Christian Borchert's DDR

April 04, 2017

Christian Borchert's Schattentanz is a recent arrival to our warehouse. His work, to us, sums all that was so special about East Germany documentary photography; slow, quiet and respectful of its subjects.

The following comes courtesy of Thomas Wiegand who is currently working on a history of the photobook in the DDR:

It had been Christian Borchert dream back in 1981 to publish book under the title "100 Photos from the GDR" in 1981. "Travelling is important for this!" he wrote to his friend, the photographer and publisher Hansgert Lambers. Borchert traveled a lot, patiently taking pictures, though the book never happened. Only now, 17 years after the photographer's death, the project has been realised by Hansgert Lambers with the support of Borchert's estate, the Deutsche Fotothek.

This is far from the official image of the GDR, as demanded and promoted by the photo-functionaries and propaganda units. It is a quiet book about the gray everyday life in the other Germany, the country in which the desires and reality were so far divorced from each other; eventually leading to the fall of the wall in 1989.

Borchert was not an outsider in the GDR, but he was not a follower of socialist realism either. His way of looking is sensitive to the human being and very slow; it takes a certain amount of time for his pictures to unfold. If the officials of the GDR's cultural bureaucracy had looked more closely, they could have learned a lot about their country. But who ever has the time to read  photographs ...

This wonderful book of Borchert's work has its own aesthetics with a "speaking" sequencing, with thick cover-binding, solid and with, matt paper emphasize the  gray tones. If the photographer was still alive, he would certainly have been very pleased to see his project finally realized in this form.

Thomas Wiegand