Special Exhibitions Archive 2017

Mark Shaw, courtesy CAMERA WORK
Mark Shaw, courtesy CAMERA WORK

Ellen von Unwerth, courtesy CAMERA WORK
Ellen von Unwerth, courtesy CAMERA WORK

Ellen von Unwerth, courtesy CAMERA WORK
Ellen von Unwerth, courtesy CAMERA WORK

inquiring camera girl

Female Virtuoso of Photography

January 12 – March 12, 2017


with works by e.g. Diane Arbus, Margaret Bourke-White,

Nan Goldin, Dorothea Lange, Lee Miller, and Ellen von Unwerth


A selection of over 60 works from the prestigious photo collection of CAMERA WORK AG gives an insight into more than a hundred years of the history of photography. It also comments on the lives and careers of 30 female virtuosos of photography.


Visual art writes visual history. This is reflected in visit to a museum: artworks give an insight into the past and let the beholder conclude on it. It catches one’s eye that mainly a »male perspective« on the centuries has been documented. Works of female artists are represented secondarily in most museum collections. Therefor, explanations are manifold.


Compared to painting the relatively young medium of photography has brought about some change: while men were able to attend photography schools from the 1850s on, at first there were no institutes open to women. However, this changed already at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, Lette-Verein opened Berlin’s first photography school for women and thereby became Germany’s first school where women could take professional photography classes. A second aspect contributing to that change was the rapid technological development of photography itself. For that reason, photography and camera operation became a mass phenomenon.

American photographer Gertrude Käsebier opened her own photo studio in New York in 1897. Two years later, her print of »The Manger« sold for $ 100–the most ever paid for a photograph at that time. Käsebier is one of the most influential exponents of pictorialism, a style of photography based on naturalism, impressionism, and symbolism which was popular from the end of the 19th century until World War I.


After World War I, pictorialism steadily lost ground to experimental photography which dealt with the mutually technical possibilities of photography. Female photographers like Berenice Abbott or Diane Arbus became accessible to different genres and had a great impact on forming a new way of seeing.


As a result of World War II, modern experimental photography came to a downfall, especially in Germany. »Some female photographers took refuge in apparently unpolitical regional-themed landscape photography,« elaborated Evelyn Schielke in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, September 23, 2001. By war’s end, artists began to focus on reality again. It were mainly female photographers who documented life among expanses of ruins. Dorothea Lange and Margaret Bourke-White became famous for their war and documentary photography of the late 1040s and 1950s. Lee Miller’s shots of the liberation of the concentration camps in Buchenwald and Dachau are among the most important photographs of the 20th century.


Female photographers also established themselves aside from war photography. They documented current affairs and also found their way into various work areas like fashion and theatre photography, photo journalism as well as advertising and industrial photography.


Already in the 1920s, becoming a photographer had turned into a promising career option for daughters of upper class families, such as Jacqueline Lee Bouvier. From 1951 on, the daughter of a wealthy family wrote a column for Washington Times-Herald. Its name: »Inquiring Camera Girl.« Therefor, the young college graduate took pictures of residents of Washington, D.C. and interviewed them questions on current political issues. This experience and an assisting position at Vogue sensitized her eye for the power of images. Later on, her insight became extremely valuable for her future husband’s political career.


In the post war years, fashion photography experienced a renaissance and was further developed. Female photographers like Lillian Bassman and Louise Dahl-Wolfe contributed immensely to a new interpretation of fashion. Dahl-Wolfe’s style influenced the work of famous fashion photographers like Irving Penn and Richard Avedon significantly.


Photography has consistently allowed autodidacts to build up a career. German model Ellen von Unwerth, for example, found her passion for photography while being on a photo shoot in Kenya. She was soon able to publish her work in magazines like Elle, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. French photographer Bettina Rheims, too, first worked as a model before she began to work as an artist on such as topics of transsexualism and transgender.

A tour through the special exhibition »INQUIRING CAMERA GIRL–FEMALE VIRTUOSOS OF PHOTOGRAPHY« offers not only an insight into events and developments of this and the preceding century, it also illustrates the life and work of outstanding artists whose pictures shaped our view of the past and present.



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