Born in 1939 in Hamburg, Bernard Larsson grew up both in Sweden and the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1957 he studied photography in Munich. In 1959 he moved to Paris where he became the personal assistant to William Klein, the photographer at VOGUE magazine. At this time the French capital is marked by their defeats in Indochina and Algeria. In Saint-Germain-des-Pres the existentialists meet around Jean-Paul Sartre and the NOUVELLE VAGUE is born in 1961. Larsson travels to fascist Spain and the former French colony Morocco. Later, in 1968, shortly after the violent suppression of liberalization by the troops of the Warsaw Pact, he travels to Prague and further to Warsaw and Budapest.
News of the construction of the Berlin Wall on August 13th 1961 provokes Larsson to leave Paris and move to Berlin. Due to his Swedish passport he can move freely without any restrictions around all four zones of Berlin, all under Allied martial law. Larsson succeeds in capturing both the humanitarian and political situation of the divided city. This is reflected in his photographs of its inhabitants and their everyday lives. In 1964 his book ‘Berlin: The Complete City – Political Photographs’ (Die ganze Stadt Berlin – politische Fotos), accompanied by text by Michel Butor, is published.
From 1966–68 Larsson works as a photojournalist for STERN magazine. In addition to his editorial work he follows the activities of the APO (extra-parliamentary opposition) around the student Rudi Dutschke, and also the setting up of Kommune 1 (K 1).
During the visit of the Shah of Persia to Berlin on June 2nd 1967, there are violent student protests against his policies culminating in the death of the student Benno Ohnesorg, who is shot dead by the police. In 1967 Larsson’s photographic documentation of the student revolts in Berlin appears in the 10th volume of the Voltaire leaflets (Voltaire Flugschriften). In 1970 he works with Thomas Neumann and Esta Marshall to create an eight part documentary film about the social history of photography (Stilgeschichte der Fotografie) for German public television (WDR). Since then he has been a photographer for fashion and advertising. Bernard Larsson now lives in Munich.
Larsson‘s work belongs to the School of Humanist Photography which developed at the end of World War II. His camera serves him as a tool to understand the world and to narrate it. After the terror of the war it was important for the young photographers to help construct a new Europe.