Helga Kulbe Teiwes was born in Düsseldorf, Germany in 1930. Ten years later,
her life was disrupted by the war. She remembers, "WWII had started in 1939,
and by early 1940 Düsseldorf was almost every night under bombing attacks.
We spent sleepless and fearful nights in our basement, which was cold and damp."
The family struggled through the war, moving when needed to escape harm and starvation.
returned to school after the war ended and in 1950 she began a trade apprenticeship
in photography. She worked under Master Photographer Erna Hehmke-Winterer, a well-known
specialist in black and white portraiture and architectural and industrial photography.
"I made the exam for Journeymanship in 1953 and could call myself Photographer,"
Teiwes recalls. Four years later while still in Düsseldorf, she completed her
Master in Photography degree.
After a stint as staff photographer for a German manufacturer, Helga emigrated to
New York in 1960. She held several jobs, including a darkroom worker and assistant
to the photographer for Cartier Jewelers. During this time, she continued to build
her own portfolio through free-lance work and personal explorations.
By 1964, she was ready to see more of the United States, and took off in a Volkswagen
Beetle. "I removed the back seats of the car and stuffed it with belongings,
camp gear and an old Army tent." A visit to Mesa Verde convinced her that she
must photograph the Southwest's archaeological sites.
That same year Teiwes got her wish. She was hired by Dr. Emil Haury of the University
of Arizona to photograph his excavation of Snaketown, a massive Hohokam site on
the Gila River Indian Reservation south of Phoenix. When fieldwork at Snaketown
wound down, Teiwes became the Arizona State Museum's staff photographer, devoting
her professional life to documenting the rich archaeological and cultural landscapes
of her new home. Although she retired from ASM in 1993, her legacy lives on in the
thousands of images she created that are housed in the Museum's photographic collections.