When writing our recent introduction on Ostkreuz, we realised that it would never be possible to summarise Berlin’s most important agency of photographers in just one single post. There are many stories to tell and months and months to spend with the enormous body of work that Ostkreuz photographers have created over the past 25 years and beyond.
Let’s best start with a quote: “Was zählt, ist das Urteil der Kollegen.” (“What matters most is the opinion of our colleagues.”), a quote that is connected to Ute Mahler, one of the founding members of Ostkreuz.
The context in which to put this quote is the uniform evaluative standard of photography during GDR times. Photography in East Germany couldn’t be measured by its publications or demand. Naturally, the photographers followed different aims. This is where the opinion of the colleagues comes into the picture. In an environment where restrictions tried badly to obtain a form of society close to its end, only the opinion of other photographers could reflect on the quality of ones work. As a result there was a certain cultural and political vibe dominating Berlin during the years of 1989 & 1990.
When in 1990 seven men and women got together to establish a new agency of photographers, by naming it Ostkreuz they choose the name of a train station in Berlin, a train station with the shape on a compass rose, as all four points of the compass meet here. Ostkreuz described their position, the East, where just the blink of an eye ago a community had been existing to whose most important photographers they belonged. However, they also described an angle point, the cross from which one could embark into all four directions.
In 2015, the photographers of the Ostkreuz Agency founded Ostkreuz e.V. to promote the visibilty of artistic and documentary photography. Current issues of the medium are made the subject of various public talks in order to encourage the exchange on contemporary photography and to promote the debate on its conditions. Sustainig members of Ostkreuz e.V are regularly invited to discuss the latest works of Ostkreuz photographers and guests.
The exhibition “25 years of Ostkreuz” showcased how Ostkreuz understands & negotiates photography. Photography in its essence is on one hand the confrontation of the agency with its city, Berlin. Photographic evidence of the voilent eviction of occupied houses in East Berlin right after the German reunification, placed directly next to upper-class apartments in West-Berlin; Polaroids of a time where the city was changing on a daily basis contrasted by places where the spirit of the Stasi feels present to date. Not limiting themselves to any subject, photo series range from reportages on global youth-culture like Heavy Metal, over a portrait on the international court of justice, to long-term studies on memorial days, from Prager spring to the Egyptian revolution.
Ostkreuz means an approach, an approach to reality and finding the material to work within, to recognize in this work the core of things. It means developing an attitude to reality and to check back on it without the need of one to subordinate over the other. Ostkreuz, that means to be honest, no more no less.
The exhibition “25 years of Ostkreuz” continues to gain momentum and will be on display in Schwerin and Munich this year.
- 14. Mai – 24. Juli – Schlesweig-Holstein-Haus, Schwerin
- from Oktober 2016 – Versicherungskammer Kulturstiftung in München
Find out more about all Ostkreuz photographers at ostkreuz.de/fotografen.