Protests and politically motivated demonstrations have a long history. The history of their portrayal is equally long – in paintings, drawings and, for many decades, also in photography. Citizens take an active and physical stand against decisions and conditions with which they disagree and which they believe they cannot influence through conventional political participation. In doing so, they defy those in power and their representatives.
Demonstrations are a form of political action that is defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 and is entrenched in democratic states as a rule through the right of assembly. This right did not apply in the former East Germany. People were only allowed to demonstrate at party rallies approved by the regime. For eight-year-old Julian Röder, it must therefore have been all the more remarkable and impressive, when, in autumn 1989, right outside his door in East Berlin, thousands of East Germans took to the streets to demand freedom of opinion and assembly while state television broadcast news of an insurgent "anarchist mob". This was his first encounter with political protest and its portrayal in the media.
Twelve years later, he took part in the protests at the G8 summit in Genoa as a sympathizer of the so-called "black bloc" of the globalization-critical movement. Some 300,000 participants from a wide social, religious and political spectrum took part in one of the largest demonstrations in the history of political summits. Röder, by then a professional photographer, began to take pictures of events on the periphery of the security zone. His photographs from Genoa were the first in an extensive series that would take him to numerous other summits in the years to come. The images focus above all on the protest itself rather than the concerns of the demonstrators. As a sympathetic, yet increasingly detached insider, he managed to bring order and calm to the often chaotic events in his photographs, making the clashes between protesters and security forces seem almost choreographed. They include well-composed scenes on the fringes of the action that appear deceptively peaceful, sometimes even rather bizarre, and have only little similarity with the way the protests are generally presented in the media. Röder deliberately chose this approach to create photographs that captivate the observer and attract the necessary attention to transport their content.
The photographs in Julian Röder's "The Summits" series provide a canon of images for the protest movement of the early 21st century. For the artist, these photographs marked the beginning of an intensive photographic exploration of the interplay between power and economy, which he continued in his subsequent series.
born in Erfurt, grew up in Berlin
1999 – 2002
vocational training as a photographer at Ostkreuz – Agentur der Fotografen
2003 – 2009
studied photography at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig and the Hochschule für Angewandte Wissenschaften Hamburg
lives in Berlin