HAA 176G - Women as Photographers in Weimar Germany and in Exile





Benjamin Buchloh

Thursdays, 3:00 - 5:45 PM

An extraordinary number of women trained to become photographers in Weimar Germany (1919-1933). Their presence and practices dramatically altered the conditions of visual culture in a country that had never achieved the levels of French modernism, for example, neither in terms of its aesthetic complexity nor in terms of its contributions to nation state identity. Female photographers not only changed the almost purely patriarchal structures of official German culture, but they also contributed to a fundamentally different model of artistic identity, one that was not only subversive in terms of its gender politics, but also dismantled hierarchical orders at large, thus dramatically expanding the spectrum of collective interest and participation in processes of representation, be they reflections on the everyday lives of the urban masses, on sexual politics and the New Woman, or trans-national travel, fashion and consumption as presented in the rapidly expanding industries of the illustrated magazines. The majority of these photographers had to emigrate after 1933, either because they were Jewish or because their left wing politics were prosecuted, or because their progressive aesthetic principles and projects were no longer tolerated by the Nazi Regime.

Thus the second part of the seminar will not only trace the dis- and relocations of these figures, but also explore the impact of exile on cultural identities and practices in the second half of the twentieth century.