Witnesses of Their Time
Selection from the Ernst Scheidegger Collection and the Cairo. Open City project.
In the face of the omnipresent digital image in the modern age, the photographic representation of events seems today to be undergoing a profound metamorphosis. To better understand this transformation, the Museum Folkwang through the presentation of its recent acqusitions reveals the meeting of two very different cultures within the field of photojounalism.
The first portion of this selection comes from the glory days of reporting. 86 shots that Swiss photographer Ernst Scheidegger exchanged with his friends, photographers Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Chim Seymour, Werner Bischof, Ernst Haas and others, when he was a member of the Magnum Agency in the early 1950s. A large number of these photos are from news stories from the different wars in the first half of the 20th century. The second portion of the exhibition is made up of images from a single current conflict, the Egyptian revolution, shown from thousands of different perspectives – from young Egyptian photojournalists, the cameras of activists, mobile phone images from "citizen journalists" and documents put together by artists.
More than a simple reflection on a changing photography genre or a differing notion of the artist, this comparision highlights the ongoing conflicts that arise from the violent process of decolonization. However, even if the context of the production and spread of images has changed, and even if the differences remain numerous, these two different cultures of phtography seem tied by the perspective of the photographers and the improtance of bearing witness.
The Museum Folkwang this year acquired Ernst Scheidegger's collection as well as a number of his shots from photojournalism reports. The new images of Cairo come from a project in Essen and Hamburg entitled Cairo. Open City. Testimonies from an Ongoing Revolution.
In 1979, the curator Ute Eskildsen began constituting the Folkwang's photography collection based on the preceding Otto Steinert-collection. She has developed the collection around several themes: photography of the avant-garde and the inter-war period; the subjektive fotogafie of the 1950s and contemporary photography since 1980; experimental and journalistic photography; the representation of architecture and human beings.