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12.01.2016

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It all began at a market café in Paris in 1990, where seven East German photographers sat together and decided to equip themselves for the future by creating an agency. Germany in a time of transformation: the wall had fallen but the country was still divided, and no one was really sure how things would develop, what private and professional life would look like in the future. The idea of creating an agency was born of the feeling “everything is possible” (Ute Mahler). Inspired by the famous photographer collective, Magnum Photos, Sibylle Bergemann, Harald Hauswald, Ute and Werner Mahler, Jens Rötzsch, Thomas Sandberg and Harf Zimmermann established the first independent German photo agency and called it Ostkreuz. Up until that moment, their best pictures had gone straight into their archives, but now they were faced with the completely new challenge of dealing with the tough world of the media industry. Uncensored, but curious and with a critical eye, their work needed to stand up to the established competition from the West. It seemed a lot easier to do that as a group. Ostkreuz, an underground train station in East Berlin, seemed to lend the perfect name to the photographers’ ambitious plan: to head off in every direction from a intersection point in East Berlin. Success proved they had made the right choice, and the agency quickly developed into a renowned institution, becoming one of Germany's leading and most successful agencies – with the particularity that it belongs to the photographers. This was the reason for the additional “The Photographers’ Agency” in the name: the idea of a picture-taking family that works with commitment and responsibility, continues to reflect the agency’s concept. The fact that Ostkreuz still exists today after 25 years is a success in its own right. The agency has been obliged and able to react many times to the enormous changes that the world of photography has undergone, as well as the changing conditions of the media. Of the original founders, Harald Hauswald, Ute and Werner Mahler as still part of it today. The agency now has 20 members from east and west Germany: they bring together the experience of three generations, and are very diverse in their art, their biographies and their approach to the work. The jubilee presentation shows all this diversity, while also revealing what binds the Ostkreuz members together despite that diversity. The publication presents an enormous range of contemporary photography, and Ostkreuz remains an important institution that stands for a critical and independent approach, as well as an engaged photography that questions political, societal, social and artistic issues: the agency is also involved in the debate about the future of photography. 25 Jahre Ostkreuz has been published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, Ostfildern. It is made up of two parts: on the one hand, a book with texts and work that were produced before the creation of the agency; on the other, a “poster” section with the best works of Ostkreuz’s current members. Ulrich Rüter

25 Jahre Ostkreuz
(Author, Ostkreuz – The Photographers’ Agency)
159 pages, 166 images
26.5 x 36.0 cm, German/English/French
Hatje Cantz Verlag
© Annette Hausschild / Ostkreuz
© Harald Hauswald / Ostkreuz
© Heinrich Völkel / Ostkreuz
© Marc Beckmann / Ostkreuz
© Sibylle Bergemann / Ostkreuz
© Tobias Kruse / Ostkreuz
© Ute Mahler / Ostkreuz
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