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He is the witness to an era in the very literal sense of the words. Michael Ruetz was not only a chronicler of his generation, but also a clever documentarist of the time phenomenon that he explored in a diversity of long-term projects.

His best-known pictures were taken in Berlin in the sixties, when political and societal upheavals led him to abandon his studies and dissertation in favour of photography. He closely followed the protests, sit-ins and activities of the protagonists of the so-called “generation of 68”. His keen sense for the situations, events and people produced a story of those times that is still vivid today. Many of his motifs have become part of German society's collective memory. They report on a divided Germany, and on the atmosphere and upheavals in Berlin in the sixties; but in doing so, quite often distance themselves from the actual concrete events, to become characteristic and symbolic images. Fritz Kempe commented on this symbolic character of the photographer’s work in his opening remarks, when he introduced Ruetz as a “Master of the Leica” in issue 3/1973 of the magazine Leica Fotografie. At the time, Ruetz was already working successfully as a photojournalist for international magazines, and also, since 1969, as a photographer for the Hamburg magazine STERN.

After 1974, Ruetz concentrated exclusively on his own projects. These were mainly published in books and in carefully designed photo books. In the mid-seventies, his Timescape project became the main focus of his work, and production of it continued through the eighties. For Timescape, he photographed places and landscapes, time and again from the same standpoint. Time Unveiled was the very pertinent title for a retrospective of his work: his in-depth and long-term studies, including The Epitomic Landscape, present clear evidence of the passage of time, and also reveal what endurance can look like. As a patient and consistent observer, Michael Ruetz has generated incomparable work. We offer our congratulations on the occasion of his 80th birthday. (Ulrich Rüter)

All images on this page © Michael Ruetz
Rudi Dutschke speaks at an event in preparation for the international protest days against the American war in Vietnam. Maxium Auditorium at the Free University, Berlin-Dahlem. October 20, 1967 © Michael Ruetz / Agentur Focus
Fritz Teufel and Rainer Langhans at Kommune 1. Berlin, March, 1968 © Michael Ruetz / Agentur Focus
May 1st Parade, 1974, at the Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin-Friedrichshain, East Berlin © Michael Ruetz / Akademie der Künste / Agentur Focus
Germany. Hahn (Hunsrück). Farmers march in protest against the noise of flights.  © Michael Ruetz / Akademie der Künste / Agentur Focus
From the 'The Epitomic Landscape' series © Michael Ruetz / Agentur Focus
From the 'The Epitomic Landscape' series © Michael Ruetz / Agentur Focus
From the 'The Epitomic Landscape' series © Michael Ruetz / Agentur Focus
© E. Ruetz

Michael Ruetz

Born in Berlin on April 4, 1940, Ruetz studied Sinology, Japanese Studies and Journalism in Freiburg, Munich and Berlin, before turning to photojournalism. He was a member of the STERN editorial staff from 1969 to 1973. From 1996 to 2007, he was a Professor of Communication Design at the Braunschweig University of Art (HBK). His work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and over 40 publications.

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