The exhibition draws exclusively on historical press photographs from the 1950s to the present day. It was possible to use the comprehensive ullstein bild photo archive. All the photos presented were taken in connection with specific events or occasions and appeared in BILD-Hamburg. Hamburg is portrayed visually and in its social geography through events that have played a significant role there – such as the flood disaster, the Hafenstraße protests, of the successes and failures of the local football club HSV – and of everyday shots of city life.
It is the everyday perspective the pictures reveal that makes them so striking. The focus is on people; even though absent in some pictures, the traces of their existence are in evidence. We see happy, mourning, rebellious, hopeful, working people; people full of curiosity or in private, almost intimate situations. They are report pictures, seemingly taken from the viewpoint of a passer-by. The photographers with their cameras do not seek the limelight. Their photos are marked by sympathy towards fellow humans, contradicting the notion of the aggressiveness of the photographing act and the voyeurism of the photographer. The pictures are the testimony of people involved. This is their artistic strength. They have emerged from the current situation; they are not posed or prepared in advance. They irritate, bewilder; they are witty or appalling. They unfold complex destinies and life worlds.
The underlying exhibition architecture is the Hamburger underground and urban rail map, transferred to the rooms of the Kunstverein. This produces not only an historical but also a cartographic image of the city on the basis of collective memories. The public takes an imaginative city tour through the exhibition, connecting present-day places with historical pictures.
This presentation allows viewers to localize events while constituting a breach with conventional and accustomed ways of seeing and interpreting. The original newspaper text that the photograph illustrated is not included in the presentation. What remains is the isolated picture – without commentary, without pointers. The picture is seen as a snapshot of a certain time. Without the classificatory information that lends the picture its daily news value, only its aesthetic nature comes to bear. The contents are interchangeable but the pictures remain powerful and impressive. Whereas the textual information often prescribes what is to be seen, the pictures speak a complex language.
In the exhibition space on the ground floor of the Kunstverein, selected photographs by “1414”-BILD Reader-Reporters are shown alongside the historical pictures of Hamburg. They have been chosen on aesthetic grounds and convey an impression of everyday visual worlds and seemingly incidental events. The wide dissemination of technical aids has radically changed the “image of photography.” Encouraged by Internet portals like Youtube or MySpace, young people, in particular, have become documentary photographers of everyday life and unusual events. The presentation of “1414 photos” also shows what artistic value these shots can have.
Media partner of the exhibition: BILD-Hamburg. Supported by ullstein bild