The World War One: All Eyes On The Lens

The Museum für Fotografie had been patiently awaiting my visit for far too long already. Plus the exhibition I had my eye on was not going to hang around for ever.  Situated at Berlin Zoologischer Garten it’s a toddle to find, though entry is a little steep at 10 EUR each. Yet I wasn’t about to turn my back on one of the few doors ready to welcome me on a Sunday.

(If you’re not careful, Sundays can leave you at a loss. With just an empty fridge and grumbling gut for company, you often have to learn the hard way. Everything shuts down on Sundays. Unless you made it into Berghain, you’ll face rejection time and time again from one shop door after another. So if you’re ‘up and at em’, I suggest working on that museum hit list.)

Marking the 100th anniversary since the outbreak of World War 1, The Photography in World War 1 exhibition opened last year in November. The location itself is a marvel as the museum used to house the Territorial Army officer’s mess. Unbelievably apt for the exhibition, the building was then transformed into a reserve military hospital during World War 1.

Beginning the exhibition with what looks like an ordinary machine gun, you soon discover this photography gun was adapted to shoot 600 images a minute rather than 600 bullets a minute. Telling the story of photography throughout the war, rather than that of war through photography, the display is clearly and thematically presented. Spurred on by huge leaps in technology at the time, photography was at the heart of documentation and reconnaissance. Multiple aerials and panoramas demonstrate their importance for navigation; meanwhile many shots were of course, purely for propaganda or press photography on the home front.


Photography’s role within medicine was equally as prominent and makes for a brutal collection of wounded close ups. Inhumane images are accompanied by explanations; some leading to a cure or solution of sorts, others not.

Personal photographs from amateurs are also exhibited. For a fleeting moment you are transported into a world of filth, barbed wire, sludge and gunfire. Admittedly a complete and utter amateur myself, it was just phenomenal to lay eyes on the printed product, seen and taken from a camera once held by a soldier at war.

The exhibition runs till the 22nd March so there is still time to catch this unforgettable display of history. Once there, you can also check out Helmut Newton’s permanent loan selection.  It’s impossible to miss his work. Five large black and white nude prints greet you in the entrance, leading the way to the rest of his portrait, fashion and nude collection. You can definitely make a Sunday of it.

By Alice Higgins
Alice joined the Berlin start up scene in July 2014 and works for an online travel company. Originally from London UK, she swapped one capital for another and now details her latest discoveries on DiaryDE.

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