Everything You Never Knew You Wanted to Know About Berlin
But more likely than not you do. He was one of those Berlin photographers who, like Zille before him, documented the everyday life of the city. He too left a collection of images so striking and real that in time they began to live lives of their own. Snapshots of street scenes, thoughtfully shot pictures of the animals at the old Berlin zoo, well-posed photos of beautiful, sporty girls… We are talking 1930s here, when the cult of a firm, muscular but first and foremost healthy body was about to reach its peak and Seidenstücker held this moment on the light-sensitive paper.
However, despite the timing it would be wrong to search for a political background to his interest in them: the images of girls with bows and arrows, of female swimmers, of dancers have a lightness to them that, for example, Leni Riefenstahl´s photos seem to lack. When looking at her photos I can hear the thud of marching boots behind me. When admiring Seidenstücker´s images, I hear giggling and laughter.
Animals were his next favourite topic. He became a sort of a court photographer for the zoo in the days when it was considered by many to be the most beautiful zoological garden in the world. But Seidenstücker didn´t limit his field of action only to its walled arena – he took the camera outside and created some of the best animal photos in Europe. They were partly collected in his book Von Tieren Und Menschen (“Of Animals and People” – and this order seems to be fully intentional). Which you can buy in an antique bookshop or on Amazon for a couple of euros. Or you can put on your shoes and swaddle your mid-parts in warm underwear (or the other way round but who am I to tell you in which order to get dressed) and cycle to Alte Jakobstrasse 124-128 in Kreuzberg 10969.
The Berlinische Galerie, part of the Berlin´s Museum of Modern Art, Photography and Architecture, is presenting Friedrich Seidenstücker´s works from the 1st of October until February 2012 in a retrospective that was long overdue. And only a stroke of luck makes this event possible: after Seidenstücker´s death in 1966 he grew slowly forgotten and his estate – the works, negatives and papers – were of hardly any interest to anyone. Until 1971 when someone stumbled upon them in a Trödelladen (a junk shop selling mostly objects whose owners are already deceased) and for an exceedingly modest price of DM 500 bought them for the Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz (the Image Archive of the Prussian Cultural Heritage). 200 of those images are part of the current exhibition. Which you could go and see this weekend. It will be cold outside.