At the beginning of 1990, the Istanbul photographer Ergun Çağatay (1937-2018) visited several German cities. This resulted in the most comprehensive photo reportage on Turkish immigration and the presence of people of Turkish origin in Germany. The Museum of European Cultures (MEK) is showing around 110 of the nearly 3,500 photographs, which take us right into the lives of the first and second generation of Turkish labour migrants and paint a diverse picture of their realities in the year 1990, the year of the fall of communism.
Image above: Historic tram of type 3344 in shuttle service in front of the Turkish Bazaar, platform hall of the disused Art Nouveau elevated railway station Bülowstraße, Berlin-Schöneberg © Ergun Çağatay / Fotoarchiv Ruhr Museum / Stadtmuseum Berlin / Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg
After stops in Essen, Istanbul and Hamburg, among other places, the exhibition takes visitors on Çağatay’s journey from Hamburg via Cologne and Werl to Berlin and back west to Duisburg. In addition to the site-specific working and living conditions of German-Turkish communities in these cities, political themes also found their way into Çağatay’s choice of motifs. For example, he documented the migrant initiatives for social participation of the time. In various photographs, he also hinted at the social shift to the right.
Taken around 30 years after the recruitment agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Turkey, Ergun Çağatay’s photos are now important contemporary historical documents of the Wende years. Even today, the stories of migrants play a role far too rarely. In the programme accompanying the exhibition, the MEK would therefore like to open up the space for these perspectives: Exhibition talks with the people portrayed and storytelling cafés will offer personal insights and opportunities for dialogue. The culture day “Haymat Almanya” on October the 3rd not only celebrates the German-Turkish lifeworlds that have grown over more than 60 years. “Haymat Almanya” also opens up German-Turkish perspectives on the fall of the Wall and thus offers a supplement to the prevailing narrative of the political and social upheavals of the Wende years.
The exhibition presents around 107 of Çağatay’s most impressive paintings. Of these, 28 pictures are shown in large format 100 x 150 cm and 79 in format 54 x 80 cm. The media installation “Annäherungen” (Approaches) presents central themes from the almost 3,500 photographs in a stream of images. Almost 400 sequences document Ergun Çağatay’s forays through Germany and thus provide an insight into his search for motifs. They illustrate his working method and the different perspectives from which he approached his pictorial themes. The installation is accompanied by eight video interviews produced especially for the exhibition with contemporary witnesses of different generations from the fields of art, music, science, sport, journalism, politics and gastronomy, which build a bridge to the present.
Ergun Çağatay is one of the most renowned Turkish photographers and photojournalists. He became internationally known through his photo reportages, exhibition projects and book publications. Çağatay began his professional career as a copywriter in an advertising agency. From 1968, he worked as a photojournalist for the Associated Press agency and subsequently worked for various agencies and companies, including Gamma in Paris and Time Life in New York. Seriously injured in a bomb attack at Paris Orly Airport in 1983, Çağatay was the first to produce a photo series of illustrated manuscripts from the Topkapı Museum in Istanbul after his recovery. In the years that followed, he travelled Europe and Central Asia with his camera. Finally, in 1990, he took nearly 3,500 photographs as part of his reportage “Turks in Germany 1990 – The Second Generation”. His photographs appeared in many international magazines and books. With the founding of the agency Tetragon, Çağatay increasingly devoted himself to his own productions.
The exhibition catalogue
The exhibition catalogue, edited by Peter Stepan, presents nearly 190 of Ergun Çağatay’s most impressive images. An introductory essay traces the photographer’s journey at the time in detail. In various thematic contributions, especially authors of Turkish origin from the younger and older generations have their say, sharing their personal experiences, memories and family stories with the readers. A comprehensive chronology recalls key political, social and cultural data on immigration from Turkey and the presence of people of Turkish origin. The catalogue is published bilingually in German and Turkish (Edition Braus Verlag).
The magazine accompanying the exhibition
The magazine “Wir sind hier.” was published on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the German-Turkish recruitment agreement under the patronage of Michelle Müntefering, former Minister of State for International Cultural Policy at the Federal Foreign Office. Alexandra Nocke gives the third and fourth generation of people of Turkish origin their say in 72 pages of essays, including the journalist Ferda Ataman, the social activist Ali Can, the CORRECTIV journalist Hüdaverdi Güngör, the slam poet Aylin Celik and the writer Dilek Güngör. Their essays are flanked by pictures by various photographers, including Brigitte Kraemer, Aslı Özdemir, Aslı Özçelik Henning Christoph, Candida Höfer and Metin Yılmaz.
An exhibition project of the Ruhr Museum, Essen in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, Istanbul, the Museum of Hamburg History and the Museum of European Cultures – National Museums in Berlin.
The exhibition project “We are from here. Turkish-German Life 1990. Photographs by Ergun Çağatay” is funded by the Federal Foreign Office, the RAG Foundation and the Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach Foundation.
Exhibition dates: Friday, 8 July 2022 – Tuesday, 7 February 2023
Opening hours: Tue – Fri 10 am – 5 pm, Sat + Sun 11 am – 6 pm
Museum Europäischer Kulturen