The destroyed city of Berlin as it looked in 1945 is known to the public mostly through propaganda materials and documentary photographs. The photographs of Friedrich Seidenstücker (1882-1966), however, allow for an entirely different perspective. At the end of World War II, Seidenstücker wandered through the ruins of the former capital of the German Reich as a “flaneur with a camera,” motivated only by a desire to capture what he saw. Seidenstücker did not intend to document politically significant events; rather, he was intrigued by the small, necessary activities that constituted everyday life in the city. For this reason, his photographs differ from the familiar pictures that have shaped our collective memory of the postwar era.
Within a decade, Seidenstücker had taken more than five hundred photographs of Berlin. While his photographs can certainly be read as documents from an important chapter in German history, they are more powerful still as personal expressions of an individual artist’s perspective. The exhibited works come from the Friedrich Seidenstücker Collection at the Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin.
The exhibition is divided into five sections: Impressions of Ruins explores the way in which Seidenstücker used various means of artistic expression. New Rooms – New Views shows how Berlin’s drastically altered spaces allowed for new photographic vantage points. Portraits of Ruins focuses on some of the city’s most prominent buildings, while Nature’s Rubble and Landscapes of Ruin looks at the destruction of nature. Lastly, People in Rubble brings human subjects to the fore.