Also, for everything that might be less or not familiar for non-German readers there are brief explanations, again in parentheses.Jörg Colberg: If you were to believe what is being reported a lot, German photography can be equated with the “deadpan” style.To borrow Mark Curran’s words: “I can’t tell you the truth - only what I know.” Somehow, strangely, we still imply subconsciously - willingly or not - that photographs tell us just that: a truth, or even worse: the truth.
I’m very happy he agreed to it, and I am very grateful for all the work he put into it. A brief editorial note: I decided to keep some of the German terms in the piece, providing English translations in parentheses.They were the only Germans in the show, maybe due to good relations between the US-American and West German art worlds.If you looked at the German scene at that time, photography had almost no role in the art world.As I recently indicated, discussions about German photography are usually very narrowly focused on a single aesthetic (“deadpan”) and on a small group of photographers.In order to change this a little bit, I decided to approach German photographers to talk to them about photography.
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In effect, taking these two facts together amounted to a Ritterschlag [knighting].Even back in 1989, when I started studying photography at Essen’s former Folkwang school, most schools were only teaching communications design, visual communication, or at best photo journalism.In contrast, a supposedly “deadpan” image, by, say, Rineke Dijkstra (who is actually not German) or by Andreas Mader, which I believe is the exact opposite of [devoid of expression], merely gives the viewer a handful of symbols, metaphors, or representations of the world to look at and to think about. It demands that we bring our own thoughts, feelings, and knowledge into the process of “looking at the photograph”.Of course, that is a more unstable ground, but it has nothing to do with being cool or rigid or typifying (to understand typifying look at Karl Blossfeld’s images of plants, or August Sander’s photographs of people - but then again: “it’s the context, stupid!
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”, which transfers mere photographs into being a tool of characterizing or typifying) or necessarily documentary for that matter, even if it looks like it.There are far too many photographers, too many “styles”, “movements”, “fashions”, individual positions, and “schools” in Germany to talk of a German Photography.So, we end up having to talk about photography made by Germans maybe, or made by people being raised, educated and/or living in Germany.In an article about a show in Boston, the Boston Globe writes “Deadpan photography often feels as if it’s presenting evidence or specimens, rigorously and dispassionately recorded, to study types, structures, forms.The inspiration for this can be seen in ‘Contemporary Outlook: German Photography’”. Is German photography Sander plus the Bechers and their students?