Four people stand with four different patterned shirts tucked into their trousers, two white doves nestled in their hands. What looks like a still from a Robert Bresson film is actually a photograph by Sibylle Bergemann. Its title: “Moskau, 1974”. It is a mysterious and whimsical image – one that is typical of the Berlin photographer. Born in 1941, Bergemann earned her place as one of Germany’s most important photographers thanks to her poetic observations, thoughtful pictorial compositions and extraordinary use of color. She was a GDR citizen, co-founder of the Ostkreuz agency and a companion of Arno Fischer. Today (23.06.2022) the Berlinische Galerie opens a major retrospective on the artist: Sibylle Bergemann: Town and Country and Dogs: Photographs 1966–2010. Six chapters span more than 200 works, largely chronologically. They underline Bergemann’s admiration for French photography, the longing experienced in everyday GDR life and her fondness for dogs. But it is her view of women that really stands out.
Conceptual fashion shots, images of female artists and actresses, observations of everyday life – all of Bergemann’s portraits are informed by her experience as a woman. They reveal tenderness, admiration and a sense of respect that is signaled by the distance between camera and subject. Even 12 years after her death, Bergemann inspires people to engage with the world and the people in it with love and curiosity. The exhibition is accompanied by works by former colleagues and companions such as Arno Fischer, Ute Mahler, Roger Melis and Michael Weidt, with special attention given to the photographer’s life. If you would like to learn more about Bergemann as a person, we recommend the podcast Sibylle Bergemann – die Frau hinter den Bildern, made by Anne Waak for the Berlinische Galerie (available wherever you get your podcasts).
Text: Hilka Dirks / Photos: Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ Courtesy Loock Galerie, Berlin