Kicken Berlin presents OTTO STEINERT (1915–1978), one of the most important photographers in post-war Germany in an exhibition curated by Wolfgang Schoppmann. A medical doctor and self-taught photographer, OTTO STEINERT discovered anew the artistic potential of photography by integrating experimental innovations from the 1920’s avant-garde art movements into the photographic medium. He is known as the initiator and leading figure of 1950’s Subjective Photography. With László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray und El Lissitzky as his aesthetic guides, OTTO STEINERT began searching for an explicitly photographic form of expression. He distanced himself not only from the predominantly documentary style of the post-war years, but also from the fashion and reportage photography burgeoning at that time. His aim was to draw out the creative, subjective potential in photography using means that were unique to the medium. In 1949 he founded (along with Wolfgang Reisewitz, Peter Keetman, Siegfried Lauterwasser, Toni Schneiders and Ludwig Windstosser) the group of artists known as 'fotoform', a name he also coined. When the photography exhibition jury at a trade fair in Neustadt refused to show the work of these artists, claiming it was too extravagant, Wolfgang Reisewitz compelled them to put up a show of the disqualified artworks. These works were then shown again later at the photokina in Cologne where they were celebrated by the press as having the effect of “an atomic bomb dropped into the compost heap of this exhibition”. Dominating the photographs of OTTO STEINERT is not the picture subject itself, but rather his subjective take on the subject matter, which he frequently altered. This has the effect of drawing the viewer away from the subject and directing attention towards rich contrasts, the inherent characteristics of light itself, and competing shapes and forms. This is seen for example in the way water surfaces or thatched roofs (Schwarzwalddach, 1956) become inscrutable, black and white textured picture planes or the way power lines appear as fine line graphic drawings (Punkte und Linien, 1953). OTTO STEINERT took pictures of lights at night while simultaneously moving the camera, creating light trails on film which he called Luminogramme. These abstract images bring to mind Hans Hartung’s paintings (art informel) or Jackson Pollock’s drip canvases. And by experimenting with various arrangements of light sources, he further advanced the photogram technique (in which objects are placed directly on to light sensitive film material), used successfully by Moholy-Nagy und Man Ray. He exploited solarization in a similar fashion by making use of the surrealistic effects created when a developing image is exposed to white light. Furthermore, OTTO STEINERT invented a new technique know as sandwich photography. This consisted of combining two or more negatives to create a collage-type fragmentation – an effect similar to that of the double exposure. In addition, he was interested in movement photography. Using long exposure times, he created snapshots that appear to defy time and space – fleeting imagery of moving objects and people that appeared to be simultaneously present and absent such as Ein-Fuß-Gänger (ca. 1950). At an early date, OTTO STEINERT also collected photographs taken by international photographers. He used this work as teaching material for the photography course he initiated at the Staatliche Schule für Kunst und Handwerk in Saarbrücken. Using this collection as a basis, OTTO STEINERT curated and organized the exhibitions subjektive fotografie I-III (1951, 1954, 1958). This show included not only the old masters of experimental photography such as Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray, Raoul Hausmann and Herbert Bayer but also international contemporary greats such as Brassaï as well as contemporary Belgian, French, English, Swiss, Swedish and later also American and Japanese photographers who followed similar aesthetic goals as the 'fotoform' group. This exhibition gave the name Subjective Photography, to this photography style - the most prominent representative of which is OTTO STEINERT. In 1959 OTTO STEINERT began teaching at the Folkwangschule in Essen where he also developed the photographic collection at the Folkwang Museum. He held his professorship until his death in 1978. In 1954 OTTO STEINERT wrote a letter to the Japanese photographer KIYOSHI NIIYAMA (1911-1968), asking him to send some of his work to Germany for the second subjective photography exhibition he was planning. Due to the confusion surrounding the Second World War, KIYOSHI NIIYAMA felt compelled to bow out. How well his work would have complimented OTTO STEINERT’s and how painful his absence must have been for Steinert can be experienced in the parallel showing of both photographers work. In fact, it is amazing how similar their subject matter and aesthetic approach are considering the physical distance between them and their cultural differences. Niiyama shows a fascination for the moment when the captured object loses its concrete psychical properties and is transformed into an interplay of forms and contrasts, surface compositional planes and deeper design structures. Niiyama draws upon the painterly and graphic design traditions of his own culture: the flat compositions of Japanese woodcuts and Japanese landscape painting. KIYOSHI NIIYAMA had an enduring influence on history of 20th century Japanese photography: he was on the supervisory board of an important Japanese photography association and was on the jury of an eminent Tokyo-based photography group and received numerous national and international awards. In spite of the hard contrasts and dark tones he shared with Steinert, his work radiates a poetic harmony and a nearly crystalline calm.