photographer born in Cottbus in 1815, Brandenburg. Wehrnert-Beckmann first worked as a hairdresser in Dresden in 1839. There, in 1840, she met her future husband, Eduard Wehnert a photographer, who introduced her to the daguerrotype process and to the recently introduced colour-tinting process based on glass-plate negatives which allowed an unlimited number of prints.
In 1843, together with her husband, she opened a studio in Leipzig, becoming Germany’s first known professional female photographer. After her husband’s death in 1847, she continued to run the business herself.
In 1849, she went to the United States where she opened studios in New York, first at 62 White Street and later at 385 Broadway. While in America, she received a diploma for special services to portrait photography. While living in New York, she photographed notable subjects such as President Millard Fillmore, ambassadors, and other politicians came to her to be photographed.
She returned to Leipzig in 1851 after transferring her New York business to her brother. In 1866, she moved her place of business to Leipzig’s Elsterstraße where she had several employees. Her studio became one of the most notable addresses in the city.
Upon returning to her Leipzig study, she became the first in her city to begin working with nude photography. She also added a list of famous individuals to her photographic portfolio upon returning to her home city. These individuals included Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Franz Dominic Grassi, Karl Heine and many others. In addition, Beckmann has been credited with some of the very first architectural photographs of Leipzig (1855-1860), which documented the city and its features before some were destroyed, such as Peter’s Gate(1860). She retired in 1883 at the age of 68.
Her work combines a human approach with high levels of technical and artistic quality. She Specialised in portraits, her most impressive works are those of children. Her interest in technical innovations, her use of modern advertising methods and her sense of business all contributed to her outstanding success as a photographer
Beckmann worked in the daguerreotype photographic process. The exhibit representing her work, which resides at The Leipzig Museum of City History, could be one of the most valuable contributions to early history of photography. She kept up with the most current trend of her craft, including diligently learning stereo-photography, upon its invention.