Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Josef Heinrich Darchinger

The caption of the above photograph reads: "For a Groschen (10 pfennigs) you can buy a bit of heaven: a roll of five caramel toffees. Wonderfully sticky, it's hard not to chew them and unfortunately they can pull out fillings and loose teeth". Bonn 1955).

Essentially, photographs are documents. They are records. Never does this become more apparent than when we are looking at photography of historical value: another world opens up in front of our eyes and we become aware that time does indeed exist or, to be more precise, that our perception of the world is inextricably linked to our concept of time.

Klaus Honnef starts his essay A Time Photographed. Jupp Darchinger: The Fifties and early Sixties with illuminating sentences that I can easily subscribe to: "The further time recedes into the past, the more bizarre its photographic images appear to be. Yet according to many theorists of the medium, it is such images that preserve the true reality of how things actually were. Nevertheless, Josef H. Darchinger's photographs from the early years of the Federal Republic of Germany somehow make us feel that the Wizard of Oz has waved his magic wand and allowed us to look into a strange and oddly unreal world."
The Reichstag in Berlin was a ruin, 1958 © 2008 Josef Heinrich Darchinger, Bonn, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bonn

Wirtschaftswunder documents indeed a most exotic era where the workers were the cornerstone of the economic upturn and women had to ask their husbands if they wanted to go out to work. The book is divided into three parts: 1) Family Life. I am master in my own house. 2) The Economy. The factory chimneys are smoking again. 3) Politics. Let's go West. The most unreal shots I thought the ones who showed politicians like Schmidt, Brandt, and Kennedy who looked so young, promising, and somewhat innocent. And the ones that depict the former East Germany.

Darchinger's Wirtschaftswunder is impressive photojournalism and that means that photos and texts complement each other most convincingly. The captions of the above pictures read like this: "Years of imprisonment in a concentration camp for being a communist have cost him his health and vigour. His compensation: a pension of 95 marks a month and accommodation in temporary housing in a camp in Bonn. But the hunt for communists goes on. Between 1951 and 1968, 138,000 preliminary proceedings are instigated on the grounds of 'communistic activities'. 1956." (the picture to the left). "Will the money last till the end of the month? Bombed-out pensioners with as few salvaged belongings and their keepsakes in temporary accommodation in a camp. Hanging on the wall is a photograph of their missing son in the uniform of a submariner. Bonn 1956." (the picture to the right).

Josef Heinrich Darchinger
Deutschland nach dem Krieg
Germany after the war
Taschen, Cologne 2012

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