One of Germany’s better cultural round-up programs is Berlin’s Stilbruch, an excellent weekly show that reports on cultural events going on in town and around the city. I was invited to provide context and offer differentiation between pornography vis-a-vis fine art nude imagery as part of Berlin’s Museum für Fotografie‘s new exhibition Die Nackte Wahrheit / The Naked Truth.
Be warned. It’s about nude photography in the early days. And it’s in German. And they used a funny walking sequence of me for some reason at the very end.
Here’s the museum’s blurb on the show:
At the dawn of the last century, photographs of nudes could be found everywhere. The exhibition ‘The Naked Truth and More Besides’ presents the astonishing diversity of photographic depictions of the disrobed human body that existed around this time. It was an age in which the foundations were laid for the development in the public domain of an extremely varied type of image, which, more than any other, continues to inform the world in which we live today.
Most striking of all, the photographic nude appeared as a reproducible medium – on postcards, cigarette cards, posters, in magazines and in advertising, as inspiration for artists and an incentive for sportsmen, as instructional material, and as collector’s items. From the vast array of material, it is possible to identify several distinct groups that fall under such headings as: the mass produced, visual pleasures (arcadias, eroticism, and pornography), the body in the eye of science (ethnography, motion-study photography, medicine), the cult of the body (reform movements – especially in German-speaking countries – naturism, ‘Free Body Culture’, and staged nudes from the world of sport and variety shows), and, of course, the nude in the artistic context (art academies and the Pictorialist tradition of fine-art prints). The most important characteristic of the image of naked people during this time is the inseparability of nude photographic production and reproduction.
The trade or exchange in nude photographs was widespread across the whole of Europe. This is reflected in today’s exhibition, which not only features many treasures and rare finds from the Kunstbibliothek’s own Collection of Photography, but also includes important loans from several European institutions, ranging from the Bibliothèque nationale de France to the Police Museum of Lower Saxony.