Picture This: 7th Triennial of Photography in Hamburg

For the 7th time, a major exhibition of photography is being shown in Hamburg - and all the significant museums have chipped in with thoroughly conceptualized exhibitions, all wrapped around the central motto [BREAKING POINT. SEARCHING FOR CHANGE]

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Triennial of Photography
One of the containers from the section [ENTER] - presenting 15 artists with a strong social, political, and most of all ecological focus.

Although Hamburg cannot really compete with the annual photo convention in Perpignan...yet, the Triennial of Photography, initiated by German star-photographer and collector F. C. Gundlach, has been already taking place since 1999 - and every time it's getting bigger and more complete and more important and more prestigious.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Deichtorhallen Triennial of Photography
Deichtorhallen Hamburg - once a covered market, today one of Europe's largest exhibition halls.
(Photo: © Henning Rogge / Deichtorhallen)

Since 2014, the mega-event has been organized by the Deichtorhallen Hamburg (I've introduced this great art venue in former posts on some of their exhibitions).
This year, the Triennial is taking place from June to September, presenting exceptional artists, inspiring with fresh perspectives, and involving the audience in a political, social, and artistic discourse and progress.

So three days ago, I participated in their pre-opening media tour where I was shuffled around between venues and overwhelmed by all these different projects and positions so that in the evening my head was spinning in 4c and I only saw in black and white.

The starting point to an amazing tour.

Artistic director and co-curator of [ENTER] Krzysztof Candrowicz
(Photo: Constanze Flamme)
The visit made me realize one problem: You know like I'm always looking for the special twist to my posts, this original pitch, the whimsy golden thread?

Well, this time, I can't.
I simply can't since the artistic director Krzysztof Candrowicz and his team did such a great job in choosing a motto, in structuring the whole event accordingly, and in conceptualizing the individual exhibitions respectively.
I just don't see how any alteration or fragmentation could possibly improve it.

So I bow my head, acknowledge that they did a perfect job and just follow their lead and present to you the shows in the order and structure according to Candrowicz's definition:

The whole concept is based on the keywords from a computer's keyboard - whereby in our fast-changing world of technology where today everybody is mainly swishing on the touchscreens of smartphones and tablets, these keywords from this old-fashioned, heavy, awkward machine called computer are pretty outdated and do sound quite retro.

However, in their double meaning, they can be a wonderful inspiration - hence let's see how creative curators transformed their meaning and how they convey their message, let's look for the



The section [ENTER] consists of 15 containers located between the Deichtorhallen, the festival's main venue, and the Haus der Fotografie. Curated by artistic director Krzysztof Candrowicz himself and super-energetic Emma Bowkett, fifteen artists have designed and filled containers with their fear, anger, and hope - all expressed through their meaningful art.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Triennial of Photography
An exhibition on the toxic Bayer-Monsanto-merger - I am not sure if the collaboration of these two do-gooders will make this world a better place; and neither is Franco-Venezuelan photographer Mathieu Asselin who is documenting facts and figures of both companies.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Triennial of Photography
A chronic of what particularly Monsanto stands for - slow destruction. The audience gets even better informed on all the details by a specially designed newspaper. Everyone should grab a copy!

Already during the press conference, Candrowicz had made it pretty clear how much sustainability and protection of the environment, the planet, and its inhabitants matters to him. Therefore it is not surprising that this exhibition is dealing exactly with these subjects - and will therefore not make you very cheery; however, I'm sure you'll be impressed how bold and creative these works are.

Ugliness can be so beautiful: Look, how nice, a container filled with sand; beachy, right? Well, yeah, only that the sand is from Kamilo beach, world's dirtiest beach, located in paradisic Hawaii. Aloha!

It has been British photographer Mandy Barker who put this beach of horror in the container. The walls are decorated with alluring, mystical pictures - colorful bundles and balls are floating in space, just beautiful. Well, yeah, only that they are plastic debris suspended in the ocean.

Mandy Barker SOUP: Bird's Nest
(© Mandy Barker, Courtesy of East Wing Gallery, Dubai)


"I don't always know what I want, but I know what I do not want", sketched curator Dr. Sabine Schnakenberg her exhibition [SPACE] Street. Life. Photography. Street Photography from seven decades.
In the [SPACE] of the Deichtorhallen, she managed to make [SPACE] for over 320 street photographs by 52 artists.

Maciej Dakowicz - untitled
from the series Cardiff After Dark, 2005-2011. Cardiff/Wales, November 25, 2007
(© Maciej Dakowicz)

According to her, the main goal was to circumvent Cartier-Breton, considered the father of street photography due to his iconic shots of Paris.
However, there are the classics here, too: There are the - literally and metaphorically - black and white pictures by Robert Frank. There is Lee Friedlander and there is Diane Arbus.

But there are also younger observers and 'peeping toms' such as South Korean Jun Ahn who's choosing, along with her models, a new and pretty scary perspective - looking down from the edge of skyscrapers.

I'm suffering from acrophobia - I could never model for Jun Ahn (not that she ever asked...)

There are Peter Bialobrzeski's photographs of architecture - that tell so much about life in these structure without showing only one human being.

And of course, there is Martin Parr - the master of the merciless glance.

Martin Parr's portraits from the series 'The Last Resort. New Brighton'

Another thing that Scnhakenburg did not want in her exhibition, is allowing the audience to be delighted by the photographs' beauty. Here, too, she definitely stuck to her own rules and did a great job - all these pictures are breathtaking; but not breathtakingly beautiful.


Only a tiny part of the art project [HOME] is installed at a museum, the major part is spread across town.
This project, curated by Stefan Rahner and Nico Baumgarten, deals with building, rebuilding, living, and a homey feeling - and an imminent change of public and personal living space and even its loss. Something many of us are facing on a daily basis, especially living in big cities.

Photographs stuck to a house - dealing with housing.
There is the hilarious project by Andy Donaldson called Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs (my favorite!) and the much less hilarious series by Janet Delaney on the gentrification of the South of Market district in San Francisco. Delaney has been a victim of this social and economic transformation herself.

Janet Delaney Helen and her husband Chester at the Helen Cafe 486, 6th Street, 1980(© Janet Delaney)

Janet Delaney Longtime Neighbors. Langton at Folsom Street; 1981
(© Janet Delaney)

[HOME] is one of my favorite projects since it's very highly creative, pretty fun - although it's dealing with very serious issues - and it feels very close and intimate.


The Kunstverein, the art association, that I introduced in a former post on the occasion of its 200th anniversary. It is connected to the Freie Akademie der Künste, the academy of arts, where at this moment Olympus presents the three honorees of the fellowship.

One of the everpresent questions that are pondered (not only) at this Triennial is the inflation in the sector of photography.

In the old times when dinosaurs roamed the earth and we had to fumble some roll of film into a camera, take 36 pix max, send the exposed film to some laboratory where the employees made fun of our dear memories while we waited patiently and a bit nervously for the result.

Professional photographers had it better insofar that they didn't have to be afraid to get back a batch of ten pitch-black prints.

The invention of digital photography made it much easier and somehow better for us amateurs: Instead of limiting ourselves to 36 frames, we can shoot mindlessly as much mediocre pix as we like and count on the one lucky shot.
I don't know if this invention made it better or worse for the pros. Regarding costs of material, it's maybe better, but now they have all these amateurs thinking they can do the same and people violating their copyright on the internet - and somehow the value of the individual picture decreased tragically.

Did it?
Especially this festival proves that despite all these second-rate pictures with no matter how many filters dashed on it that we are basically drowning in will never ever replace a photographic image. A powerful picture is never only about an immaculate technique, it's not a duck mouth from a flattering angle - and will never be.
It's a piece of something left in an empty room that screams someone's tragic story at you.
It's that one look from watery eyes that wails the tragedy of humankind into your face.
It's intimacy and it's respect.
It's basically everything that these masses of lousy pix are missing.
So no worries, powerful photography lives forever - regardless the gadgets that might come.

Different arrangements of the portraits by Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff at Kunstverein Hamburg
(Copyright / Photo: Fred Dott)

This being said, I'd like to point out the exhibition [SHIFT], curated by Bettina Steinbrügge and Tobias Peper. They chose the work of American-born, Berlin-based artists Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff whose artistic activities spread from photography to the performing arts. These artists arrange portraits of artists, actors, and musicians in different combinations and achieve that way different narratives and expressions.

They're looking at you, kid.
(Copyright Calla Henkel and Max Pitegoff/ Photo: Fred Dott)

This way, they also ironize the mechanism of all the self-fashioning and self-staging going on in the social media.


View of the oldest part of the Kunsthalle, Hamburg's Art Museum, from its newest part, the Galerie der Gegenwart, the Gallery of Contemporary Art.

Art festivals and fairs are mostly influenced by current political or sociological topics.
Last year, Europe's super year of art, was clearly dominated by immigration issues.
Whether the Çanakkale art walk, the XIV documenta, or the Biennal in Venice, no exhibition was complete without at least eighty percent of the artists dealing with immigration-related matters.

Now here, at the Triennial, [CONTROL] is actually the only show where this subject is put into focus.

Sophie Calle La Filature (The Shadow)

Next to more or less fun ways of facing [CONTROL] - like Sophie Calle's La Filature or Thomas Demand's series Presidency, there are mostly not so fun projects such as Thomas Ruff's photos that he took with a camera like those used by the military e. g. in Iraq. This way, he achieved to give a peaceful German city a war-like appearance.

What a special DIY: The Oval Office crafted from cardboard.
Thomas Demand Presidency II
(C-Print/Diasec, 210 x 300 cm Hamburger Kunsthalle © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2018)

Or the video by Richard Mosse, equally filmed with a military CCTV camera. While the border patrols use this tool to detect immigrants striving for border protection, Mosse achieved with the same tool a regard full of empathy and compassion.

Richard Mosse Incoming
 (Three channel HD video with 7.3 surround sound, 52:10 min, Video still, 2014-2016
 © Courtesy of the artist, carlier | gebauer, Berlin and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)


[RETURN] is the most, I would say, sophisticated yet traditional show. It's rather a documentary of a wild and creative era than being wild and creative itself. But that's fine. It only triggers rather your brain than your gut. It doesn't hit you and it doesn't hurt.

Modern dance and modern photography.
Lotte Jacobi Claire Bauroff Tänzerin/Dancer. Berlin ca. 1928
(Sammlung/Collection F. C. Gundlach)
However, it is very interesting on a historic level since it shows photographs from the Weimarer Republic, the era between the two world wars, when in the big European cities like Paris, Vienna, and of course Berlin art projects were flourishing: Surrealism and new objectivity in the visual arts, grotesque choreographies, and experimental theater plays e.g. within the Bauhaus movement, attempts of women's liberation and physical and sexual freedom - all this was new, overdue, and exciting...and eventually erased by the Nazis.
However, there were also new, unusual photographic perspective and esthetics banning all these exciting movements on celluloid, and this elegant exhibition makes us [RETURN] in time.


For the [DELETE] section, the curators Dr. Esther Ruelfs and Sven Schumacher have chosen a non-artistic aspect of photography. They are dealing with journalistic photography and point out how news can be manipulated by choice of illustration and deliberate or even random censorship.

Thomas Hoepker is one of my favorite political photographers. But you have to be at least my age (= old) to know his name and his fantastic work.
Thomas Hoepker Main Road in Montgomery, Alabama, 1963
(© Thomas Hoepker/Magnum Photos)

This is certainly a very important topic, however, I think that for international - or very young - visitors, this exhibition will be the least comprehensible one and the one they probably won't really relate to: The medium photography changed too much over the years, the technique is totally different, edited and manipulated pictures are everywhere, fake news do not shock anybody.
And although the photo reporters on display used to be megastars of their genre, I wonder how many visitors of this year's triennial will be impressed by this rather historic approach.


Now [ESCAPE] is a really grand, ambitious project that I just love: It's totally Pan-European since curator Virgílio Ferreira from Porto/Portugal brought a group of artists together in one show. These artistic activists, as I would call them, are living and working in Italy, Spain, Germany, Poland, and Portugal and come together by an open call.

The museum of ethnology in Hamburg houses [ESCAPE], a Pan-European project dealing with ecological issues.

They, of course, got in touch and planned this show together, but they've met only once they came to Hamburg to set up their individual projects.

But it doesn't really matter, because their preoccupations and their focus are the same: Saving what remains from planet earth.

Constanze Flamme
from the series The Canary in the Coal Mine - an Incomplete Atlas of a Momentum
(© Constanze Flamme)
Each artist in this group contributed a piece dealing with the future of nature and life. Despite the mutual focus, the view and prospect of how we will move on and where we are heading to is individual and even quite different which makes this exhibition so
fantastically interesting.


[RECOMMENDED] is an exhibition curated by Ingo Taubhorn, photographer and curator at the Deichtorhallen.
He is presenting of three young artists who were awarded a one-year fellowship by Olympus:

Lilly Lulay did artistic research on how performance and appearance of photography were altered by the use of smartphones.

Lilly Lulay Paris studio
from the series How to Get in Touch, 2017
(© Lilly Lulay)

Nadja Bournonville was researching an extraordinary family member and wrapped it in a synthesis of art.

Nadja Bournonville Potatoe Diet
from the series Intercepted, 2017
(© Nadja Bournonville)

Thomas Albdorf We Went to a Crater
(Geological Phenomenon, Sea, Smoke, Volcanic Landform / Spoof: Unlikely), 2017
(© Thomas Albdorf)
Thomas Albdorf went one step further and created a reality that he eventually photographed - respectively transformed photographs in a new reality.

The exhibition is taking place at the Freie Akademie der Künste, the Academy of Arts, which has a loft-ish feel to it.
As soon as you enter the room, you feel that there is money in the project's back pocket. No need to rely on public subsidies and grants, here Olympus opened the wallet - which is not a bad thing, just saying...

And the three young artists - all three of them in their early thirties - are so sweet, talented, and creative, they definitely deserved a healthy transfusion of money.


No, wait, don't turn your computer [OFF] - not yet: There are fifteen [OFF]-exhibitions totally worth seeing waiting for your in unusual, quirky galleries and venues across Hamburg; the [OFF]-version of the [OFF]-icial Triennale.

Jan Cieslikiewicz Null Hypothesis
Jan Cieslikiewicz's work is exhibited at the Galerie Drawing Room

Curated by charming Nina Venus, after an open call, they had to choose from about 500 applicants from almost around the world (interestingly, there was no application from Australia). Initially, Nina wanted to pick five, but overwhelmed by the number of great artists, she agreed to install fifteen [OFF]-shows; a highly ambitious project.

Sonja Hamad Women, Life, FreedomSonja Hamad's work is exhibited at the 14a Galerie

And as always, [OFF] means a bit more daring, a tad more quirky, a little [OFF]; so it's definitely worth it to add some of these sometimes a bit hidden venues to your photography route across Hamburg.


And even after pointing out this off-show part, I still did not manage to introduce everything that's worth seeing: I did not mention the grandmaster Anton Corbijn, shown at the Bucerius Kunstforum. I did not present either Joan Fontcuberta or Shirana Shahbazi - but guys, after all, there are about 320 artists at around 50 art institutions - and approximately 250 events will take place during this festival.

This post is meant to be an invitation to come to Hamburg this summer and....picture this - and take your pick!

Deichtorhallen Hamburg GmbH
Deichtorstraße 2
20095 Hamburg
Phone: + 49 - 40 - 3 21 03-218
Email: info@phototriennale.de

Triennial of Photography Hamburg is taking place from June till September 2018.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Speicherstadt Hamburg
View of the old warehouse district, part of Europe's second largest industrial port.

If you need information on Hamburg, how to get there, where to stay, and what to see besides this great festival, please check out my complete guide to Germany's second largest city from earlier this year.


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  1. I have never been there even though I am from POland and it's relatively close. Thanks for sharing.

  2. ...and there are quite a few Polish artists in this show - like the artistic director Candrowicz 😊

  3. It looks really impressive, I loved how the exhibition was created around computer words and how they all match with the photos selected!

  4. These exhibits looked impressive! I really like the oval office one that was made out of cardboard. I can not imagine the amount of work that went into creating it!

  5. Nice collection of images. These kinda exhibitions really help people to get out of their routine and get together to have a social life.
    Hamburg's atmosphere always seems like pretty gloomy, why is it so?

  6. This is another great post of yours, I loved the exhibits. I was shocked by the pictures of people surrounded by litter in Cardiff (my uni town) but I know how crazy nights can be there, especially around rugby matches. So awful though that humans create so much mess! Nice images of your own as well

  7. Love those incredible works of art. Exhibits are always a highlight of any trip! It's incredible the art you've found here, and encouraging me to get out in my own city to some galleries.

  8. Visiting art museums and exhibits gives you a sense of the talent in the world! This is a great, diverse collection that has been showcased!

  9. I have to say these are some interesting photographs. I haven't been to Hamburg, but if I do, I'll try to make it for the exhibition.

  10. Didn't know there were so many exhibitions going on in Hamburg. Apart from the lovely art, architecture in Hamburg is also worth going! The museum of ethnology looks so pretty!

  11. Some very thought-provoking artwork here. The one with the sand from the dirty beach in Hawaii was especially interesting!

  12. It is nice to look at these pieces of art. I can stare at them all day knowing the meaning of each portrait. I really love exhibits like this, thanks for sharing these wonderful pieces of art that came from a creative and colorful mind.

  13. WOAH that plastic debris in the ocean one really got me. I was staring at it for the longest time thinking it had to be a fictional painting, but not was I wrong!! Very eye-opening.

  14. Very interesting! The dirtiest beach is in Hawai'i? I saw a mini video last year that said it was Henderson Island somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. The currents deposit plastic and other urban waste on its shores. Thought-provoking photos. The one of Alabama in 1963 is...well, that period was...different for those men and folks that looked like them. Monsanto as usual is poison!

  15. What an interesting exhibition, so much work must have gone into this! I particularly like the idea of the containers in ENTER and the collaborative focus for ESCAPE. We really need to admit to what we are doing to the World at the moment in terms of waste and pollution. These artists help to highlight the issues.

  16. Fascinating! The titles of the different sections are unique and set a tone for what one can expect. Photography exhibitions are full of insight. They tell silent stories and there are lots of stories here.

  17. What an interesting art exhibition to go and see. I don't know any Polish artist so l would definitely find this interesting as l like to learn about different artists. That picture of the crater is definitely interesting

  18. What a stunning series of exhibitions. I think that photography can so often be overlooked as an art form so it is wonderful to see the whole festival. The "beach hut" with the plastic debris really touched me, even just from reading this. I would also love to see more of the Weimar republic photos. It was such an interesting time in Germany's cultural history.

  19. I can't believe that's not the real Oval Office!! How'd they make it with just cardboard?! So impressive!

  20. Cool exhibits, love the photos!

  21. I love these shots. So impressive and interesting. love the exhibitions in here

  22. These are some great photos, what an interesting exhibition. They’re really managed some great captures.

  23. The art exhibits seems so thought-provoking (I absolutely love this kind of art). I wish I could go and visit!

  24. Love good photography, this is something I would love to go and see. Nice and different kind of post.. Really enjoyed it

  25. Very interesting this initiative, great pictures in this place. The plastic is really a big problem...


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