Opening of the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, December 22, 1989
The Brandenburg Gate was the most vivid symbol of the border between the states of the Warsaw Treaty and NATO, and thus of the Cold War. On 21 December East German workers began to pull down the Wall, and on the following day the Brandenburg Gate was officially opened in the presence of West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and East German Minister President Hans Modrow. 300,000 people came to watch.
This solo exhibition presents photographs by one of Germany's most distinguished woman photographers. Spanning forty years, Barbara Klemm's works bear witness to Germany's recent history, in a country that was divided for decades. Many of her pictures have become 'icons of contemporary history', shaping the cultural memory of several generations. She has created a body of photographs which combine the documentary and the artistic in a manner seldom encountered in German press photography. She adds her own perspective to the documentary genre, following artistic principles of composition.
Although the majority of these photos were commissioned for the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung they represent far more than coverage of the day's events. Barbara Klemm first joined the newspaper in 1959, working in the photo lab and producing photographic plates, before becoming a photographer on the editorial board for art, culture and politics in 1970. Her commissioned work for the newspaper took her to many of the most important events and places in the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic and in numerous other countries. Photos of East and West Germany before and after unification are clearly the focus of this exhibition. It includes pictures from every sphere of society: from politics, culture and the economy, photos that capture unique and often tense moments as well as plain everyday life, photos of demonstrations, protests, and of immigrants, of cultural events, mass gatherings, and urban spaces. And again and again, Barbara Klemm portrays people in those rare moments of being that make life so special.
Barbara Klemm's photographs stand for concrete social reality. Her sure sense of the true essence of an event allows her to capture moments that tell stories far beyond what the pictures seem to show at first glance. These photos are 'action in condensed form', as Klemm puts it, and thus also a condensed image of history. Her photos of the fall of the Berlin Wall are a dramatic climax to her own narrative of history, and in retrospect, her earlier photos from both sides of the Wall seem to be tracing the two Germanies on their path towards reunification, while her later photos closely observe the consequences of the new order.