Alfried Krupp von Bohlen and the Halbach Fund grant programme was launched in 1982, when photography, in contrast to fine arts, enjoyed little attention and it was nearly impossible to receive any support. If we look at creative photography of the early 1980s, we will see that it was heavily influenced by the idea of photography as a documentary recording. With the emergence of auteur photography, its subject became personal living space and immediate environment..
For the first four years, the grants were offered together with subjects related to the reality of the Federal Republic, thus trying to unite thematically works that were formally very diverse. The direction towards documentary photography became manifest in Hermann Stamm‘s work Family – Establishment of Location (Die Familie – eine Standortbestimmung) or Wolfgang Voss‘s work on the second generation of Turkish immigrants. Subjective series of photographs by Gosbert Adlers opposed this point of view. From a contemporary perspective it is remarkable that the interest in ‘straight’ photography, obvious during the first years of the grant programme, could be recognised as the constant and most important principle of support (Michael Schmidt, Joachim Brohm, Volker Heinze, Axel Grünewald).
The 1980s were marked by photography that involved the new presentational space – the museum and exhibition hall. This is relevant to photographic and slide installations (Matthias Wähner, Rudolf Herz, Mischa Kuball) or monumental wall-size single photographs (Astrid Klein, Rudolf Bonvie, Andreas Gursky). At the beginning of the 1990s the influence of the Becher school made possible the return of photography as image. This ‘documentary’ photography was appropriated as a certain ‘style’ that treated reality in a new way. Representation of reality was no more related to the authentic character of the recorded image, but attempts were made to thematise reality, its representation and its creation.
Some artists choose space as their subject. For instance, Thomas Demand, Christine Erhard and Ricardos Roggan work with constructed spatial models. Demand‘s photographs of spatial card-board models point towards the created reality of the model and not towards ‘reality’ as one could think at the first glance. Marc Räders in his photographs also plays with the misleading perception of reality – holidaymakers‘ houses in Mallorca make an impression of a town-model. Alex Grünewald looks for prototypes of assemblage-buildings, where he photographs interiors (Immobil series).
The project Island in Progress by Marc Räders and Jürgen Schwämmles reveals a sociological aspect that is also characteristic both to Grünewald and Joachim Brohm‘s work Territory (Areal). For ten years Brohm has observed and documented a faceless industrial territory which is changing and turning into a settlement.
Portraits make a separate group among the selected works, which has acquired new meaning together with the return of photographic realism. The photographer Zoltan Jókay is capable to start a dialogue with whoever is in front of the camera. His special focus is on children‘s gestures and manners. With his photographs the author provokes imaginary moments of intimacy and authenticity.
In his project Women (Frauen) Michael Schmidt photographs posing models. He focuses on the bearing and staging of both clothed and naked bodies. The viewer‘s attention is directed towards the structure of both the fabrics of clothes and surface of the body or the bearing of young women. To these, he opposes portraits without fragmenting them and tries to represent the person in front of the camera as an individual.
Another group of photographs is thematically related by the subject of autobiography. The motive could be the author‘s body as in Pidder Aubergers‘s staged photographs, or one‘s own child as in Days from Family Life (Familientage) by André Gelpke. The memory of her mother is the subject of Christa Mayer‘s video. The fact that autobiography is unavoidably related to memory and reminiscence, is obvious from those images as well as from National Public Army (Nationale Voksarmee) by Frank Müller. In this photographs the author tries to preserve the traces of the forgotten society – the former GDR.
Of course, many and various images have been created beyond these genres and themes. Many artists take up the film or projection format. For instance, Matthias Wähner and Rudolf Herz investigate, what functions have the public and political images that are around us daily. In the Internet, Matthias Wähner has collected images representing the war in Afghanistan. Among them – many ironic and sarcastic collages of photography and film, animation, games and music that present the war as a happy animation movie. Rudolf Herz is interested in the language of political propaganda and images in public memory that played the representational role in politics and history.
Esther Ruelfs