EXHIBITION German Photography from the 19th Century to Today


Shanghai Center of Photography (SCôP) launches the new year with a not-to-be-missed survey of German Photography.

© Sander, MADE IN GERMANY, Shanghai Center of Photography

An historic overview of German photography from 1850 to the present, MADE IN GERMANY comprises a rich selection of iconic masterpieces from some of the world’s most innovative and recognized photographers. The selection of more than one hundred exemplary works covers the later 19th century, the 1920s-30s and the postwar avant-garde, documentary works from the 1970s and 1980s in West and East Germany, and a range of contemporary examples. Early photographers Leopold Ahrendts (1825-70) and Heinrich Kühn (1866-1944) were pioneers in the field of landscape and architecture. Ahrendts captured urban views of monumental buildings in Berlin, whilst Kühn, artist, theorist, and inventor of techniques and tools, championed art photography, producing fine examples of the artistic genre of Pictorialism.

In the first decade of the 20th century, a new generation of avant-garde masters emerged. The interwar period in the 1920s and 1930s produced prolific documentary and experimental movements known today as New Objectivity and New Vision. This was the moment in which August Sander (1876-1964) embarked upon his monumental sociological portrait of people of the 20th century. New Vision was characterized by the groundbreaking reportage of Umbo (Otto Umbehr, 1902-80) and by portraits and figure studies of Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969). Photography also played an essential role in the Bauhaus, founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius, where it was used to document architecture, products, workshop activities, and record everyday life and work. Post-World War II, photographers sought to create new visual languages rooted in experimentation, but also conceptual and documentary perspectives. In both East and West Germany, photography bore testimony to an era that was shifting both economically and politically. In West Germany, conceptual photographers Wilhelm Schürmann (*1946) and Heinrich Riebesehl (1938-2010) explored urban streets and agricultural landscapes. Meanwhile, in the German Democratic Republic (1949-1989) photography was primarily a utilitarian tool, but a number of artistic perspectives evolved, including portrayals of the human figure by Ute Mahler (*1949), Ursula Arnold (1929-2012) and Helga Paris (*1938).

Contemporary typology is represented by the industrial photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; 1934-2015). The Bechers established a conceptual approach to photography exploring industrial forms, which they passed to their students at Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts, such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth and Candida Höfer. Candida Höfer (*1946) shares with them a precision in the framing of scenes, objects and of spaces; vast spaces that are invariably empty of human activity. A contrast here is with the absolute focus on people produced by Helmut Newton (1920-2004). Making an international name for himself, this key fashion photographer revolutionized the genre with a new type of image of women, all of them stunning.

In recent decades, contemporary photographers have combined elements of many of the traditions outlined above, and developed styles in colour photography too. Joachim Brohm (*1955), Götz Diergarten (*1972), Claus Goedicke (*1966) or Hans-Christian Schink (*1961) variously produce pared-down views of architecture and objects, land- and cityscapes.

MADE IN GERMANY: German Photography from the 19th Century to Today
presented by Bottega Veneta
January 11th to April 2nd 2017
Shanghai Center of Photography (SCôP)
2555-1 Longteng Avenue, Shanghai, China