Werkstatt für Photographie 1976–1986
The catalogue of the school Michael Schmidt founded.
We try to help students to recognize or even find their personality, where photography becomes irrelevant with regard to its commercial applicability.
– Michael Schmidt, 1979
In 1976, the Berlin-based photographer Michael Schmidt founded the Werkstatt für Photographie at the adult education center in Kreuzberg. Its course orientation with a focus on a substantive examination of contemporary photography was unique and quickly lead to a profound understanding of the medium as an independent art form. When the institution was closed in 1986, it fell into obscurity.
Werkstatt für Photographie and Essen’s nascent photography scene, the exhibition takes a fresh look at an important chapter in the history of German photography that has been partly obscured by the success story of the Düsseldorf School.
The working-class district of Kreuzberg at the end of the 1970s on the outer edge of West Berlin—and yet the lively center of a unique transatlantic cultural exchange. In the midst of the Cold War, the newly founded Werkstatt für Photographie (Workshop for Photography) located near Checkpoint Charlie started an artistic “air lift” in the direction of the USA, a democratic field of experimentation beyond traditional education and political and institutional standards. A special artistic approach emerged from a dialog between renowned photographers and amateurs, between conceptual approaches and documentary narrations, between technical mediation and substantive critique and altered the styles of many photographers over time thanks to its direct access to their reality. The Werkstatt für Photographie reached the highest international standing with its intensive mediation work through exhibitions, workshops, lectures, image reviews, discussions and specialized courses.