As the fourth part of the exhibition series Sheroes of Photography and on the occasion of the artist’s extensive exhibition this summer at the Berlinische GalerieKickenBerlin shows a selection of rarely seen series Sibylle Bergman‘s extensive oeuvre in cooperation with her estate.
Sibylle Bergemann has been considered one of the most important German photographers since the 1970s. Together with her husband Arno Fischer, she held a key position in the photo scene in the GDR and published her work in renowned art and culture magazines such as Sibylle, Sonntag and Das Magazin as well as in book publications. After reunification, she expanded her radius of action to West German and international orders. In 1990, she co-founded the Ostkreuz Agency and shaped responsible visual journalism. Her photographic essays reflected social reality without embellishing it and often went symbolically beyond it. Fashion and portrait photography are just as much a part of her central themes as urban landscapes and situational street scenes, as well as the poetics of the everyday. Sibylle Bergemann’s works are in international museums and collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich; and the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin.
People and places have significantly influenced and inspired Bergemann’s work. In her hometown of Berlin, the photographer tended to go to quiet places on the outskirts of the city rather than to the representative center for both private and commissioned work. Traveling to “non-socialist places abroad” was strictly regulated and almost impossible. But as early as 1984, long before the Wall came down, she was able to travel to New York and Los Angeles as a member of the Association of Visual Artists.
From the early 1970s, Sibylle Bergemann took on an observer position in Berlin, participating but being reserved. She had an eye for special places and people, for unexpected encounters, for the peculiarities of foreign everyday scenes, for melancholy and beauty. The transformations and ephemeral moments of everyday life have repeatedly drawn the photographer’s attention, be it in the GDR, during the fall of the Wall or afterwards. It unfolded poetic and even visionary potential, such as in the series The Monument to the Marx-Engels Monument by the sculptor Ludwig Engelhardt.
Her feeling for nuances within a social microcosm is visible in the series Clärchens Ballhaus from the 1970s. Another series about women in the world of work in the early 1990s will be shown publicly for the first time in the Kicken Berlin exhibition with a few selected examples. Women from all walks of life literally stand in front of the camera to take a stand. They retain their own space and dignity even as they may be in transition.
Recognizing her strange and unsafe, but also fascinating and new surroundings, Bergemann moved first across the United States and later to Western Europe and Africa. In Manhattan, she took on the perspective of a flaneur, drifting through the concrete canyons and following the stream of people. Her images demonstrate her affinity with American street photography masters such as Walker Evans and Garry WInogrand, while still retaining their own identity. The photographer focuses her gaze on this astonished reality.
With long-distance travel in the 1990s and new commissions, color entered as a fundamental element in Bergemann’s work. In West Africa and on the fringes of Western Europe, in Portugal, the photographer explored the feel and form of local colors, eventually making them a constitutive feature of her fashion photography. Strong contrasts were just as decisive as finely graded color scales, both of which sensitively convey the genius loci of the respective location.
Sibylle Bergman : Sheroes of Photography
June 24 – September 9, 2022
D-14057 Berlin, Germany