Sep 13, 2009

Martin-Gropius-Bau, Herlinde Koelbl. Photographs 1976–2009


Herlinde Koelbl. Photographs 1976–2009

17 July to 1 November 2009

Berliner Festspiele
Media partners rbb Inforadio, rbb Kulturradio, rbb Fernsehen

What motivates people
The photographs of Herlinde Koelbl, 1976–2009

Martin-Gropius-Bau, Niederkirchnerstr. 7, D-10963 Berlin

Special Opening Hours
until 30 September:
daily | 10–20 hrs
from 1 October:
Wednesday to Monday | 10–20 hrs
Tuesday closed

€ 8.00 | € 6.00 reduced
Groups (from 10 pers.) € 6.00 p.p.
Student Groups (from 5 pers.)
€ 3.00 p.p.
Free admission for visitors under 16 years.

Asked why she didn’t photograph mountains or landscapes, Herlinde Koelbl once replied: “People are unpredictable.” Perhaps this statement gives an indication of what makes the work of this great German art photographer so special. She wants to grasp people, understand them, find out something about how they live, what they choose to surround themselves with, how they would like to appear and what they really are, what elates them and what casts them down. Her images are intense experiences because they are the product of a genuine interest in and curiosity about her fellow human beings, and her respect for the lives of others is always in evidence. In her photographs no one is stripped naked, but they are subjected to searching questions. This applies just as much to Gerhard Schröder as to any married couple sitting in their living room.
For over thirty years now Herlinde Koelbl has been working on a sweeping novel of our times. As each successive chapter is added one has the impression that all her projects are links in a chain. Now, for the first time, an exhibition is to be seen in Berlin’s Martin-Gropius-Bau which shows the work of Herlinde Koelbl in all its variety. In the past our knowledge of her work was at best fragmentary. In addition to icons of portrait photography there will be plenty of surprises and experimental work.


It was sheer chance that made her take up photography. In 1976 a friend made her a gift of four films that she used to photograph her children playing. She was quick to realize that this was the medium for her. She wasted no time wondering about what models to follow. She did not want to be trapped in someone else’s style, but to develop one of her own as soon as possible. Gradually she acquired the necessary equipment, although she knew from the outset what her particular interests would be: patterns of living and behaviour. Soon afterwards her first colour feature (on Bavarian markets) appeared in Stern.

In 1980, almost with an ethnologist’s detachment, she took a good look at the German drawing room, “into which people invite others in order to show off what they have”.

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