At the Museum der bildenden Kunste Leipzig
Something’s pretty fantastic about accidentally ending up in a photographic exhibition in Leipzig when your husband discovers half-way through that his mother had viewed some of these very same shots at The Family of Man exhibition, hosted at the MoMA in New York, sixty-one years earlier. She apparently relished the show, and it’s easy to see why just from the photos we had to hand. The people captured are real; the composition of the shots detailed without being exhausting; and in terms of getting an appreciation of the lives of others – educational.
This is a representative selection of the considerable works of three talented photographers, dating I think back to the 1940s through approximately 60 years of their work. So not only do you get a real taste of history, both political and social, but also the advantage of seeing where the photographers were similar and then differed in their styles. You also get the opportunity to gauge the differences in terms of their subjects.
These photographs at the time didn’t just toe the party line or a socialist agenda, on the contrary, they welcomed the viewer (and still do), to think about what’s going on in the photograph, ask questions about the environment in which people lived, and provide almost a stepping stone for you to consider what’s happening in these people’s lives, not just when the picture is taken, but before and after. It’s as if the subject is providing the platform to share, and us the viewer, to learn and experience and be informed.
A few things that struck me, the people in 1950s East Germany didn’t look that different to the British, dress was similar, statue and street scene are almost too familiar and it is only when examining the 1980s photographs, you get the sense that there was definitely a divide. Yes, you guessed it, it’s the dress and the hair, it’s also the ‘place‘. Everything looks a little out-of-date and crying out for a make-over.
Having said that however, (sadly I can’t recollect which of the three photographers were responsible for some New York photos in the early 80s), what was interesting, is that NYC‘s represented in such a rundown state, almost a no go zone, one you definitely wouldn’t be hankering to fly off immediately to and visit…so those beliefs that things were always so much better in the West, for me now just don’t ring true.
On a personal level I did a lot of re-evaluating my idea of what life was like behind the Iron Curtain. Crazy as it sounds, I had this ridiculous notion that human existence wasn’t that normal, so seeing it through the lens of these talented three I at least now have a more educated grasp. Life was normal. People lived and loved and got on with things.
It’s on until 3 October 2016