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ONE PHOTO – ONE STORY

27.12.2019

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In a few years it may well be necessary to give a much broader explanation to this picture, because who will recognise either Erich Honecker or Leonid Brezhnev – and even less their political entourage? Two men dressed in formal clothes are kissing in public, seemingly passionately with closed eyes: this picture, however, is not a symbol for the liberalisation of a same gender partnership between the two gentlemen. Rather, it is a historic image taken on the occasion of a reception during celebrations for the 30th anniversary of the Democratic Republic of Germany: it aimed to express unity within the socialist systems.

Many photo-journalists took pictures of this scene, but Barbara Klemm opted against a close-up: “In these kind of situations I'm more interested in the setting within which people are acting. At a first glance, the detail is undoubtedly stronger; but when you look at my picture a second time you see Gromyko, the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, and Chernenko, who would succeed Brezhnev, in the background to the right. In contrast to the applauding Politburo, they are totally uninterested in the kiss and are talking to each other.” What Klemm's picture shows in particular is the stiff, formalise ritual of the team of elderly gentlemen functionaries. This also is also now part of history.

The same motif, painted by Dimitri Wrubel on a piece of the remains of the former Berlin Wall, gained even more attention years later at the Berlin East-Side-Gallery. It was modelled, however, on a photo taken by the French photo-journalist, Régis Bossu, who took the picture while standing in the same press group in Schloss Niederschönhausen. Though the scene was the same, he had chosen to take a close-up.

During her work for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, Barbara Klemm took many iconic pictures covering political and societal history. On December 27, 2019, she will be celebrating her 80th birthday. Congratulations. (Ulrich Rüter)

The current issue of LFI magazine presents a selection of Klemm's work.

The exhibition, Barbara Klemm, Osten, Bilder aus Osteuropa und der DDR, is currently on display at the Leonhardi Museum Dresden, where it will remain till March 1, 2020.

Photo: © Barbara Klemm
© Gustav Eckart

Barbara Klemm

Born on December 27, 1939, in Munster, Klemm grew up in a family of artists: her father, Fritz Klemm, was a Professor at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe, who introduced her to photography. In 1958 she completed a photo internship at Julia Bauer’s portrait atelier in Karlsruhe. In 1959 she began work in the photo laboratory of the FAZ newspaper; first photos as a freelancer were published; from 1970 to 2005, full-time editorial photographer for politics and features. Numerous publications and exhibitions. Number of awards (incl.): Dr. Erich Salomon Photography Award, the Hessian Culture Award, and the city of Frankfurt on the Main’s Max Beckmann Award; Leica Hall of Fame 2012. Barbara Klemm lives in Frankfurt on the Main.
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