Karl Gernot Kuehn - Caught. The Art of Photography in the German Democratic Republic

  • New
  • Original cloth in dust-wrapper, 318 pp
  • University of California, 1997

Dated and somewhat uneven, but still the only full-length study in English of photography in the DDR. Full of useful information and a highly readable account. Behind the Iron Curtain, against all odds, photography secretly flourished as an art in the German Democratic Republic. The author writes of East Germany from 1945 - four years before the socialist nation was officially carved out of the former German Reich - to 1989, when the dictatorship fell and 40 years of isolation ended.

Analyzing how Walter Ulbricht and Erich Honecker harnessed the power of photography to shape and reflect the paradigmatic Marxist state, Kuehn reveals how this very same process inadvertently helped nurture individual creativity and the 'silent revolution' of the 1980s.

Caught offers an appraisal of the artistic, social and political evolution of the GDR through the eyes of the participating photographers. It is an intimate portrayal of a people 'caught' in the conflicting dictates of ideology, artistic oppression, a troubled national past and basic human desires. From a Review in ARTMargins in 1999 by Judith Schwentner: 'In 45 chronologically arranged chapters, the author follows the development of photography in the GDR, from the its very beginning (the period of "socialist formation") to the collapse of the regime, a time that was characterized by an increasingly individualistic artistic attitude. Kuehn gives a precise and detailed description of the affirmative, positive attitude of most artists towards the newly founded state after its initial inception, and she explains how this attitude gradually changed into despair and schizophrenia as the system became more and more monolithic and incalculable.'

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