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25.10.2021

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The oil crisis at the beginning of the seventies brought about far-reaching political, cultural and economic change. Its dynamics and impact on virtually all areas of business and living can still be felt to this day. The consequences included the decline of the Eastern Bloc and, in the West, the transition from an industrial to a service-provider society, which resulted in the disappearance of entire industries and the loss of thousands of jobs. The basic premise of “jobs forever” no longer applied.

Wolfgang Steche's photo book, titled Wirtschaftsfotografie, takes a look at the great socio-economic upheaval in West Germany, during the seventies and eighties. The photographs give visible expression to the widespread technological changes that took place. They show professions, companies, equipment and products, which today remain only as distant memories.

Steche's work is impressive. He is not only an artist, but also an explorer and keeper of an era, as publicist Manfred Bissinger establishes in his foreword to the book. The unconditional proximity to reality in his pictures is captivating. None of the images appear staged; none are smoothed out. Steche's photographs document his broad interest in people and their areas of work. He sees them and tells their story. It is rare that the protagonists are looking into the camera, as they are focused on their tasks. This is only possible because Steche is one of the “quiet ones”, as photographer Robert Lebeck once commented. He keeps to the background, observing rather than intervening. Steche uses “his Leica” for many of his photo reportages. In addition to the handiness and flexibility of an M4 or M5, he – the quiet one – appreciates the discrete sound of the trigger release.

With this book, Steche not only ensures that the images become part of our collective, visual memory, but also lays down the foundation for any future dealings with this exciting era and its developments. (Stefan Sauer)

Wolfgang Steche: Wirtschaftsfotografie
Fotos und Reportagen aus den 1970er und 1980er Jahren
128 pages, 320 black and white images
German, 29 × 24 cm
morisel Verlag

A display of Wolfgang Steche's work can be seen at the Galerie C7 in Mannheim, until May 22, 2022.
Chimney builders in the Harburg area of the Hamburg Harbour, 1973. Photographed with a Leica M4 (non-commissioned work).
Deutsche Bundespost postal train en route from Hamburg to Stuttgart, 1985. Photographed with a Leica M4 (for BUNTE).
Deutsche Bundespost postal train en route from Hamburg to Stuttgart, 1985. Photographed with a Leica M4 (for BUNTE).
Doctor working 24-hour shift, Links der Weser Clinic, Bremen, 1985. Photographed with a Leica M4 (non-commissioned).
Doctor working 24-hour shift, Links der Weser Clinic, Bremen, 1985. Photographed with a Leica M4 (non-commissioned).
© Leif-Erik Schmitt

Wolfgang Steche

...has worked for renowned international and national magazines and newspapers (including Die Zeit, Stern, Der Spiegel, Newsweek, Time Life), for over five decades. He specialises in political portraits and photo reportages dealing with the economy, environment, architecture and medicine. Steche – a founding member of FREELENS – has lived in the USA, Canada and Japan. He has been a member of the VISUM Photo Agency, since 1982. In 1994, he was appointed to the German Society for Photography (DGPh).

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