In the special exhibition “Der Fotograf. Ein Blickwechsel” (> The photographer. A change of view) at the Museum für Fotografie, current artistic positions by students of the Lette Verein enter into an open dialogue with the estate of a Berlin amateur photographer – Kurt Rohde (1920-1996) – and thus into an aesthetic and critical examination of photographic practices in the face of digital transformation and the handling of archives.
Fig. above: Sara-Lena Maierhofer, The Photographer, 2023, scannogram, © Sara-Lena Maierhofer
Photographs usually appear static. However, embedded in circulation processes, their pictorial statements can change. Even in archives, they are rarely linked to a single narrative. This becomes particularly clear in artistic interventions in archived collections, which can bring out what was previously little visible and create new access points. One such intervention is the exhibition project “The Photographer. A Change of View”.
It all started with the encounter of photography students of the Berlin Lette Verein with a collection that had long been lying quietly in the depot of the photography collection of the Art Library: the estate of the amateur photographer Kurt Rohde. Born in Berlin in 1920, Rohde photographed intensively with various cameras, especially after the Second World War, until his death in 1996, and enlarged his pictures himself in the darkroom. “Even today I stand in my darkroom almost every day – – and yet I never finish,” he wrote to an acquaintance in 1996. A trained chemist, Rohde was first an operating engineer at Osram and later a professor at the Institute for Technology and Planning Printing at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin.
Kurt Rohde mainly photographed portraits, landscapes and festivals, whereby his photographs often move at the interface of public and private photography. But city views of Berlin and Paris as well as nudes are also among the motifs. He initially photographed in black and white, but then began to use colour photography as the technology advanced. Polaroids were added later. In the laboratory, he experimented with panorama slides, double exposures, solarisation, film errors and more. Thus, his estate not only represents the work of a passionate photographer, but also provides insights into photographic practices before the digital transformation.
Now the photographer’s diverse photographs have become the starting point for an artistic intervention by photography students of the Berlin Lette Verein. In their works, they set the images and their ordering principles in motion again, take their narratives to the limits and reveal their fragility: What do we see in these photographs without knowing certain contexts and backgrounds? Do we look at the subjects differently today? How does the historical present become visible in Rohde’s pictures? And how does a machine read the photographs? What pictorial information is considered important in the process?
The nine artists have chosen very different approaches for their artistic exploration of such questions. Among other things, they deal with ideas of the body and their forms of presentation, ask about the narratives of images and their voids, and test machine modes of translation. Archiving itself and concepts of preservation are also made the subject. Collage and montage meet animation and machine learning, moving images meet the fixed moment. Analogue meets digital and space meets surface.
In addition to the newly created works, the exhibition also provides insights into the source material. It invites us to discover new and past ways of seeing and using photography and shows that the artistic interventions are not the end, but part of a process in dealing with archives. In the course of the exhibition, an accompanying publication is being produced in the printing process of risography, which brings together the threads of the estate, the new artistic works and the exhibition itself.
“Der Fotograf. Ein Blickwechsel” is a project by and with Anton Alexej Andrén, Lula Bornhak, Felicia Feith, Lisa Koch, NiKA, Vanessa Alica Kunert, Luis Jonas May, Veronika Rehm and Robin C. Wolf. The exhibition is curated by Sara-Lena Maierhofer, Katja Böhlau, Patrick Knuchel and Benjamin Kummer.
Museum für Fotografie
Friday, 30. June – Sunday, 17. September 2023
Opening hours: Tue + Wed 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Thu 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Fri – Sun 11 a.m. – 7 p.m
regulare ticket 10 Euro, reduced ticket 5 Euro