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PROGRESS AS A PROMISE. INDUSTRIAL PHOTOGRAPHY IN DIVIDED GERMANY

  • Highlights
  • Economy & Politics
The exhibition in the Pei Building of the German Historical Museum Berlin is the first to systematically examine the visual language of the different political and social systems in both parts of Germany before 1989 in the field of industrial photography. The focus is on modes of depicting progress in commissioned industrial photography.

The exhibition presents a selection of photographic works commissioned by West German companies and East German businesses during the decades of German division between 1949 and 1990.


For the first time, these impressive photographs are shown in the context of their contemporary use: namely, in diversely designed print media of the steel, chemical, textile and automotive industries.

The selected photographs of the production processes in factories, the workers and the finished products illustrate how photography and its contextualization convey the respective narratives of upswing.

Dramatically illuminated production halls, glowing steel, seemingly endless assembly lines, broad smiles on soot-smeared faces - behind these probably best-known motifs of industrial photography are promises: the prospect of more consumption, more beautiful and functional products, higher quality of work and life, technical advancement. In short: progress.

Selected photographs of the production processes in factories, the workers inside, and the finished products will be used to illustrate how photography and its contextualization convey the respective narratives of upswing.

In the course of the four decades of German-German division, what was considered progressive and thus worthy of representation changed. This change, in turn, allows conclusions to be drawn about the change in overall societal priorities and desires.

Especially at the time of the economic revival after worldwar 2 in divided Germany, promises of the future gained in importance. Smoking chimneys, smiling soot-smeared faces, seemingly endless assembly lines - behind these probably best-known motifs of industrial photography are promises: the prospect of more consumption, ever better, more beautiful and more functional products, and a generally enhanced quality of life.


  • The exhibition is curated by Carola Jüllig and Stefanie Regina Dietzel.

Deutsches Historisches Museum, Unter den Linden 2, 10117 Berlin

1675386001