Fritz Albert, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor emeritus and a noted documentary filmmaker and photographer, died on Sunday, Sept. 16 at the age of 90.
Albert joined the faculty of the UW-Madison Department of Agricultural Journalism—now Life Sciences Communication—in 1954, the year he arrived from his native Germany. Over the next 35 years he produced more than 100 films on agriculture, natural resources and rural development, many of which won awards in international competitions. His topics ranged from how-to farming advice to explanations of agricultural and land use policies. In the 1960s and 1970s he produced 12 films on tenure and agrarian structure in Latin America that were shown in classrooms in a number of universities, including Harvard, Stanford and the London School of Economics.
“He had a very broad perspective,” recalls John Ross, a fellow agricultural journalism professor who wrote scripts for several of Albert’s films. “He made a lot of films on specific sectors of Wisconsin agriculture, but they were about more than just, say, how you cultivate the crop, as important as that part was. It was also about how that crop related to the climate and the people and the soils and the history of European settlers here and how they adapted. I think he was sensitive to that because he was an immigrant himself. He had a broad sense of the people and the culture.”
Albert also trained a generation of students in the crafts of filmmaking and photography. Many of his students learned how to make movies by serving on Albert’s film crews on locations across the state and far beyond. For many years he taught a course in non-theatrical films, in which he showed classical American documentary films from the 1930s, and taught about content and form a well as production principles.
In addition to his receiving recognition for his films, he was active in efforts to promote understanding between Germany and the United States. In 1984 those efforts earned him the Cross of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany. In the 1970s and 1980s Albert also served on the Governor's Task Force on Cable Communication and the Educational Communications Board.
A Memorial Service is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, at Oakwood Village Prairie Ridge East, 5565 Tancho Drive, Madison.