Sunday, October 30, 2011

Assignment 2: Stadt Museum

Having decided not to take any more photographs for this set, an opportunity arose which I could not drop.  A friend wanted to visit Munich's Stadt Museum, dedicated to the history of Munich. I had thought about this a few times, the museum offers two key opportunities to add material to this assignment.  The first is simply that the galleries are on the 1st and second floors directly overlooking the Platz and so providing a new vantage point from which to image the area.  The second is more difficult to work, that is that the museum contains a small gallery dedicated to the darkness of Munich's history, the rise and ultimate destruction of the Nazi party.

When I started this project, I had thought to try to directly connect to imagery of the 3rd Reich, but after time the uplifting nature of the new buildings and people made this more difficult to face let alone integrate into the story.  This museum is not an easy place to be in, the images are disturbing, the legacy it speaks to is of deep horror.  Strangely on visiting the museum it is not the posters, uniforms or official documents that horrify the most, it is seeing the ordinary transformed.  A colour picture of Munich's town hall bedecked in red and black flags, a tablecloth embroidered in swastikas, but most disturbing children's toy soldiers parading in Nazi regalia.  This is difficult at so may different levels.

Before moving onto the Nazi imagery, I started by taking some shots of the Platz from the museum.  The first one is through ground floor barred windows, perhaps symbolic of the remaining distrust in Munich of Jews - it still exists, the Platz is well policed, Neo-Nazis would see this as a place to attack.

Going up one floor I get a good view down into the Platz and one which I find very satisfying, combining a strong geometry, but also picturing people enjoying the square - might be a keeper.

Alternatively this photograph has a tighter crop and a little more movement from the people in the foreground.  It diminishes the formal structure of the space, but adds more humanity.

Going up another floor the view changes once more.  I have lost some of the structure of the first images, but can now combine the older historical buildings that remain in the Platz.  I am less sure of this image, it is more descriptive, but less attractive as a photograph.

Moving into the Nazi Museum, the space is very tight and the lighting is extremely low.  Flash photography is forbidden, not that I would want to use it for such shots, but this means exposure on the edge, this is f/4 at 1/25s and ISO 3200.  With this photograph I have tried to combine the Nazi image of the grasping jew, with the uniform of the party soldiers.  These are not movie props, they are the real thing, used to generate hate and ultimately genocide.  I have processed both in colour and B&W at this stage, both work, however, I find the B&W version more satisfying.

The question is not one of photographic quality or composition, but of narrative and context.  Do I want to start or finish my narrative with a reminder of what once was.  I think so, but am still not sure.  My other photographs are light and strong, this is dark and evil.  Again, the questions this project are asking are not the traditional issues of photography, composition, colour, framing, they are all about how  I want someone to see the photographs as a set and what I want them to take away from the experience.  I also love my city, and whilst fascinated with its' history, do not want to make everything I do here in the frame of the Nazis.

I finished my visit by taking a few more exterior shots that took advantage of the strong low Autumn light:

I still find this graphic quite funny, the Germans add ham to almost everything, tough place for someone with a very particular diet to exist.  I also found the child's bicycle quite funny, many of my shots here have a bicycle chained to a tree in them, this one is simply a little smaller.

I also took another look inside the Jewish museum to see what I could do.  The problem comes down to the strong contrast between the inner darkness and outside world.  This will probably work better in mono.

I am definitely heading in the direction of a monochrome treatment to this set, although I have interesting colour the strong structure and in many cases limited colour range is suggesting B&W.  I also consider that completing one of the these assignments in B&W will help me to develop a broader understanding of the art of photography.

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