He studied medicine at various universities (1934-39), taking his final examinations and degree in Berlin, 1939, at the surgical clinic of Charité.
Steinert was a medical officer during the war, then practiced privately until 1948. During his studies and early career he pursued an interest in modern art and photography, initially making photographs to support his medical career. Eventually he was engaged as a photography teacher at the Staatlichen Schule für Kunst und Handwerk in Saarbrücken. In 1952 he became headmaster of the school, and in 1954 he was made a full professor. In 1959 Steinert accepted a professorship at the Folkwangschule für Gestaltung in Essen-Werden, where he remained until his death. He taught classes at the University of Essen's Gesamtechschule.
Internationally exhibited since 1951, in that year Steinert mounted his innovative exhibit "Subjektive Fotografie," which launched his career and established him as a pacemaker in the field of art photography. Since that time and until his death he won numerous awards.
Steinert's work is known for its formalistic severity in a decided, overmtensified scale of black- and-white tones. A master of photographic technique in all its variations.
A member of Société Française since 1949 and of DGPh since 1951, he also served on the board of directors of DGPh from 1954 till his death. A member also of GDL from 1957 on, he served as its chairman in 1963-74 and as a jury chairman in 1958-65. He was organizer of the well known group "fotoform" (1949) and its leader till 1955.
Quotes from others about the person
He used the heritage of Renger-Patzsch and Moholy-Nagy to create a new style "emancipated from formalism and without any false attitude; in this way he emphasized the subjective pretension of the photograph," wrote Paul Vogt in Otto Steinert.