Gerd Danigel

Everything stays different

The question, what ultimately and definitively brought about the end of the division of Germany, has produced many theories: From realpolitik to the desire of the people for freedom, from the border regime to David Hasselhoff, a wide range of correlating reasons emerges in retrospect. In the glut of academic work dealing with the fall of the Berlin Wall, a study published in 1999 on the history of consumer culture in former East Germany comes to the sobering conclusion that rather than revolutionary ideals, it was the temptations of consumerism in West Germany that drove people onto the streets of East Berlin in 1989.

Born in East Berlin in 1959, photographer Gerd Danigel examines the lives of people who eked out their living in the capital city before and after German Reunification with an altogether unpretentious approach. His photographs of Berlin between 1978 and 1998 taken from his 2011 book “Schöner unsere Paläste!” present black-and-white impressions of workers, schoolchildren, couples and of the environment in which people live – on the streets, in public squares and in back yards. In his photographs, Danigel assumes the role of a participating observer, who portrays his subjects, both human and urban, perceptively, but not uncritically. Children pose proudly and without inhibition for his camera; but his pictures of people in public spaces reveal their insecurity and resignation.

On his countless expeditions through the city, Danigel transforms moments of empathy and astonishing chance constellations into unique images of timeless quality. Such as the signs in the windows of small specialist stores shortly before the fall of the Wall that stand in comic contrast to the assortment of goods on display. But as well as tragic irony, a playful amusement is inherent in Danigel’s view of the world, revealing not a criticism of ideology as its driving force, but affectionate curiosity.

Today, Berlin is still the subject of Gerd Danigel’s creative work. His way of life and the themes he deals with in his work are closely linked: Mingling with the people whose everyday lives he captures on film, he can still be found at flea markets in Berlin today, where one can browse through his photographic archive in the hope of finding contemporary gems.

Biographical information

1959

born in East Berlin in the former German Democratic Republic;
begins photographing at the age of 14

1975-1978

professional training as a gas mechanic

1985-1990

works as a staff photographer at the National Institute for Cultural Monuments, East Berlin

1991

begins working as a freelance photographer

1998

publishes his first photobook Leben in Prenzlauer Berg

2001

publishes the photobook Schöner unsere Paläste! Berlin-Fotografien 1978-1998

Gerd Danigel lives and works in Berlin, Germany.