Rafael Neff
  • Beach
  • Libraries
  • Operas
  • Wine cellar
  • Minis
  • Artist's book
  • Introduction

  • Bio

  • Exhibitions

  • Links

About the Work


Dabs of colour breathe life into the nearly deserted beach. The light is perfect, the setting impressive. Rafael Neff’s beach photographs feel like the faded memories of distant childhood vacations. The summer guests have long since gone off to other amusements. All that remains is the furniture, old-fashioned and simultaneously timeless.

Before the first vacationers return to utilize them for the mundane purpose of protection from the sun, the roofed beach chairs create their own game of light and colour. It is fragmented and somewhat abstract, as though they are trying to strike up a dialog with the cloudless blue sky, to which the photographer allots an equal amount of space. Rafael Neff’s photographs are atmospheric in the best way. He takes diverse approaches to the subject, bringing his pictures to life with the contrast between focus and blur, closeness and distance, and shallowness and depth.


Rafael Neff has been photographing opera houses and theatres all over the world since 2007. Fascinated, we lose ourselves in a wealth of opulent, baroque ornamentation. Warm colours dominate. The rooms feel almost like cathedrals. One immediately gets a sense of the great dramas that unfold beneath these great domes.

Whether it’s La Scala in Milan, The Royal Opera House in London, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, or the Zurich Opera House, the glorious buildings regale us with tales of great divas and minor scandals, of applause and excitement, and of great productions and bold experiments. Neff manages to capture the magic spell the stages cast over the actors and audiences. In his photographs, architectural aesthetics from bygone eras meet our expectations and demands in the here and now.


Regardless of whether we are religious or not, rooms that feel so sacred are a joy to behold for every free spirit and aesthete, because they go beyond the individual. These are places where many centuries of the spiritual world have been collected, much more than a single person can gather. Rafael Neff depicts the “temples” of world literature.

The contrast between the libraries could not be greater. The hall in the Benedictine Abbey Admont presents itself with baroque pomp, whereas a more sober atmosphere rules over the Parisian Sainte-Geneviève Library. Neff shows us new perspectives, capturing the aesthetics of different centuries and delivering breathtaking insights. The depth of field makes them feel detailed and clear, but never “merely” documentary in nature.

Wine Cellar

Rafael Neff lets our gaze wander through the world’s most famous wine cellars. His photographic pursuit of all things exquisite is honoured in these warm aging cellars from renowned vineyards with long traditions. Barrels of fine wines tell of full harvests, precise pressing, and prudent storage. Neff manages to capture the excitement that builds up here over a span of decades.

Whether or not a Chateau Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classe lives up to its potential can only be known after it has been aged for more than a decade. With Neff’s pictures, you do not have to be an expert sommelier to recognise the care and attention that a winery like Lafite-Rothschild grants its vines. The soothing symmetry and reserved light are not all that’s pleasant to look at; the deeper you gaze into the depths, the more overpowering the vaults and the more inexhaustible the wine reserves appear.

About the Artist

Rafael Neff’s unique take on settings and architecture has been turning heads since 2001. His Strandkörbe series has become a constant in his otherwise very diverse body of work. He has won several awards, including the “red dot design award” and the Kodak Photo Award, and has even been nominated for the Design Award of the German Republic.

The son of a pastor, Rafael Neff was born in Freienseen, Germany in 1969. He and his seven siblings grew up in the nation’s south. He studied photography in Mainz, Prague, and New York.
Rafael Neff has been commissioned to and completed successful, award-winning photo series and productions worldwide since 2002. These include works for BBS AG, Audi AG, VW, Automechanika, Sherwin-Williams, dm Markt, the Alfred Kärcher GmbH & Co KG, the Messe Frankfurt, IHK Frankfurt, the Heidelberger Druchmaschinen AG, the FAZ, the New York Times, and many more.

What sets Rafael Neff’s work apart is his precise vision and technical ability. In his photographs, he enters the depths and reveals a new, detailed perspective to the viewer. By doing this, he brings subtleties to light that might have otherwise escaped us. Beach chairs are made to seem like sculptures, libraries like cathedrals, and wine cellars like holy halls.

Neff recognizes the beauty of objects and captures that through his lens. In his work, most of which contains no people, a dense atmosphere prevails. In large formats, the photographer’s precision and the images’ abundant details become visible.


Born in Freienseen


Worked in an advertising agency

First photographic works

Received a state-funded photography stipend

1996 -2001

Entered the Fachhochschule Mainz, studying Communication Design with a focus on Photography

Academic exchange in Prague and New York

Became a protege of Kevin Clarke - New York City


Received diploma in Photography at the FH Mainz

Premiered “emotionalen Garten”

Began his “Strandkörbe” project


Brought his “Strandkorb” project to New York


Brought his “Strandkorb” project along the entire coastline of the North Sea


Founded Neff Fotodesign

Brought his “Strandkorb” project along the entire coastline of the Baltic Sea


Brought “Strandkorb” project along the Polish coast all the way to the Curonian Spit

Completed book production at Neff Fotodesign


Signed a photography contract with John Deere

Completed an artistic work for the Franz Schneider Brakel GmbH

Brought “Strandkorb”project to the Italian coastline and islands of Denmark


Began lectureship for photography at the School of Design at the Hochschule in Pforzheim


Founded a new studio with showrooms in Oberursel

Began exhibition of the largest collection of libraries and theatres worldwide - ongoing


Began art series about the most valuable books in the world

Partook in exhibitions in New York, Paris, Milan, and Berlin


Began art series on complex clockworks

Partook in exhibitions in New York, Paris, Munich, Berlin, and Düsseldorf


Began art series "the most important Wine cellars in the world"

With productions in California, France, Switzerland, Itlay, and Germany


Started largest portrait series about ballet director Uwe Scholz

Continued the Opera series with 13 new Operas

Began new Beach House series


Solo exhibitions in Hong Kong, China, Salzburg, and Austria

Solo exhibition in Salzburg, Austria
Gruppenausstellung in Heidelberg, Deutschland

Solo Exhibition and remodelling of the Villa Merton (Union International Club) in Frankfurt, Germany


World tour to photograph the world’s best workshops for the Hella GmbH & Co KGaA campaign


Continuation of “Opera” project at new sites in St. Petersburg, Sydney, and Paris
Continuation of “Libraries" project at the Abbey of St. Gall Library in Saint Gallen, Switzerland

He lives and works in Frankfurt, Germany

Awards (Selection)

2019Gregor Kalender Award
2013DesignPlus Award
2012Bronze International Kalender Award
2010Gold International Kalender Award
2008Red Dot Design Award
Kodak Photo Award
"Gregor" Honorary Award from the Jury

Gold International Kalender Award

2007 Gold International Kalender Award
2005Design Award of the state Rheinland-Pfalz

Collections (Selection)

DZ-Bank, Frankfurt, Germany
Berenberg Bank, Berenberg, Germany

Sparkassenverband Rheinlandpfalz, Germany

LBBW, Stuttgart, Germany

Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt, Germany

Solo Exhibitions (Selection)

2013LUMAS, Salzburg, Austria
Villa Merton (Union international Club), Frankfurt, Germany
2012LUMAS, Dusseldorf, Germany
LUMAS, Hamburg, Germany
LUMAS, Berlin, Germany
2011LUMAS, Vienna, Austria

Group Exhibitions (Selection)


LUMAS, Heidelberg
Art Bodensee

2009Art Moskau
2008AAF, New York
Maison et Objets, Paris
IMM Cologne
Interior Lifestyle,  Tokio
Paris Photo, Paris
ICFF, New York
2007 Kunst Zürich
TIAF, Toronto
Tendence Lifestyle,  Frankfurt
AAF, New York
ICFF,  New York
Art Moscow
Art Melbourne
Maison & Objets, Paris
IMM Cologne
art cologne 
2006 Art Fair Köln
Kunst Zürich
Blickfang, Wien

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