In this catalogue, Kicken Berlin explores the international movement of Subjective Photography in the late 1940s to the early 1960s. With its origins in the ‘subjektive fotografie‘ exhibits organized by Otto Steinert in 1951, 1954 and 1958 in Germany, Subjective Photography found important equivalents in North and Latin America as well as in Asia. From the late 1940s on, an international movement in photography was responding to the challenge of the pre-war avant-garde. Its goals were to go beyond the mimetic representation of the visible and to create artistic images by purely photographic means and experimental techniques. Kicken Berlin explores this global movement and the diversified approaches of European, American and Asian artists in its exhibition and catalogue. Key pieces demonstrate the direct and subjective approach of German artist Otto Steinert and his international contemporaries such as North Americans Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind; Latin Americans Sameer Makarius, Geraldo de Barros, and Thomaz Farkas; and Japanese photographers Kiyoshi Niiyama and Takashi Kijima, among others. Callahan and Siskind were based at the Chicago Institute of Design, which László Moholy-Nagy founded as the “New Bauhaus” in 1937; this anchor in the pre-war avantgarde facilitated the subjective movement to draw explicitly on the work of forerunner artists such as Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray and Herbert Bayer. The main focal point of the presentation is on abstraction, or what Otto Steinert called the fifth and highest level of creative photography: the “absolute fotografische Gestaltung,” or absolute photographic design. The focus of our catalogue is to highlight the variety in the mid-twentieth-century avant-garde photography movement in Europe, North America, Latin America and Japan. The show aims to provide an overview of the photographic image as an aesthetic graphic exercise – a realm of signs that relates to visible reality but extends beyond a simple representation of common things.
Published on the occasion of the subjektive fotografie: Adventures in the Visual Field, Kicken Berlin, 2013.