The Proletarian View – Worker Photography of the 1920s by Kurt Pfannschmidt, Ernst Thormann and Richard Woike. Blackbox #9

1 Oktober 2020 - 23 April 2021

As part of EMOP Berlin – European Month of Photography 2020 Berlin

Kurt Pfannschmidt (1900-1987), Ernst Thormann (1905-1984), and Richard Woike (1901-1976) began photographing the precarious everyday life of the working class in the mid-1920s. The amateur photographers’ aim was to support the labour movement by providing meaningful photographic material for reporting purposes. Inspired by the technology of photography and the common struggle for the rights and visibility of disadvantaged people, they and a number of other worker photographers invested in expensive photographic equipment and set off on extensive photographic expeditions. The results are unique historical photographs: Ernst Thormann documents the streets of Berlin-Neukölln and Jewish everyday life in the Scheunenviertel (a former area in the historical city centre of Berlin), Richard Woike takes sensitive pictures of poverty, and Kurt Pfannschmidt presents his surroundings as a worker sportsman and party member of the KPD in powerful photographs.

For the exhibition we produced the video series “The Story”. In approximately 5-minute long videos collector Peter Badel, who has generously lent the objects on view, sheds light on the historic background of working-class photography. He also presents individual photographers and provides intriguing insights into contemporary camera technics. Although the videos are in German, English subtitles make the material available to an international audience. The six videos constituting the series are published on our Youtube channel.

Curator: Julia Hartenstein M.A.
Advertising motif: Gerwin Schmidt, Munich