Sigrid Neubert (*1927) is one of Germany’s most renowned architectural photographers. In the past six decades, she has produced aesthetic images of modern buildings and urban landscapes. Later, Neubert was also interested in nature photography while creating poetic, partly mystical imagery. A selection of works by Sigrid Neubert is currently on display in the Museum für Fotografie (Museum of Photography) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin . The exhibition runs until June 3rd, 2018.
Miriam Bers talked to the two curators of the exhibition – the head of the photography collection of the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library) Dr. Ludger Derenthal, and the architect and art historian Dr. Frank Seehausen.
MB: Mr. Derenthal, according to which criteria do you create your program?
LD: In the Museum of Photography we present the whole history of this important visual medium from its beginning in the middle of the 19th century to the present day, often in thematic exhibitions and with works from our collection.
MB: How did the current cooperation with you and Frank Seehausen come about?
LD: We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to compile a representative selection from the comprehensive archive of Sigrid Neubert and incorporate the works into our collection. Therefore it was our aspiration to create an exhibition that involves her complete oeuvre – landscape and architectural photography. We curated the exhibition together: I was responsible for the nature part and Frank Seehausen, who also wrote the book about Sigrid Neubert’s architectural photography that will soon be published by Hirmer, took care of the architecture section.
MB: The current exhibition with works by Sigrid Neubert summarized in four keywords?
FS: The architectural photography is presented in four thematic chapters as the core of Neubert’s lifework with manifold references to her free work. We aim to encourage visitors to search for points of view, motives, similarities and differences. Archival material and, above all, architectural drawings make the dialogue between the photographer and the architects comprehensible.
LD: Talking about the landscape photography, two aspects are important to me: Sigrid Neubert has used photography both as a medium of expressing emotions as well as a medium for the development of a unique design vocabulary which together form a very instructive contrast.
MB: What do you think about the relationship between Sigrid Neubert’s architectural photography and the New Vision (Neues Sehen)? The press release also refers to 1950s American photography…
FS: In her architectural photography, Neubert has increasingly distanced herself from the US influences of the 1950s and gradually developed her own formal and content-related approach by carefully working out not only the plasticity of the buildings, but also the interaction of the buildings with the environment and its residents. In comparison, we also show works by Julius Shulman, who influenced Neubert in the 1950s.
MB: Architectural photography can be very elaborate. Which techniques did Sigrid Neubert apply? Did she work in a team?
FS: Neubert mostly worked on her own utilizing only a few facilities. For more than 30 years, she used a field camera and preferred to shoot in black and white on 9×12 glass negatives until the 1970s. This generated particularly high-contrast images in perfect technical quality. However, these harsh contrasts – that were characteristics of her work – were not only stylistic device but should also compensate the poor print quality of many architecture magazines. For Neubert it was important to enter an intensive dialogue with the buildings, which in a sense, she regarded as the representative of the architect’s personality.
MB: The current exhibition also includes landscape photography – atmospheric interpretations of the same – that the artist has focused on over the last few decades. How do you explain her dedication to nature?
LD: After many years of producing commission works for architects and magazines, Sigrid Neubert has created her own field of artistic impact. She has always worked in thematic categories, working on some topics for decades. This shows how intensively she has thought about the medium of photography and its possibilities.
MB: Last but not least a question to you, as the two curators of the exhibition: What kind of photography can be found in your living room?
LD: A lightbox with a black-and-white photograph of Reiner Leist showing the skyline of New York.
FS: An architectural photograph by Franz Lazi from Stuttgart produced in 1950.
Photos: © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek / Sigrid Neubert