About the stern Photo Archive

The stern Photo Archive of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

The publishing house Gruner + Jahr transferred ownership of the analogue photo archive of the journal stern as a donation to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in the year 2019.

The stern

The journal stern, published for the first time in August 1948, was one of the world’s most important journals in the 1960s and 1970s in particular. For a long time, it was the most widely read magazine for illustrative photo stories, created by a team of over twenty regularly employed "stern photographers" and numerous freelance photographers. The stern developed a unique visual power with its photographs. Numerous pictures received awards.

Importance of the stern Photo Archive

The stern Photo Archive is considered the visual memory of the Federal Republic of Germany. Constituting one of the internationally most significant documentations of photographic journalism, the stern Photo Archive is of unique contemporary-historical importance. Since the handover by Gruner + Jahr to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, the archive has additionally been one of the largest photo collections held by any public-sector institution in the German-language area.

The collection

The stern Photo Archive contains an estimated 15 million photographs in the form of negatives, slides and prints from the time between 1948 and 2001. However, it does not provide a gapless tradition of all analogue photographs taken on behalf of the stern or published in the stern in the period from 1948 to 2001, since part of the pictures were handed over to photographers for their own retention already before the transfer to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek endeavours to re-integrate these collection parts into the archive.

Moreover, in addition to the photographs genuinely created on behalf of the stern, also such photographs were included in the collection, which were taken by stern photographers outside of their work for the stern. This is the case where stern photographers have transferred ownership of these pictures to the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and concluded a corresponding usage agreement with the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

Digitization and provision

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek is currently digitizing the stern Photo Archive step by step, in order to preserve it sustainably. In a first instalment running up to November 2025, around 3 million negatives created from 1972 to 2001 will be digitized, which were created by regularly employed photographers on behalf of the stern and whose associated rights have been clarified.

After cataloguing, the images will be made accessible successively for researchers and the public in this image portal.


The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds the rights of use of all photographs shown in the image portal. Licenses for use can be acquired upon request and against the payment of a fee [= fees]. The negotiation of rights of use with further photographers is continued in parallel with the ongoing digitization.


The photographs in the image portal are usually not catalogued individually, but are provided with the metadata of the respectively associated photo story. For each photo story, these include the original title (i.e. the title given by the stern photographer in question or by the stern editorial office), the name of the photographer, data on the time and location of creation, on persons and/or institutions portrayed, topical subject headings on the content of the photo story and, where available, original annotations of the back sides of the contact sheets forming part of the photo story.

In addition to the individual images, also the associated contact sheets, as far as available, are shown in the image portal with their front sides and (marked) back sides.

What you CANNOT find in this image portal

Currently, the image portal contains only those digitized photographs of the stern or taken by stern photographers for which the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek holds the rights of use. The image portal currently does NOT include:

  • Not yet digitized photographs from the stern Photo Archive of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
  • Photographs whose associated rights are held by third parties
  • Photographs which no longer formed part of the collection at the time of donation
  • Documents, correspondence, etc.


In case you have any questions about the stern Photo Archive or the use of this image portal, you are welcome to contact us at any time: Contact