Werkstatt für Photographie 1976–1986

Das rebellische Bild
Museum Folkwang, Essen
9.12.2016 – 19.2.2017

Berlin – Kreuzberg
C/O Berlin
10.12.2016 – 12.2.2017

Und plötzlich diese Weite
Sprengel Museum Hannover
11.12.2016 – 19.3.2017

On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the Werkstatt für Photographie, the Museum Folkwang, Essen, C/O Berlin, and the Sprengel Museum Hanover are presenting a cooperative exhibition project, which explores the Werkstatt as a concrete focal point of crystallization and can possibly be viewed as the metaphorical location for the emergence of photography starting in the mid-1970s. In the three-part exhibition project, the pretext and history, influences and effects of the Werkstatt founded in 1976 by Berlin-based photographer Michael Schmidt at the adult education center in Kreuzberg are being presented in an intercity cooperation. In the midst of the Cold War, the Werkstatt initiated an artistic “airlift” to the United States, a democratic field of experimentation beyond the realm of traditional education and political-institutional standards. Conducted on the basis of documentary conceptual principles, the dialog between recognized professional photographers and amateurs, between technical communication and substantive criticism, gave rise to a unique artistic perspective that would have a lasting impact on style by virtue of its specific approach to reality. Aided by intensive communication through exhibitions, workshops, and specialized courses, the Werkstatt für Photographie, that existed until 1986, achieved international recognition and initiated a transatlantic dialog within the context of photography in Europe. Those same years witnessed the establishment of infrastructures in West Germany that paved the way for the emancipation of photography as an art form. Among them was the founding of the first photo galleries at the beginning of the 1970s, the documenta 6 in 1977 and the establishment of magazines. Following the death of Otto Steinert, who had been highly influential as a teacher, Michael Schmidt worked in 1979/80 as an adjunct instructor at the Universität-Gesamthochschule Essen. There, young photographers explored new forms of documentary and addressed questions about the nature of contemporary images and attitudes. They gave voice to a probing, subjective point of view and discovered color as a component of artistic expression. It was the beginning of another bridge-building effort, this time within Germany, from Berlin to Essen and back. This exhibition project presents a multi-perspective story of German photography in the 1970s and 1980s. It describes its international ties, its protagonists, and its networks from a variety of perspectives, thereby adding yet another, previously largely neglected chapter to the written history.

Michael Schmidt is represented in this three-part exhibition with a selection of photographs from his works “Berlin-Wedding”, “Berlin-Kreuzberg. Stadtbilder” and “Waffenruhe”.