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Collection – Photography

The Photography collection comprises around 290,000 photographic works from the early beginnings of photo history in Frankfurt to the present day. Nearly all photographic methods and techniques are covered: from the daguerreotype, black-and-white print and colour print to digital print – from glass negatives to digital photo files. 

The collection contains individual works, series and photo albums by professional photographers and photo studios, as well as by amateurs and snapshot photographers. High-quality artists’ proofs stand next to documentary photographs and private photos. The genesis of the collection reveals not only the landmarks of photographic history, but also the development of medial history through to the 21st century. Since the museum was founded in 1878, photographs have been given the same status as drawings and art prints; integrated into the graphic collection, they serve as documentation of the city’s history and identity. This new medium from 1839 has proved to be an excellent way of visually capturing the accelerated change processes occurring in the city’s topography and the  historic events since the mid-19th century.

Portrait and cityscape in the 19th century
As well as the cityscape and architectural images – including by Carl Abt, Carl Böttcher, Theodor Creifelds, Carl Friedrich Fay and Karl Hertel – the most extensive collection of Carl Friedrich Mylius’ photographs is one of the most prominent treasures of the 19th century. The portrait collection also includes historically significant daguerreotypes by photographer Jacob Seib of parliamentarians in the St. Paul’s Church in Frankfurt (1848) and coloured portraits of Frankfurt citizens on salt paper from the studio of Fritz and Julie Vogel as well as Steinberger &Bauer.

The development of modern photography in the 20th century
During the 20th century, the collection expanded to include – alongside city images, city history and portraits – artist and report photography, as well as special collections on the First and Second World War.

Today, the inventory of photographers comprises more than 600 names, including – for the first half of the 20th century – 800 glass negatives by Carl Abts and works from the studio of Paul Wolff & Tritschler, which document the Frankfurt Old Town in a special way. The modernity of the New Frankfurt is represented by works from Hermann Collischonn, Grete Leistikow, Martha Hoepffner and Ilse Bing. The political confrontation shortly before the National Socialist dictatorship shows a series of photographs by photographer Gisèle Freund depicting demonstrations on Labour Day.

Since the museum was reopened in 1972, large omnibus volumes which are still being developed have arrived as part of various exhibition and collection projects. These include the photograph estate of Friedrich Lauffer and Max Göllner, the stereonegative collection of Wilhelm Straub and the archive of National Socialist photo journalist Otto Emmel.

Artistic positions
As of the 1980s, the photo collection has been continually supplemented with purchases of thematic series which artistically sound out the cityscape or examine political and social phenomena: Martin Starl’s study of the  Frankfurter Wasserhäuschen , Gerald Domenig’s pictures from Frankfurt, the photo series of mosques by Rami Tufi and the project “Demolition Frankfurt” by Meike Fischer are perfect examples of the transformation in the city. As well as these, the enquiries into the living and working conditions of guest workers by Erika Sulzer-Kleinemeier, the portraits of the homeless and the documentation of urban warfare in Westend by Abisag Tüllmann refer to the social upheaval within the city’s society.

New collection themes: Fashion, protest culture and migration
At the end of the 1990s, the acquisition of the photo archive belonging to the Frankfurter Modeamt (Frankfurt fashion office) during National Socialism triggered a collection focus on fashion photography which was able to be expanded thanks to considerable growth in the work of the Institut für Modeschaffen and the fashion studio of Toni Schiesser and with omnibus volumes from fashion photographers, including Lilo Gwosdz and Regina Relang.

The photo documentation of the protest culture and new social movements in Frankfurt also meant that a new theme could be established, depicting the actions of the student, trainee and youth centre movement and urban warfare in Frankfurt, as well as the Occupy camp and the Blockupy demonstrations.  The activities of the women’s movement are represented by recordings from the estate of photographer Gerda Jäger.

The exhibition projects of the “Migration Gallery” enriched the collection from 2005 to 2011 with photographic portraits of Italian-born Frankfurters by Gunter Klötzer and with three black-and-white series by Heiko Arendt on migration themes in the city.

Additions to the collection
The photographic collection is constantly growing thanks to small and large gifts and donations in kind from Frankfurters, who pass on their souvenir photos or albums from their ancestors to the museum to sift through and select, as well as large, professional estates. 
Two new donations represent this development: the selection of 1,700 black-and-white photographs and slides from international Swedish photographer Calle Hesslefors is presented. From the 1960s to the end of the 1990s, he reported about political and cultural topics from Frankfurt, the U.S. Army, the jazz scene and developed two illustrated books about the rhythm of life in Frankfurt together with the city’s press office.
The estate of police chief constable and photographer Fred Prase, with its social studies of the Frankfurt Bahnhofsviertel, is only now being viewed and inventoried. His pictures of this district near a railway station – his precinct – tell stories from the 1980s about victims and perpetrators, about the everyday lives of prostitutes, drug addicts and the homeless, about the living spaces of immigrants and the work of the police, all with deep sympathy.

Photography  literature(28 kb, pdf)