Images of changing Germany in Erich Salomon & Barbara Klemm: A Leap In Time
Work by renowned photojournalists working decades apart
Two German photographers who documented major events in their country’s history more than 50 years apart are subject of a new Stills exhibition. Erich Salomon’s images capture the key figures of the 1920s Weimar Republic, while Barbara Klemm’s evocative pictures take up the story from the 1960s student protests through to the Berlin Wall’s fall.
Ben Harman, formerly a curator at GoMA who became the director of Stills a year ago, says this show is part of a broadening focus for the gallery. ‘I’m keen to explore different types of photography and this exhibition shows how poignant and important documentary photography is. The images depict not only key moments in German history but some of the 20th century’s historic milestones. Both Salomon and Klemm regarded themselves as photo-journalists rather than artists, but now their work is shown in exhibitions. It’s interesting to ask if a photographic image does change from one to the other.’
Salomon used his high society background to mingle with the great and the good of Weimar Germany, sometimes photographing them in unguarded moments by using a camera hidden inside his hat. By photographing a brief golden age, he also captured a society on the brink of change.
‘In a way, he accidentally documented the rise of the Nazis, because he was friends with a lot of powerful figures,’ says Harman of Salomon, who died in Auschwitz alongside his wife and son. ‘What he ended up doing was documenting that era with his camera and then becoming a victim himself.’
Described as a German Jane Bown, Klemm’s lens captured post-war history unfolding. Working for many years at the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, she liked to focus on ordinary people, though she has also photographed the famous, from Joseph Beuys to Angela Merkel.
Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Sat 7 Feb--Sun 5 Apr.