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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 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 after the Second World War, such promises had gained even greater importance in Germany.

The exhibition aims to present a systematic study of the visual language in the different political and social systems of the now divided country by examining the ways progress is presented in commissioned industrial photography. Selected photographs of the factories and production processes, the workers and the finished products illustrate how stories of the economic recovery were told in the course of the four decades of German-German division. The shifting concept of what was considered progressive and worth representing 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.