Robert Lebeck (1929 – 2014, Berlin) ranks among the great masters of German photojournalism. ‘Hierzulande’ (‘In These Parts’) brings together selected reportages shot in Germany during the years from 1955 to 1983. The exhibition, which is on view at f3 – freiraum für fotografie from September 8 to November 19, 2022, is a treasure trove of visual impressions: we witness the rebellious spirit of a young generation in post-war Germany; East Berliners shopping on the Karl Marx Boulevard before there was a Berlin Wall; the seaside resort of Kampen on Sylt which, in the 1950s, changed from a small fishing village into a playground for the rich and beautiful; the last German prisoners of war being released at Herleshausen station in 1955; and insights into the political events that shaped the Federal Republic.
Lebeck captured people kissing, dancing and drinking, but also during times of suffering and pain. With his personal charisma and rare gift for quiet observation, he was able to get close to his protagonists. In 1983, he set out on a road-trip to create his series ‘Germany in March’ – driving aimlessly and without a specific plan. The images he gathered range from exuberant carnival revellers to a dying forest in the Swabian region, from hunger and poverty in the port of Hamburg to an old lady examining underwear on sale. With an unerring eye, Lebeck documented the big and small moments of daily life, capturing a piece of history in the process. The photographs he took in Germany presented his greatest challenge: “Extracting a powerful image from familiar, everyday surroundings requires effort and a capacity for abstract thinking. Photographing your own country is difficult.”
Lebeck’s work has become an integral part of Germany’s cultural memory – and yet, even today his scenes are as lively and relatable as ever.