From the political to the experimental, our arts editor rounds up the month’s must-see photo exhibitions among the 100 shows planned throughout October.
The name European Month of Photography (EMOP) can be confusing: It is a specially Berlin photo festival but it used to run in tandem with photo festivals in other European countries. However, the main theme for Germany’s biggest biannual photography festival this year is in fact “Europe – Identity, Crisis, Future”. With more than 100 exhibitions across Berlin’s museums, galleries, institutions and project spaces to visit, we’ve picked out our top group shows alongside honour- able mentions for the best solo presentations to get you through the month-long photo fest.
EMOP’s main exhibition is hosted by Akademie Der Künste: CONTINENT – In Search of Europe includes all 23 members of the Ostkreuz Agentur der Fotografen, also celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With the exception of Sybille Bergman (1941-2010), all the works are from the last five years. European coexistence, identity and security, renationalisation, migration, democracy and freedom of expression are all claimed as topics broached here. Some of the portraiture can, at first, appear a little taciturn. However, as with much reportage photography, it’s the captions that bring them to life. A good example is Annette Hauschild’s close cropped photo of people on a boat looking through binoculars: “Crew monitoring the sea, Mission Lifeline, civilian rescue ship on the Mediterranean, 2017.”
Another group show providing wide curatorial parameters and big names is Time Present, Photography from the Deutsche Bank Collection at PalaisPopulaire. Consisting of 60 works dating back to 1970, the exhibition includes many of the German names you’d expect: Bernd and Hilla Becher, Andreas Gursky, Sigmar Polke and Wim Wenders. Alongside these are international photographers from almost every continent, among them Yto Barrada, Mohamed Camara, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Amalia Ulman. An examination of the concept of time ties the show together, but perhaps most unique is that you can have an AI guide to nine of the exhibits: IBM’s MIA (Museum Intelligent Assistant) has been integrated into PalaisPopulaire’s own app to answer your queries in real time.
With a more specific theme is Gropius Bau’s Masculinities: Liberation Through Photography. Including work by Laurie Anderson, Richard Avedon, Rotimi Fani-Kayode, Isaac Julien and Annette Messager, this exploration of masculinity from 1960 to present spans its full spectrum: from Karen Knorr’s suited man in a London men-only private members’ club to Sunil Gupta’s moustachioed young man on the street (photo) and Peter Hujar’s beautiful image of David Brintzenhofe applying make-up.
Among the solo presentations, C/O Berlin is leading the charge with the Harald Hauswald retrospective Voll das Leben! alongside Michael Danner’s Migration as Avant-Garde. Hauswald’s intimate eye reveals a tender and personal glimpse of everyday socialist life in the GDR in the run up to its demise through the 1980s and on into the 90s: from heavily coated commuters on the U-Bahn to lovers embracing in a car park full of Trabants. Danner’s provocative and critical body work about Europe’s borders was prompted by his reading of Hannah Arendt’s essay We Refugees (1943). Spanning nine years, these al- ready award-winning photos examine the new ways in which migrants are pursuing their hope for a better life.