The Photography of the 1920s and ’30s
The Weimar Republic (1918–1933) was an era of great innovation in modern photography. There was a growing demand for press and advertising images—and numerous photographers to cater to it. Their works also appeared in elaborate photo books they published on their own initiative. One catalyst for these developments was the advent of the 35mm camera in the 1920s, an invention permitting unprecedented freedom of movement. Unusual perspectives, steep-angled views from above and below, and close-ups of details testify to a new enthusiasm for photographic experimentation. This modern aesthetic came to be known as Neues Sehen (New Ways of Seeing), a catchword that can be understood as a call for a new visual approach on the part of the photographer and the viewer alike. Pictorial language now became clearer, more direct, and in many cases more linear. In its matter-of-fact rigour it corresponded to the needs of a society that, after the disaster of World War I, had come to favour realistic depiction.
From 30 June to 24 October 2021, the Städel Museum shed light on modern photography’s wide-ranging trends. In an introduction and seven theme-oriented sections, the exhibition “New Ways of Seeing: The Photography of the 1920s and ’30s” conveyed an impression of the medium’s various uses in the interwar period. Some of the works on view also offered visual presentiments of the 1930s, in which the Nazis increasingly instrumentalized photography as a means of communication for political propaganda purposes. The show’s themes encompassed photography’s establishment at vocational training institutes and art academies, photographic illustration and photojournalism, the employment of photography in science and research, portrait photography, and the use of the medium in advertising, industry, and political propaganda. Historical magazines, photo books, and posters supplemented the works on view.
Curator: Dr. Kristina Lemke (Head of Photography)
Supported by: FAZIT-STIFTUNG, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach-Stiftung, Dr. Hans Feith und Dr. Elisabeth Feith-Stiftung
Discover the works of the exhibition in the Digital Collection.