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Photographic Concepts and Treasures – Works from the Collection

Part 1 – Portraiture, Landscape, Botany | extended until July 21, 2022

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the exhibition has to remain closed from Friday, July 1st to Sunday, July 3rd.


In 2022, Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur celebrates the 25th year of its exhibition program in Cologne’s Mediapark, launched in 1997 under the forward-looking title “Comparative Concepts.” This anniversary offers an occasion to present many works from the collection in two exhibitions, each with its own focus, enabling Die Photographische Sammlung to provide visitors with a broad overview of its holdings.

With over 400 exhibits, the current presentation focuses on the central themes of “Portraiture, Landscape, Botany” as illustrated by the work of 25 historical and contemporary artistic photographers. A second exhibition to follow from September 2 will spotlight the related areas of “Urban Life, Architecture, Industry.” Viewers will discover a variety of links between the two presentations.

The portrait genre will be examined first, based on the work of August Sander, whose archive has provided vital inspiration for the institution’s collection and program concept. With his iconic series “Citizens of the Twentieth Century,” represented in the current show by over 50 original prints, Sander took the photographic portrait in a new and innovative direction as a method of factual documentary.

The portraits in the collection for example inquire into the relationship between the individual and society, exploring questions of identity and of social, family, and professional circumstances and relationships, and thereby providing a glimpse of various life stages and living conditions. The influence of the ever-changing impulses, possibilities, and synergies over time is very much in evidence here. This connection is particularly vivid in documentary projects that are pursued over longer periods. They show how individuals are continuously shaped by the respective cultural environment. This circumstance is reflected not only in the image they have of their own lives but also in how they respond to their life realities.

Accordingly, the subject areas of landscape and botany are connected with the portrait on many levels. Like portraiture, landscape as both a human habitat and economic and cultural realm reflects temporal phenomena. Botanical studies that are rendered like portraits may come to life as naturalistic individuals or in other cases allude to the world of aesthetics and sculpture.

By offering an opportunity to compare and contrast various photo series, the exhibition compellingly underscores how the unifying criterion of a factual documentary approach accompanied by a defined concept has always been a leitmotif for the activities of Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur. A concentration on this specific current in photography is what defines the collection’s distinctive profile. Rather than representing a cross-section of the history of photography, the aim is to emphasize photographic visions that creatively guide traditional approaches onto new terrain in order to lend them current and future pertinence.

Featuring photographs by Eugène Atget, Lawrence Beck, Laurenz Berges, Karl Blossfeldt, Ursula Böhmer, Christian Borchert, Natascha Borowsky, Paul Dobe, Hans Eijkelboom, Folkwang-Auriga Verlag, Bernhard Fuchs, Candida Höfer, Fred Koch, August Kotzsch, Andreas Mader, Francesco Neri, Simone Nieweg, Gabriele and Helmut Nothhelfer, Albert Renger-Patzsch, Andrea Robbins/Max Becher, Judith Joy Ross, Martin Rosswog, August Sander, Oliver Sieber, Antanas Sutkus, Jerry L. Thompson, and Albrecht Tübke.

Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Im Mediapark 7, 50670 Köln, Tel.: +49 221/888 95 300, E-Mail: photographie( at )sk-kultur.de, www.photographie-sk-kultur.de,

Opening hours: Daily except Wednesdays from 2 to 7 pm

Admission: €6.50 (reduced €4), free the first Monday of the month!

We recommend purchasing an online ticket in advance.

Public tours in German (English on request) take place weekly on Sundays at 3 pm.

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