Alfred Ehrhardt & Rolf Tietgens: Hamburger Hafen und Norddeutsche Küste

In the organizer's words:

Rolf Tietgens (1911-1984) is considered one of the most important photographers of the 1930s, but he is known to only a few in this country. His work fell into oblivion after he emigrated to New York at the end of 1938, threatened with persecution as a homosexual artist in Germany. As he never returned to Germany, his work remained forgotten for a long time. Today, his book Der Hafen, which was published by the renowned Heinrich Ellermann Verlag in 1939 as part of the 750th anniversary celebrations of the port of Hamburg, must be counted among the best photo books of the 1930s. It can be regarded as the most artistically sophisticated design on this subject in German photographic history.

Tietgens confidently uses the vocabulary of "New Vision" to lend the images a symbolic dimension in a personal perspective. The harbor appears as a multifaceted, archaic place where man has shaped the transition from water to land. Shipping traffic and the technical processes associated with it are only one part of a complex organism that includes the spheres of architecture and work as well as those of trade and nocturnal pleasure. Rolf Tietgens described his aesthetic concept in an unpublished advertising text: "We tried to capture moments from the unstable world of the port, whose basic image, however, always remains the same, and to connect them with other captured moments. The result isa picture book that can perhaps convey what the port means, apart from the fact that it attempts to illustrate the life and uniqueness of the port of Hamburg."

As both the original prints and the negatives of Tietgen's harbor book have been lost, the sequence of images is shown in accordance with the concept on which the book is based, namely in the authentic sequence of the finely composed double pages. In addition, there are original prints from the north German coast and the banks of the Elbe, where the interplay of light, shadow, sky, water and sand provided photographically appealing motifs.

For the first time in this double exhibition, the individual pictures of the port of Hamburg by Alfred Ehrhardt (1901-1984) will also be presented. Ehrhardt's photographs from the 1930s are more objective. They capture the port less as a metaphorical space and more as a dynamic scene of the industrial age, which gave rise to a specific maritime technology. Ehrhardt creates a kind of inventory of its elements, registering different types of ships, loading bridges, cranes as well as propellers and anchor chains as characteristic details. He succeeds in taking particularly impressive pictures where the seasonal forces of nature have a visible influence on the harbor activities, such as when boats have to make their way through the ice. You can tell from these pictures that Ehrhardt has a preference for motifs that have established his reputation as a nature photographer.

The poetry of the harbor and the immense variety of its ever-changing images have always attracted photographers. Beyond the documentary value of their images, the timeless poetry of the maritime world can be experienced in the work of both photographers. The thematic overlaps and the images, which are equally committed to the pictorial rhetoric of avant-garde photography, have already prompted contemporary critics to regard the Hamburg photographers Alfred Ehrhardt and Rolf Tietgens as equal colleagues.

Accompanying events:

Saturday, April 13, 2024, 4 p.m.: Guided tour of the exhibition with Prof. Dr. Eckhard Köhn and Dr. Christiane Stahl Thursday,

2. May 2024, 19.00: Book premiere by Martin Tscholl: "Imaginary Ecologies" and artist talk with Dr. Christiane Stahl Wednesday,

May 22, 2024, 7 p.m.: "Rolf Tietgens and Patricia Highsmith. Facets of a passionate relationship", illustrated lecture by Prof. Dr. Eckhardt Köhn Wednesday,

12 June 2024, 7 p.m.: "Hamburg's best photo book: 'Der Hafen' by Rolf Tietgens", illustrated lecture by Dr. Roland Jaeger

This content has been machine translated.


Alfred Ehrhardt Stiftung Auguststraße 75 10117 Berlin

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