Angela Fensch

Women and Children

In 1989, the first photographic essay of a certain young photographer from East Berlin entitled “Kind Frau” (Child Woman) was published by the Swiss Benteli Verlag. It portrays women and their children, for the most part in their own homes. Despite the rather unspectacular subject matter, the book aroused a great deal of interest – particularly in the West. It featured young mothers, some of whom were partially naked, in erotic poses of one degree or another, together with their children. This form of (self) portrayal was totally at odds with the West German image of motherhood, yet equally fascinating for its self-confident, uninhibited femininity.

Angela Fensch was the name of the artist – a qualified librarian who had previously worked for years in front of the camera as a successful photo model, and then also made a name for herself over time with her sophisticated nude portraits. “Erotic photography seemed to keep happening of its own accord and it was fun, too,” says Angela Fensch. There was no market for it. Only the perpetually out-of-print periodical “Das Magazin” was renowned for publishing a nude photograph every month.

After paying her a visit, the Swiss publisher was so taken with the unconventional lifestyle of Fensch and her female friends that he suggested making her portraits the subject of a photographic essay. For a whole year, Angela Fensch proceeded to photograph neighbors, acquaintances and in a few cases strangers, invariably portrayed with their own children. At the subjects’ own request, the collaborative staging of the portraits usually took place in their own homes. However, Fensch’s handprint is still recognizable in every image. It is equally that of experienced model and experienced photographer. The strikingly self-assured poses of the young mothers are almost touching, with their gaze simultaneously revealing the fragility of their apparent emancipation. Nevertheless, we are still presented with sensual women who are also mothers – and not the reverse.

Some 16 years after publishing “Kind Frau”, Angela Fensch set off in search of her subjects with the aim of recapturing them with her camera. It was no easy task to find them all, although many had stayed in the East. Almost all of them wanted to be part of it again. “Gladly, but not naked!” was the most frequent response. The fact that over the past 16 years not only their age and appearance had changed is evident from these new portraits in the series. A certain awareness of how to present themselves had superceded their earlier lack of inhibition and a certain distance to the photographer the almost complicit rapport. Nevertheless, these later works are not only a wonderful complement to the images of the ‘80s, but also an apt reflection of a confident and mature generation of women.

Biographical information

1952

born in Schwerin, Germany

1974 – 1976

education as a photographer, studied photography at the Acedemy of Visual Arts (Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst), Leipzig

2007

awarded with the Kunstpreis (art award) of the city of Bonn, Germany

lives in the Uckermark, Brandenburg and in Berlin