Special Exhibitions Archive 2017



October 20, 2016 – January 8, 2017


works by Christoph Niemann, Steve Schaprio,

and CAMERA WORK Collection


The Kennedys ran the first modern presidential campaign in U.S. history. Never before was the media of greater importance, and never before was the image of a president more pertinent. The family thus set a precedent for all succeeding election campaigns in the history of the United States.

There is hardly any political office comparable to that of the American presidency. How many presidents have already written history and thereby embedded themselves into the national memory? Who are those individuals that endure the everlasting scrutiny of the media and carry the burden of campaigning and subsequent execution of the nation’s highest office? In short, what does it take to become U.S. president? The special exhibition »THE CAMPAIGN–Making of a President 1960 & 2016« seeks to answer these questions on the basis of six significant factors surrounding a presidential campaign.

Presidential candidates are representatives of their time. Political circumstances determine which presidents are elected and which solutions find support in the population. What, then, did John F. Kennedy represent in 1960, and what do Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump represent today?

Often times it is said that financial means are indispensable for U.S. elections. However, what role does money really play? Is it possible to »buy« an election? Is multi-billionaire Donald Trump therefore in the superior position? The influence of money in the 1960 presidential campaign as well as its role today is illustrated. 

Furthermore, presidential campaigns rely on volunteers to support the candidates. An effective campaign enables the mobilization of sizable crowds. Robert F. Kennedy–John’s younger brother–was a key figure in the 1960 campaign. Today, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rely on the support of their families. While it might have been sufficient to solely count on the family in 1960, in 2016 a much greater number of personnel is needed to reach the electorate.

In the United States, politics has always been embodied by the individual candidates. This makes the image of a candidate a decisive factor for success in the elections. Utilizing the media in order to perpetuate one’s image is therefore crucial. Ever since 1960, television has been a key instrument to publically portray presidential hopefuls, and today the internet has gained increased significance with regard to this issue.

Naturally, the evolution and development of media is a central component to American elections. In 1960, the first ever presidential debate was broadcasted on television. Its significance was enormous and ultimately swayed the election in Kennedy’s favor. Nowadays, social media is consistently gaining in relevance and contribute to the rapid spread of political messages.

The most decisive factor in the contest for the presidency is and remains, of course, the electorate. In 1960, Kennedy was performing a tightrope walk by attempting to win over the black community, while at the same time appeasing the traditionally conservative electorate in the South. Presently, Hillary Clinton is seen as the champion of female voters and Hispanics. Trump, on the other hand, claims to be the front-runner for conservative, middle-class Americans.

After the first presidential debate in 2016, FAZ (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) ran the headline  »TV debates: learning from Kennedy is learning to win.«

Steve Schapiro, courtesy CAMERA WORK
Steve Schapiro, courtesy CAMERA WORK
© Christoph Niemann
© Christoph Niemann
© Christoph Niemann
© Christoph Niemann