With the life of Bergemann so inextricable bound up with the history of DDR, it’s to be expected that many of the most memorable images in this large-scale solo exhibition, capture the architectural infrastructure of soviet occupation in the process of being dismantled: the skeletal rib-cage of the DDR Foreign Ministry, the last incongruous towers of the Palace of the Republic.
Just above this image, there is a tiny view taken from the window of Bergemann’s flat in Mitte, her base for so many years until developers forced her and her husband to move out in 2004 – a wry nod from the curator, of the orgy of investment that has swept through the capital since the wall came down.
This is a photographer who really excels in black and white, her talent igniting when this is combined with the streets of the city she knew so well.
Having grown up in East Berlin, Bergemann’s story reveals the paradoxical obstacles and opportunities of working as an artist at that time. Immediately after reunification, she set up Ostkreuz – a now famous independent photography agency – and began working for various international magazines and experimenting with colour photography. This section is the least exciting; grandiosity was not her strength.
This is a photographer who really excels in black and white, her talent igniting when this is combined with the streets of the city she knew so well. Take the images of Clärchen’s Ballhaus, drenched in candle-lit melancholy – one couple stare at each other so intently you feel it must be staged – and the deadpan fashion portraits taken in the wonderfully ordinary basements and U-Bahn stations.
At times the curators race through areas you’d wish they’d linger at a little longer on and at others, like the tedious wall devoted to the statues of the Marx-Engels Memorial, they could have dashed through a bit quicker. Because for all the documentary and historic images, it is the collusion of Bergemann’s dreamy vision with the drab concrete uniformity of Berlin that gives you the impression you’re seeing the work of a great photographer.
- Berlinische Gallery, Kreuzberg Through 10 Oct
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