Photography Collection

Since June 2004, the Kunstbibliothek’s Collection of Photography has presented regular exhibitions of its works at the Museum für Fotografie opposite Zoologischer Garten station. The collection shares the venue with the Helmut Newton Foundation, which has also taken up permanent residency in the building. In the newly restored Kaisersaal, the Collection of Photography displays examples of all forms of photography from the 19th, 20th, and 21st century, from the dawn of the photographic medium to artistic works by contemporary photographers. The photographs are stored in the Museum für Fotografie and are accessible by appointment.

As early as 1868, photographs were acquired for the Kunstgewerbemuseum’s library (the precursor of today’s Kunstbibliothek), intended as 'didactic models of architecture and craftsmanship.' Today the Collection holds approximately 160,000 photographs and is divided into two main areas: the photographic archive and the collection of artistic photographs. In addition to this comes a rich collection of historical postcards, photogrammetric photographs, and the bequeathed estates of photographic material.

With approximately 50,000 pictures, the photographic archive forms the oldest part of the collection and was originally intended as visual aids for use in the teaching facilities at the Kunstgewerbemuseum (Museum of Decorative Arts) in the 19th century. The range of subjects and motifs featured stretches from architectural and topographical views, documentary and commercial photography to travel images from Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and the Middle and Far East. The original owners of such pictures were generally commercial studios and photographers such as Edouard Baldus, Domenico Bresolin, Robert MacPherson, Samuel Bourne, Eugène Atget, F. Albert Schwartz, Werner Mantz and Arthur Köster. The artist’s studies depict landscapes, plant and animal portraits, nudes and portraits of people.

The collection of artistic photographs was also originally intended for documentary use, with many of the photographs gathered to illustrate, for instance, the 'process of the printed image.' The first private photographic collections that subsequently made their way into our collection originally came from Ernst Juhl and Fritz Matthies-Masurian (in 1914 and 1916 respectively), two men who made Pictorialism a recognized art form in Germany. The approximately 300 photographs date from between 1880 and 1915 and were taken by photographers such as Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Heinrich Kühn, and Hugo Henneberg. For photography to attain recognition as an art form, these photographers experimented with elaborate printing techniques with an eye to imitating differences in texture akin to those in painting and drawing. Their choice of subject (landscape, portrait, and genre scene), belies the influence of Impressionism, Jugendstil, and Symbolist art.

In the 1920s a new movement left its mark on photography as a new visual consciousness arose under the banner of 'Neues Sehen' (or 'New Vision') and 'New Objectivity'. Between 1929 and 1932 around a hundred incunabula of 'New Vision' were acquired for the collection of artistic photography, and most of these works originated from the legendary 'Film und Foto' group show that first opened in Stuttgart in 1929, organised by the Deutscher Werkbund (an association of professional German artists and designers). Among its most important proponents were Max Burchartz, Hans Finsler, Florence Henri, Helmar Lerski, László Moholy-Nagy, Oskar Nerlinger, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and Sasha Stone.

After that, it was not until the 1990s that the collection began to grow steadily again. Over the last two decades several bequests and major donations have made their way into the collection, including those from art photographer Otto Ehrhardt, from Martin Badekow (who ran one of the most famous portrait studios in Berlin in the 1920s), from Willy Römer’s photographic press archive, as well as photographs by Bernhard Larsson (who worked as a reporter in East and West Berlin in the 1960s), and Ludwig Windstosser, the leading industrial photographer of the postwar period.

Some 300 photogrammetric albums contain approximately 28,000 photographs of buildings and city views of architectural importance. Originally from the Staatliche Bildstelle Berlin, the albums were incorporated into the collection after the Second World War. The approximately 42,000 postcards of landscape photography, travel pictures, and urban topographical views range in date from the late 19th century to the late 20th century.

Held with generous support from the Verein der Freunde des Museums für Fotografie

In May 2010 the Kaisersaal on the second floor of the Museum für Fotografie was able to be reopened after extensive renovation work and redesign. A spacious exhibition room, designed by Kahlfeldt Architekten, was created that now meets all the modern demands for the display of historical photographic works. Since its opening in 2004, the Museum of Photography has established itself as the central, integrative meeting point for the medium of photography at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. With its series of exhibitions, ranging from 19th century travel photography to contemporary photo installations, the museum has not just made a name for itself in the photographic world but has also managed to build up a specialist library and host numerous symposia and lectures.

The symposium on 'Photography in the Museum' was held in preparation for the opening. The symposium placed the new museum in Berlin within a broader European context to help anchor the Museum für Photografie in the network of the major photographic museums and photographic collections. Colleagues from German and European institutions were invited to showcase their organizations’ work.

The greatest focus was afforded those institutions that had been established since 1999. The debate centred around the pressing questions in photography as it approaches the end of the analogue stage in its development:

What kinds of photographs are to be collected and preserved?
How are they to be researched?
How are they to be made accessible to the public?

Below is a list of the lectures and discussions held during the symposium, with transcripts available to download (in German). Several lectures are published here as textual companions to the spoken events, with minor subsequent changes made to them, while others have been revised by the authors since they gave their talks. The typescripts of the various discussions have been compiled by Katrin Baumgarten, with Astrid Bähr, Ludger Derenthal and Kristina Lowis responsible for the editing.

The lectures:

Welcoming introduction
Wilfried Wiegand, Verein der Freunde des Museums für Fotografie

Photography at Berlin museums and institutions
Florian Ebner, Fotografische Sammlung, Berlinischen Galerie, Berlin
Matthias Harder, Helmut Newton Stiftung, Berlin
Stephan Erfurt, C/O Berlin, Berlin

Photography at German museums
F. C. Gundlach, Stiftung F. C. Gundlach, Hamburg
T. O. Immisch and Anja Jackes, Sammlung Photographie at the Stiftung Moritzburg, Halle an der Saale
Andreas Krase, Technische Sammlungen Dresden
Claude W. Sui, Forum Internationale Photographie (FIP) at the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim

Photography at European museums
Ingrid Fischer Jonge, Museet for Fotokunst, Odense
Frits Gierstberg, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Rotterdam
Monika Faber, Albertina, Fotosammlung, Wien
Xavier Canonne, Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi

The Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and photography
Hans-Peter Frentz, Bildagentur bpk
Raffael Gadebusch, photography at the Museum für Asiatische Kunst
Moritz Wullen, Kunstbibliothek and Collection of Photography
Ludger Derenthal, Museum für Fotografie