Photographing under Dictatorships of the Twentieth Century: Public Spheres and Photographic Practices

Tagung 26. – 28.10.2016 Humboldt-Universität Berlin


The visibility of power has always been indispensable for dictatorships — and photography was the leading medium of visual representation throughout most of the twentieth century. Particularly in dictatorships that lack independent media outlets, small public spheres or “kleine Öffentlichkeiten” (Gerhards/Neidhardt) can emerge. They are used by different communication communities, also in visual terms. The conference focuses on these various small public spaces and the attempts of dictatorial regimes to control these visual representations of the socio-political order, including private production.


Beyond that, the conference will examine the contents and aesthetics of photography, the conditions under which images are produced on a daily basis and the use and distribution of photos.




Wednesday, 26 October 26

 18.00 Keynote Lecture



Annette Vowinckel (Potsdam/Berlin): Image Agents. Photography as a New field of Action in the 20th Century


Welcome Reception


Thursday, 27 October

9.00 – 11.00

Panel 1: Views from the Fourth Estate: Photojournalism and Press Photography


Katalin Bognár (Budapest): A Country Without Christmas? Topics Missing from the Photograph Archives of the Hungarian Daily Newspaper Szabad Nép, 1949–1956


Rebekka Grossmann (Jerusalem): Global Visions, Envisioned Mobility and Visual Friction: Agency Photographs and the Contested Nature of a ‘National Socialist Aestheticsʾ


Helena Holzberger (Munich): The Visual Shaping of Stalin’s Orient. Photographs of Uzbekistan in the Soviet Press During the First Five-Years-Plan


Commentary: Harriet Scharnberg (Münster)


Coffee Break


11.15 – 13.15

Panel 2: Reverse Shot: Self/Representations in Photo Albums


Tatiana Saburova (Bloomington/Indiana): “Two Generations”: Public, Private, and the Images of Generations in the Soviet Photography


Nathalie Patricia Soursos (Vienna): The Dictator’s Photo-albums: Private and Public Photographs in the Metaxas-Dictatorship


Ulrich Prehn (Berlin): Framing Work: Visual Tropes and Narrative Paradigms in Private and Institutional Photo Albums from Nazi Germany

 Commentary: Elizabeth Harvey




14.30 – 16.45

Panel 3: Close-ups: Localized Photographic Perspectives


Linda Conze (Berlin): Filling the Frame: Crowd Shots of May Day 1934 from Provincial Germany


Fátima Moura Ferreira / Patricia Leal (Minho/Lisbon): Re-reading the Photographic Archive: Political Imaginaries and Propagandistic Mis-en-scène – Portuguese New State


Sandra Starke (Berlin): Between Private and Public: Curt Biella’s Photographic Studio in Gunzenhausen under National Socialism


Julia Werner (Berlin): Shared and Divided Spaces: Photographic Perspectives on Occupied Warsaw (1939-1945)


Commentary: Malte Zierenberg (Berlin)


Coffee Break


17.00 – 19.00

Panel 4: The Artistic Lens: Photographic Appropriations and Interventions


Daria Panaiotti (St. Petersburg): Discipline of the Photographic Gaze: Normative Language and Individual Strategies in the Late-Soviet Documentary Photography


Bertram Kaschek (Dresden): Defensive Mimicry: Christian Borchert’s Photographic Interventions of the Late 1970s and 80s


Briana Smith (Des Moines/Iowa): „Fotografieren Verboten!“ Photography and Action Art in the Late GDR


Commentary: Petra Bopp (Hamburg)


19.30 – 20.30

Book Presentation

 Thomas Medicus (Hg.), Verhängnisvoller Wandel. Ansichten aus der Provinz 1933-1949: Die Fotosammlung Biella (Hamburger Edition, 2016).


Friday, 28 October

9.00 – 11.30

Panel 5: Dodging and Burning: State Repression and Subversive Counter-Strategies


Alumah Florsheim-Shoham (Jerusalem): Public Space in a Dictatorship: the Stasi Photographers Design the Public Sphere


Denis Skopin (St. Petersburg): Elimination of “Public Enemies” From Group Photographs in the USSR During the Stalin Era: Psychological and Political Mechanisms of the Phenomenon


Natalija Arlauskaitè(Vilnius): Making the Soviet Atrocity Archive Visible: Photo/Graphic Art Projects by Lithuanian Artist Kestutis Grigaliunas


Jeff Hayton (Fairmount/Wichita): Capturing Difference under Dictatorship: Punk Rock, Photography & Dissent in the GDR


Commentary: Alexandra Oberländer (Bremen)


Coffee Break


12.00 – 13.00

Closing discussion





Henrike Voigtländer

 Humboldt University Berlin, Department of History

 Chair German History of the 20th Century

 Tel. +49 30 2093 70565, E-Mail: