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Deutsches Technikmuseum - #portrait

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

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The donation contains six locations:

B/W photo: Historical full-body portrait in sepia: A man wearing a peaked hat and a work apron, smoking a cigar. He is holding a large knife in one hand and a large joint of meat in the other, which he is pressing down on a table draped with a white cloth.

Portrait of a butcher, Russia, 1865.

Black-and-white photo: Historical full-body portrait of a young woman with an umbrella and large hat. The picture was taken in a studio.

Portrait of a woman, photo studio M. Appel Berlin, around 1910.

Black-and-white photo: Portrait of an older woman carrying a small dog. She is wearing a string of pearls with pearl earrings, and her hair is pinned up.

Portrait, woman with dog, location unknown, 1937.

Colour photo: Self-portrait of a photographer wearing a black suit, taken using the self-timer function of a Rolleiflex camera on a tripod.

Self-portrait of a photographer, location unknown, around 1970.

#portrait

A story of staged portrait photography

Small gallery, photo technology exhibition (Beamtenhaus, 2nd floor)

15 May to 20 October 2019

Framed family photographs on the wall, passport photos of loved ones kept in a wallet or album and snapshots sent by smartphone – we frequently encounter portraits.

Black-and-white photo: Historical full-body photos of a woman. She wears a long, tight-fitting dress in dark colour. The furniture and plants in the studio are used as props. A bible rests on the table.

Full-body portrait of a woman, photo studio Karl Wahl, Berlin-Wedding, around 1900.

Around 250 portrait photos reveal the variety of motifs used in this genre of photography. The images are assigned to four categories, depending on their purpose: They are still framed, collected, stuck into albums or used as messages, as they were in the past. Motifs in black-and-white are juxtaposed with their counterparts in colour.

Portraits – More than just a face

Portraits – so shots of people – are taken in all conceivable situations and for many purposes. This definition creates a broad framework for portraits included in the exhibition. Portrait photos embody the interaction between the persons in front of and behind the camera, as well as how, where and when the picture was taken and by whom it is seen. Portraits are frequently staged: by the photographer or the people who would like to be presented in a very particular way.

From artistic, unique items to a deluge of images

Portrait photography emerged in 1840, building on the tradition of portrait painting. The Berlin photographer and portrait artist Karl Wahl, for instance, was a master of both disciplines: He also offered to retouch the photos using oil paint and pastel.

Topics and occasions to create portraits become more diverse as this style of photography moves out of the studios and into the everyday lives of their subjects. But one thing remains the same in the selection of the motif: People take shots of things that matter to them.

Colour photo: Semi-profile of a young man carrying a cat. The message "Life partner" next to a heart symbol is added on the bottom edge of the image.

Greeting, man with cat, Berlin, 2019. © Private

The ability to take colour or digital photographs does not diminish the fascination with portrait pictures, either – quite the contrary. People present themselves on a daily basis, producing a deluge of images: There are currently more than 90 million images with the hashtag #portrait on the photo platform Instagram.

Where is your photo?

The exhibition is a potpourri tracing 16 decades of staged portrait photography. Every visitor will discover some connection to their own photographic history in this colourful mixture – be it in front of or behind the camera. After all, everyone's photos can be assigned to one of the following categories: framed, collected, stuck in an album or sent around the world.

The exhibition is a joint project by the trainees at Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin: Theresa Hahn, Antonia Oelke, Dirk Schreiber, Tatjana Teller, Eveliene Veen, Isabel Wanger und Frank Zwintzscher.

Header: Three black-and-white portraits of a young woman, photo booth "Photomaton", Berlin-Friedrichstraße, around 1930. © SDTB / Historisches Archiv

© For all photos: SDTB / Historisches Archiv, unless otherwise stated