»GFMF Salon Nº9 | Ludwig Schirmer«
Galerie für moderne Fotografie c/o Central Berlin
Space-saving furniture displays and color-coordinated furnishings arranged inside a Leipzig trade fair hall in the late 1960s provide an impression of the yearning in the GDR for progressive and efficient living spaces. Combinations of cabinets and shelves covering living room walls allow for ample storage in as little space as possible. The furniture modules depicted also function as modular system components, which are combinable in individual and pragmatic ways. Produced by furniture manufacturer Kehr, they form part of the Das Baukasten-Programm [modular program] series. One of the manufacturer’s brochures promotes these versatile living room components in an optimistic and future-oriented fashion: “With the modular program, implementing state-of-the-art production technology from cutting to length to finished product is now possible.” A commitment to progress was also highly valued in GDR home décor.
Commercial photographer Ludwig Schirmer captured these furnishings at the Leipzig Furniture Fair with a large-format camera, preserving in the process their austere, linear, and frequently symmetrical arrangements. The ordered compositions of living spaces were livened up with the addition of cheerful, floral, and at times almost psychedelic patterns of living room textiles and wallpapers. In order to convey in the images what living with these arrangements is like, Ludwig Schirmer also brought personal items with him, posing these on tables and sideboards in his views of the furnishings. Thus, in addition to the off-the-shelf products, playful, at times folkloristic items such as a matryoshka doll can be seen, as well as photography books, which Ludwig Schirmer acquired via his close contacts at the Leipzig bookstore Internationales Buch.
Ludwig Schirmer’s photographs of the Leipzig Furniture Fair were originally conceived as advertising photographs—for catalogs or brochures. However, the images have since shed their advertising character. From today’s point of view, the documentary value of the images comes to the fore, allowing them to read as a chronological record of a not-so-distant era and its aesthetics. This is what makes Central Berlin on Strausberger Platz such a fitting venue for the Galerie für Moderne Fotografie’s Salon No. 9, which is dedicated to GDR home décor culture and design. Inside Gallery Central on Karl-Marx-Allee, East Berlin’s former grand boulevard, furnishings and perhaps even design classics of the East are on display alongside Ludwig Schirmer’s authentic images.
Ludwig Schirmer was born in 1919 in Wenigenehrich near Sondershausen (Thuringia). Following an agricultural and milling apprenticeship, he worked for several years as a miller. In 1949, he bought a Primaflex camera and several years later he appeared in a group portrait of the German Cultural Association in Sondershausen as an amateur photographer. Starting in 1955, Ludwig Schirmer’s photographs were published in magazines and daily newspapers, and, in 1959, he was admitted to the German Federation of Journalists (DJV). In 1961, Schirmer stopping working as a miller and moved with his family to Berlin, where he continued to work successfully as an advertising, portrait, and landscape photographer.
Following his death in 2001, Ludwig Schirmer’s daughter Ute Mahler discovered her father’s extensive collection of photographic and documentary works. Together with her husband Werner Mahler, who is also a photographer, Ute Mahler manages her father’s estate.
Text: Constanze Hager
The Galerie für Moderne Fotografie was founded in 2008 by Kirsten Landwehr and is located on Schröderstraße in Berlin’s Mitte district.
The gallery program focuses specifically on the medium of photography and concentrates on presenting internationally established artists as well as discovering young photographic talents.
Featuring exhibitions such as the GDR fashion photography of photographer Roger Melis from the 1960s and 70s, the program encompasses not only fashion photography from the past forty years and rare vintage photos, but also presents current works by established contemporary artists such as Camille Vivier, Ingar Krauss, or Albrecht Fuchs. The gallery is also always on the look out for exciting new positions and shows newcomers such as Karoline Klüppel, a former student of Bernard Prinz, and other singular artist personalities working in portraiture and landscape photography.
In focusing on fashion photography as well as conceptual positions in current (staged) photography, the gallery and its program seek to convey the diversity of approaches in contemporary photography today.
The shows at the gallery’s exhibitions spaces are augmented by regularly programmed presentations of work at the GFMF Salon in various locations around Berlin and abroad.
Central Berlin gallery showcases design classics from the former GDR, augmented with mid-twentieth century furniture from former Czechoslovakia, Poland, Germany, France, Italy, England, the USSR, and the US. The gallery’s location suits the program: Strausberger Platz on Karl-Marx-Allee heading toward Alexanderplatz is a convergence of architectural influences from Soviet “gingerbread style” to the Bauhaus and Schinkel schools. Central Berlin is run by Stephan Schilgen (Interior Berlin), who draws the ever-changing design concepts from KStar Fundus Berlin, his enormous furniture and props warehouse. Central Berlin gallery’s hosting of the GFMF Salon No 9 marks the second partnering with Skjerven Group, which not only recognizes the historical and architectural significance of Strausberger Platz but generously supports the field of photography through its active engagement.