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Progress as a Promise. Industrial photography in divided Germany (working title)

Smoke-spewing chimneys, a broad smile on soot-covered faces, sheer endless conveyor belts – behind these most familiar motifs of industrial photography lays a promise: the prospect of more private consumption, of better, more attractive and functional products, and a general rise in the quality of life. Precisely as the economy was booming again in now divided Germany, such promises had gained even greater importance.

The exhibition aims to present a systematic study of the visual imagery in the different political and social systems in the two parts of Germany by examining the ways progress is represented in commissioned industrial photography for the first time. Selected photographs of the factories and production processes, the workers and the finished products, will illustrate how stories of the economic recovery were told through the lens of photography and its visual language. In the course of the four decades of German-German division, the concept of what was considered progressive and worth representing changed; this allows us to retrospectively draw conclusions about the priorities and aspirations of the two societies.

The exhibition is curated by Carola Jüllig and Stefanie Regina Dietzel.