Social hotspot, hipster quarter, melting pot, old West Berlin – Wedding is a portrayal of the world, only in miniature. People from an array of social and cultural backgrounds coexist here. They all lend the district its unique character, making it a place of diversity and contrast, yet we still hear that Germany is only recently becoming a country in which people from different places, milieus and religions exist side-by-side. But this has long existed in Wedding, and Berlin’s north-west district exemplifies how these major social issues have come to be considered: Migration, integration, gentrification; or rather: competition for housing, demographic shifts and the growing disparity between rich and poor. It raises key questions regarding how we imagine ourselves to coexist in the future. We learn about these phenomena, people and spaces in the works from 16 photo series created over the past year in cooperation with journalist Julia Boek and art director Axel Völcker from Büro Redaktion & Gestaltung, the internationally renowned photography agency Ostkreuz, as well as other photographers.
In the past, Julia Boek and Axel Völcker successfully realized »Der Wedding«, the only Germany-wide magazine for everyday culture which presented stories and sensations of everyday city life. They now approach the district for the first time in a purely photographic narrative. Photographically and journalistically, they enter a tradition set by of one of the most significant post-war photographic artists, one in which Michael Schmidt photographed his now famous street views and portraits in Wedding on behalf of the district office of Wedding between 1976 and 1978. The current 200-page book »Berlin-Wedding – Das Fotobuch« will appear at the finissage of the exhibition.
Boek and Völcker have acquired 16 photographers, all of whom are closely related to the Ostkreuz Agency of Photographers, based in Berlin – Weissensee. Some are co-owners, while others are represented by the agency. Founded in 1990 by seven East Berliners, including Sibylle Bergemann, Ute and Werner Mahler and Harald Hauswald, Ostkreuz is the most successful photography agency in Germany to date. Its members see themselves as author photographers. Despite their varying working methods, one social responsibility unites them, one that places humankind and humanity at the center of their photography. Today, Ostkreuz Agency represents 22 photographers, the younger members are among those to have been educated at the Ostkreuzschule, founded in 2005.
The photographs featured in the exhibition are acutely observed, timeless and social-critical reportages, essays and portraits which deal with the various aspects of Wedding in a multi-perspectival manner. For example, the black and white-shot pub scenes in the series »Last Days of Disco«, for which Annette Hauschild visited proletarian living rooms of the legendary former working-class district. In the Café Morena and in the »Kugelblitz«, she acquainted herself with regulars who still bear the self-awareness of a past working culture and are also aware that their refuges are disappearing. Annette Hauschild’s works document this process of change in which artists, too, are considerably engaged.
That living costs are low compared to other parts of the city, such as Kreuzberg or Prenzlauer Berg, is something they too appreciate. Amazed at the high concentration of ateliers in Wedding, Thomas Meyer decided to portray some of them and their inhabitants: these include performance artist Johan Lorbeer, painter Tanja Rochelmeyer or wood sculptor Peter Rintsch. While it was particularly challenging for Meyer to engage with the different places, the artist’s characters and their art, while still maintaining his own visual vocabulary, his portraits strike an exciting balancing act between artist, space and photographer.
In search of a place where integration is not only discussed but also achieved, Dorothee Deiss enters a pediatrician’s surgery. In her series »Wedding’s Children«, she builds a small studio in a waiting room and photographs families and children from different origins and milieus. Living diversity that Espen Eichhöfer also had in mind in his series »Black Wedding«. With over 5,000 inhabitants, the African community of Wedding is the largest in Berlin, with most Africans living here originating from Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria. Eichhöfer accompanied these people to the Evangelical Free Church Congregation for Sunday Prayer, and to a backyard for car exports, where Cameroonian cars packed with stereo systems, refrigerators and building materials ship to Africa.
Andreas Muhs preserves a promise of good fortune of these days. He photographed gambling halls in Wedding, abundantly situated here at train stations, among grocery stores, phone stores and nail salons. His »Las Wedding« series, photographed in frontal and diffuse light, lines the windows of casino chains alongside small gambling halls with their individually laminated windows. In contrast to this, Heinrich Völkel seeks rare moments of silence for his photography. He shoots at night when people are scarce – and with no cars, trucks and busses in sight. With his long-exposures shot strictly in black and white, Völkel exposes that which represents the district’s structural reality: Architecture of the living and working, art nouveau juxtaposed with post-war modernism, ensemble alongside solitaire, a long history and a bit of the future. All in all, a colourful conglomeration of diverse lifestyles. As with the 16 photographic positions of the exhibition, each individual presents a surprising, yet everyday facet of Wedding which all together depicts an image of lived, social diversity.
With kind support of the Senate Administration for Culture and Europe, the Exhibition Fund and the Exhibition Remuneration for Municipal Galleries. For the friendly support of Citizen Art Days thanks to the Goethe Institute.