Portraits of the Forgotten. Relentlessly Lived. by Martin Rumbolz

Portraits of the Forgotten. Relentlessly Lived.

by Martin Rumbolz

I am a german photographer, my area extends from business -over wedding- to portrait- photography. In these parts of commercial photography everything is fine tuned, you will not find the real world here.

A few months ago, I started the project “relentlessly lived” in the nursing facility where my wife is working.

The Wichernhaus in Stuttgart is for people who have been trough long years of homelessness, addiction, mental or psychological disease. Some of them are criminals or alcoholics; are violent or suffer from dementia.

I am in my business for 30 years now, but I have to admit, that I was a bit nervous.

I had no experience with people in this situation. With a little help from my wife (she knows how how to talk better than I)  I tried my best to get pictures with a lot of expression.

I photographed every one of them with a single flash in a small softbox from above and with a black velvet in the background. The hard light, which didn’t brighten the shadows, helped to show all the wrinkles and individual characteristics of their faces.

With this way of photographing I was able to show the painful, furious, fearful, but also significant moments in their life, which had left traces on their faces. Several of them made curious expressions, so I had to be patient and take much time to get a good shot. Some of them asked me if I believe in God, 15 times in a row. Sometimes even a smile flashed on their faces.

After I finished my work in the nursing facility, I went home and converted the photos into black and white with my Mac. My wife was very excited and very proud of her ‘honeys’. I framed 10 of the photos and hanged them in their dining-room. Everyone came to look at the expressive faces.

Some of the photographed people stood in front of their pictures for a very long time. My wife told me later, that they are very proud of their pictures.


Martin Rumbolz

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Martin Rumbolz


  1. Hello everybody! Recently I have been dealing with a lot of personal issues. Friends and doctors keep telling me I should consider taking pills, so I may as well link and see how it goes. Problem is, I haven’t taken it for a while, and don’t wanna get back to it, we’ll see how it goes.

  2. Excellent pictures and taken with compassion and love of human kinds.
    Steve: It is amazing, you have such a big heart for the under-privileged. May God bless you and family.

  3. Superb work- that the people you took photos of are proud of their portraits is always the ultimate testament to your skills as a photographer 🙂

  4. I think these are well done and clearly respect was shown to the subjects, but I do find it offputting that this such as proliferation of photos of the poor and homeless across photography websites. It’s like the go-to subject for portrait photographers – go out and find some junkies and hobos with lots of wrinkles and characterful faces to shoot. It might make for arresting portraits, but I am beginning to find it distasteful (and repetitive).

    • “…but I do find it offputting that there is such a proliferation of photos…”
      Should proofread before I post!

    • What you say is not true. Especially in the case of what is on this website. It would be like saying that these homeless individuals are not worth photographing. They are human as well, and have emotion and feelings. As Martin stated here, after he printed the photos for them, to hag in their living space, they loved them. That is a gift to them and this post from Martin is about being a humanitarian as most would never even give these people a 2nd look. This website nor I would NEVER use the homeless just to take photos, but rather as a way to help them and show others that yes, they are just the same as you and me. Down on their luck, mental illness, drug habits – maybe, but they are all human. So calling them “junkies and hobos” as you did is highly disrespectful unlike what Martin did here.

      • Steve, Richard’s first sentence was “I think these are well done and clearly respect was shown to the subjects”. That for me sets the tone of his comment and shows that he is actually differentiating between Martin’s approach and result and something that would be characterised by the negative words he uses of unspecified others (and which I have seen elsewhere – also unspecified, not on this site!). I have to admit I was a bit ambivalent as I went through the pictures, but Martin’s last sentence made sense of the whole gallery.

        • Yes, you are correct. I am so used to seeing people just hate on those who do this kind of work, me included. I have done it with only respect and love, yet many who are so blind and full of negativity just attack. I have not seen any proliferation of photography of the homeless in a disrespectful way anywhere, but then again, I do not go to other photo websites, too busy. So maybe I am not seeing what he has seen. So I apologize if I sounded a tad harsh, I am sensitive to this subject and it is close to home for me. Thank you.

  5. Fantastic work from the beginning to the end. The final pictures look very nice on the wall too. Du kannst sehr stolz darauf sein!

  6. Hi Martin,

    Could you please comment if you secured model releases and publishing rights for these portraits. Was everyone mentally competent to give their consent? Or at least aware of how their images were going to be used? Thanks

  7. Excellent work. I went to a similar facility and took some portraits several years ago. Some of the people were just not there, even though they eventually looked at the lens…

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