Barbara Klemm

Dramatics of the Moment

How does the past become lodged in our memories? In the form of stories and pictures. Since time memorial, writers have tried to stop us forgetting. Be it Homer praising the bravery of the Greeks besieging Troy or Shakespeare admiring the beauty of his lover: The written word expresses permanence. The visual memory of the applied arts, namely sculpture and painting, renders the past visible. Auguste Rodin turns the stooped gait of the “Citizens of Calais” into oppressive reality, Max Slevogt intimates to us the triumphant gesture of Francisco d’Andrade in his famed role as Don Giovanni. Yet without doubt no visual medium is more suited to preserve an occurrence captured for a moment than is photography.

Barbara Klemm is one the most prominent chroniclers of recent German history. Since the 1960s she has been covering politics and society in both Germanies as a staff photographer attached to the main editorial desk of the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. Entitled “Our Years – Pictures from Germany 1968-1998” these works went on show first in the Berlin Museum of History in 1999 and then, a year later, among others in the Schirn gallery in Frankfurt.

Were Barbara Klemm only to preserve the moment from transience, she could be regarded as one of many good photographers. The status and unmistakable character of her pictures (and they are often shot in a matter of moments) stems from the fact that they obey the specific dramatics of that one moment, never to be repeated. Be they portraits of politicians in the various constellations of power or somewhat more unspectacular snapshots of everyday life on both sides of what used to be the border separating the two Germanies: Barbara Klemm’s photographs show us intensive life, the meaning of which flares up for a moment and then by dint of the photographs continues to be visible.

Biographical information

1939

born in Münster/Westfalen

since 1959

works for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, since 1970 as staff photographer, especially for the political parts of the paper and its section on literature and the arts

1989

Dr.-Erich-Salomon-Preis der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Photographie

2000

Hessischer Kulturpreis

since 2000

honorary professorship at the Fachhochschule Darmstadt

lives in Frankfurt/Main