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Nice Neat Picture World – Learning to Look Away?

2. June 2021 – 3. June 2022
Exhibition building, Frankfurt Once?
Nice Neat Picture World – Learning to Look Away?” will shed light on an epoch in the history of photography in Frankfurt distinguished by a massively manipulative structure: photojournalism under National Socialism.

The oeuvre of the photographer Otto Emmel (1888–?), who was at the height of his career in the Nazi period, will serve here as a case in point. Emmel’s photojournalistic and other photographic works were published regularly in the Frankfurter Zeitung. The examples to be presented in the exhibition revolve around everyday life in the city, political and cultural events, celebrations and sports. The photos show human interaction between individuals, within and between groups in the urban space. How was the city’s architecture used for the aesthetic formation of Nazi ideology? And what role did photographers play in the process?

The exhibition will examine photographic motifs offering insights into daily life under National Socialism from the various perspectives we, as viewers of the present, adopt in our perception of the visual media today: for example the political, psychological, social, emotional, and artistic perspectives. How did the images create and steer public discussion by way of their rhetorical function? How did they shape the depiction of everyday life and society in the Nazi system? How did they appeal to the individual viewer? And what did they leave out?
The presentation “Nice Neat Picture World” will also show how critical contemporaries sought to describe that medium’s functions and forms. Here the focus will be on the interplay between the viewer and the photograph.
The estate of Otto Emmel of Frankfurt is one of several surviving major estates of photojournalists active in Frankfurt in the Nazi era and is now in the holdings of the HMF. Emmel’s biography will be reconstructed to the extent possible within the framework of the presentation.

“Nice Neat Picture World” will also set the scene for the comprehensive special exhibition “Frankfurt and National Socialism – A City Plays Along” opening at the HMF on the 28th October 2021.


Devoted to the theme “IDEOLOGIES”, the fourth edition of the international triennial RAY Photography Projects Frankfurt/Rhein Main, taking place from 3rd June to 12th September 2021, will examine manipulative structures in ideologies currently gaining strength in our society.
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