Dieter Keller - Das Auge des Krieges


 In 1941-42, Dieter Keller (1909–1985) served as a German soldier in Ukraine and Belarus. Despite a strict military ban on photographing civilians and war victims, he shoot several rolls of film which he eventually smuggled to Germany. After the war, he developed the 35 mm rolls at his home in Stuttgart-Vaihingen, enlarging 201 prints as unique pieces. 

Keller used the media of serial and informal photography to create film-like image sequences that encourage a subjective experience of reality. The photographic translation of Keller’s images of cruelty and near-apocalyptic destruction into abstract and formal visual constructions doesn’t follow documentary photography's typical emotional flattening and dullness, but rather intensifies subjective involvement.

His disturbing photographs are embedded in an art history discourse with the European graphic tradition of representing the cruelty of war, as depicted in the horrifying scenarios by Hieronymus Bosch, Francisco de Goya, or Otto Dix.

Before and during World War II, Dieter Keller was a close friend of artists from the New Objectivity and the German Bauhaus movements. Over the years, he cultivated relationships with Willi Baumeister, Alexej von Jawlensky, and Ida Kerkovius. These contacts shaped his artistic vision and significantly influenced his photographic compositions.

"Dieter Keller was a Nazi employed in the Wehrmacht in the early 40’s. He participated or observed the systematic killing and torture of villagers on the Eastern Front of the war. Where is gets complicated is that he made beautiful photographic images surrounding the event that remind one of the Bauhaus movement, modernist masterpieces of the medium and later Tarkovsky-like interludes of solemn and questioning studies of the environment in which he found himself. He was, by official Nazi decree not supposed to have made these records. And yet….we have these records in Das Auge Des Krieges" - Brad Feuerhelm for ASX

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