Let us introduce you to a very special photography artist: Siegfried Wittenburg, East Germany’s most famous photographic chronicler.
Wittenburg, who taught himself the art form and was once censored by the East German authoritarian regime, is today a photo and text author for the magazine Spiegel Online, alongside other photography work. He also exhibits his photographs across Europe, at times in collaboration with Joachim Gauck, former president of reunified Germany and the artist’s most famous patron.
A famous photography series by Siegfried Wittenburg provides a visual commentary to the final years of East Germany in the 1980s and the new start in the 1990s: multi-faceted and not without a touch of humor. These photographs depict day-to-day life, presenting all of the absurdities of a state that promised a better life. Bleak backyards, uninhabited prefab buildings, deserted getaway destinations, decaying old towns. The scenes show a disconcerting, debunking silence, charged with a longing for change.
Siegfrie Wittenburg’s photographs are trenchant and profound, unagitated and subtle, which is precisely what gives them their expressive power to captivate the observer.
Joachim Gauck, on Wittenburg’s photograph “Heiligendamm”:
“People standing on a concrete footbridge. We see their backs and look out onto a rolling sea. We are overwhelmed by all imaginable thoughts, and a great many of these thoughts are linked to freedom.”