© Manfred Linke/laif
© Kai Löffelbein/laif
© Michael Lange/laif
© Ingmar Björn Nolting/laif
© Andreas Herzau/laif

40 Years of laif

40 Positions of Documentary Photography

12 March to 25 September, 2022

To mark the 40th anniversary of the laif photo agency, the exhibition will be showing 40 Positions of Documentary Photography.

In their works, the internationally known photographers, who were selected for this exhibition by the curator, Peter Bialobrzeski, and by Peter Bitzer and Manfred Linke, illustrate the world through its conflicts and fractures, but also show how art and solidarity can connect people. The works also reflect the aesthetic development of documentary photography from the 1980s to the present. Developed by Berlin-based designer Sarah Fricke, the presentation brings 40 years of contemporary history to life.

“Whereas the photographers at the beginning of this period still treated the protests against nuclear power, rearmament and airport expansions using a classic, black-and-white style and were very close to the events, colour photography came to the fore in the 1990s, analogous to the technical reproduction possibilities of the press”, says Peter Bialobrzeski.

Arranged chronologically, the exhibition starts with the works of the two co-founders of the agency, Manfred Linke and Günter Beer, followed by artistic-documentary image and text works from the 1990s by Bettina Flitner, featuring people at the Berlin Wall. In her work Surface Tension (1997) Katharina Bosse often portrays women from all over the world, while Michael Lange presents an experimental work on Los Angeles (1999), photographed on black-and-white Polaroid slide film, which can be interpreted as a homage to film noir. In his individual, cool and detached way marked by high visual quality, Henrik Spohler documents how the agricultural industry in all parts of the world produces food today (The Third Day, 2012). Sandra Hoyn visits a brothel in Bangladesh and shares the fate of the women and girls there (2015). In the end, the circle closes and the photographers revert their gaze to Germany: Hannes Jung provides a feature on the New Right (2017) with a demagogic effect, while Andreas Herzau presents his long-term work on Chancellor Merkel in subjectively combined image sections, which was first published in 2018 as a complete book. In 2019, David Klammer became a permanent chronicler of the resistance against the deforestation of the Hambach Forest, and, in 2020, the young Ingmar Björn Nolting traveled all over Germany, creating a unique documentary of the Corona crisis, which has deservedly won multiple awards. The final part of the exhibition focuses on the 2021 flood disaster in western Germany.

"Each position is linked to a year from the period of 1981 – the founding year of laif – to 2021. The works were either created, prominently published, exhibited or won a significant award in the respective year. They represent what the agency stands for and at the same time illustrate the diversity and development of documentary and journalistic photography from 1981 to 2021," explains Silke Frigge, managing director of laif.

On view are photo series by:
Christian Als, Christoph Bangert, Günter Beer, Regina Bermes, Jürgen Bindrim, Peter Bialobrzeski, Jan-Peter Böning, Katharina Bosse, James Whitlow Delano, Barbara Dombrowski, Stephan Elleringmann, Norbert Enker, Maria Feck, Bettina Flitner, Peter Granser, Jan Grarup, Andreas Herzau, James Hill, Sandra Hoyn, Britta Jaschinski, Hannes Jung, David Klammer, Vincent Kohlbecher, Axel Krause, Dirk Krüll, Michael Lange, Paul Langrock, Frederic Lezmi, Manfred Linke, Kai Löffelbein, André Lützen, Ingmar Björn Nolting, Helena Schätzle, Henrik Spohler, Berthold Steinhilber, Andreas Teichmann, Wolfgang Volz, and Michael Wolf.

laif was founded in 1981 as a collective in Cologne's Südstadt quarter in 1981 by the four photographers Günter Beer, Jürgen Bindrim, Manfred Linke and Guenay Ulutuncok in Cologne's Südstadt. A little later, with the arrival of Peter Bitzer, the company became more professional and was transformed into an agency, thus ensuring laif's continued existence. Today, the laif photo agency represents more than 400 photographers worldwide, including many World Press and Pulitzer Prize winners. Furthermore, it represents more than 40 international partner agencies in the German-speaking countries and is a syndication partner of the New York Times and the Société du Figaro. In order to be able to continue working independently of outside interests, laif photographers have founded a cooperative, which has been the new owner of the photo agency since 1 July 2022.

The publication accompanying the exhibition includes an introduction by Anna Gripp, photographer and editor-in-chief of Photonews. It is available at the MAKK at a price of €14.90 or €19.90 (in decorative box).

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