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Deutsches Technikmuseum - The Internet as a place

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The Websites of the donation Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin at a glance:


The donation contains six locations:

Photo: A router is neatly arranged on a piece of wooden furniture beside a decorative jug and a pot plant.

The Internet is what comes out of the router: This is what the router corners in six different Cairo apartments look like:

Photo: The picture shows the former apartment of Heinrich Holtgreve in Cairo. The router here is located on the tiled floor between two pot plants, a cactus and a small tree without any leaves.

Still life with cactus, router and small tree.

Photo: A chair with a router on it stands next to a small table. A corded telephone is placed on it, partially concealed by textiles.

Permanent provisional arrangement ...

Photo: A black router sits on a small side table next to a couch.

The router on the side table ...

Photo: A large tangle of cables can be seen on a bright parquet floor: Multi-power strip, modem and router. Other cables lead to a small kidney-shaped table with two telephones.

Permanent provisional arrangement II ...

Poto: Search image: Between a fan with oriental flourishes, a stool covered with a cloth and thin seat mats on the floor, a gilded socket which is already detaching itself from the wall can be seen. The router must be somewhere in there.

Search image - the router must be somewhere in there.

The Internet as a place

Photographs by Heinrich Holtgreve

25 October 2017 to 18 February 2018

Gallery of the Photo Technology permanent exhibition, Beamtenhaus 2nd floor

More than 3.7 billion people all over the world have access to the Internet. Half of humanity is surfing, chatting or streaming. But what actually is the Internet? Can you visit it and is it nice there?

Photo: Here you can see the low, rectangular-cut boxwood trees planted in rows in the E-Shelter data centre in Frankfurt am Main. They pick up the design of the server room located in the building.

Photo: View into the British Telecom data centre in Frankfurt am Main: From a long, bright and straight corridor, doors on the right and left lead to rooms exactly opposite one another.

The architecture of the Internet: The front garden of the E-Shelter data centre (top) and the British Telecom data centre, both in Frankfurt am Main, harmonise perfectly. (2014)

Hamburg photographer Heinrich Holtgreve has been looking for a place named Internet. This search has resulted in images with a quite individual, sober aesthetic. They show LAN sockets in Cairo apartments, rooms full of cables in East Frisia or the deserted architecture of data centres in Frankfurt.

Searching for th Internet …

From 25 October 2017 until 18 February 2018, the Deutsches Technikmuseum will be presenting 26 photographs by Heinrich Holtgreve.

Both colour and black-and-white shots from the series "The Internet as a Place" will be on display. This exhibition, newly organised with the direct involvement of the photographer, combines the most varied picture sizes, from the small-scale room view up to room-filling landscape wallpaper.

In his works, Holtgreve approaches the visibility of the Internet cautiously and in a variety of ways. That is a real challenge, since the Net – despite its ubiquity – is not really something tangible in the minds of many people.

Terms such as "Cloud" support the image of the Internet as an abstract entity without materiality. There are, however, very concrete and visible indications of the existence of the Internet, as documented by Holtgreve’s photographs.

… from Cairo …

Holtgreve started his search in Egypt. The country forms a so-called "choke point", an Internet bottleneck.

Photo: A multi-storey residential building in Cairo, with many cables, antennas and satellite dishes attached.

A residential building in downtown Cairo: Cables, antennas and satellite dishes reveal that the occupants are connected to the Internet.

This is where numerous underwater cables which run together between Europe and Asia are bundled, including the four glass fibre underwater cables FLAG Europe-Asia, SEA-ME-WE 3, SEA-ME-WE 4 and IMEWE. These cables transport about 90 percent of all data between the two continents.

Even if these connections cannot be seen from land, Holtgreve found numerous indicators pointing to the Internet. Under an inconspicuous manhole cover on the Alexandria waterfront, for example, lies the SEA-ME-WE 3, which connects the towns of Norden in East Frisia and Busan in South Korea.

… via Frankfurt …

Holtgreve has also documented many Internet locations in Germany. The biggest network node in the world, named DE-CIX, is located in Frankfurt am Main. Distributed across the city are so-called "core switches", connecting devices in computer networks which form the backbone of the Internet. More data is transferred here than in any other place in the world.

There are signs of the Internet in the garden architecture in the grounds of the E-Shelter data centre. Rectangular-cut boxwoods pick up the design of the server rooms located in the building.

Photo: In the white tiled cellar room of the Competence Center Submarine Cables of Deutsche Telekom in East Frisia, numerous cables enter the picture from the lower right corner and are led on steel supports to the upper left.

View into the cellar of the Competence Center Submarine Cables (CCSC) of Deutsche Telekom in East Friesland. (2014)

… to East Frisia

Holtgreve encountered the Internet not only in large cities but also in remote regions. In the Competence Center Submarine Cables (CCSC) of Deutsche Telekom in the small town of Norden in East Frisia, he photographed a broken piece of underwater cable salvaged from the seabed. This sort of damage to underwater cables occurs frequently and has far-reaching consequences. This illustrates how physically vulnerable the Internet still is.


Heinrich Holtgreve was born in Bochum in 1987 and graduated in 2013 in Bielefeld as a designer. It was about this time that his search for the Internet began. Zeit magazine dedicated a single issue to the images resulting from this search, making the young photographer famous.
Since 2016, Holtgreve has been involved with the renowned Ostkreuz photographers agency in Berlin. He lives and works as a freelance photographer in Hamburg.

Header photo: View into the inner workings of the E-shelter data centre in Frankfurt am Main. Power and data cables are running under the removed cover.

© All photographs: Heinrich Holtgreve / OSTKREUZ