Extraordinarily Candid Vintage Photographs Showing Life in Vienna, Austria During the 1900s and 1910s

Emil Mayer was a Viennese photographer who did most of his work with a hand-camera on the streets of Vienna around the 1910s. Although he was a lawyer by profession, his greatest passion was for photography: he was the long-time president of one of Vienna’s most prominent camera clubs, and by the time of his death was internationally known for his work in photography.

Mayer’s photographs document a short-lived period of stability and prosperity in Austria’s history. The Viennese writer Stefan Zweig recalled this time in his autobiography: “Everything had its norm, its definite measure and weight. … Every family had its fixed budget, and knew how much could be spent for rent and food, for vacations and entertainment… In this vast empire everything stood firmly and immovably in its appointed place, and at its head was the aged emperor; and were he to die, one knew (or believed) another would come to take his place, and nothing would change in the well-regulated order.”

Mayer died in June, 1938—he committed suicide along with his wife, soon after the Nazi occupation of Vienna—and we know that the Gestapo entered his apartment soon afterwards, with the result that his entire personal collection of photographs was almost certainly destroyed.

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