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Culture

Picturing the Germans on Paper

Stefan Moses made his name taking photos for the German weekly news magazine Stern. A new retrospective in Munich has a look at a life dedicated to photographing Germany.

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Artist Otto Dix, photographed by Stefan Moses in 1965

Stefan Moses once called Germany “the most interesting country in the world”. The German photographer - who made his mark at the well-known weekly news magazine Stern, spent the majority of his life and work as a photographer taking images of his fellow Germans.

Now, a collection from Moses’ 450,000 strong photo archive has opened to the public in a show in Munich, before going on a nationwide tour of Germany and then the world.

The 10-part retrospective chronicles Moses’ 55 year long career as a photographer of social and cultural development in post war west Germany, including numerous members of cultural and political elites of the times. Portraits of philosopher Theodor W. Adorno, author Heinrich Böll, top politician Willy Brandt, composer Carl Orff and writers Günter Grass and Thomas Mann all feature in the exhibition. ‘Germany is a puzzle to me’

Born in 1928 in Lower Saxony, in the then German town of Liegnitz (now Legnica in Poland), Stefan Moses began his career as a theatre photographer in Weimar in 1947. He moved to Munich a few years later.

It was through his work at the weekly news magazine Stern that he made his breakthrough. Here, Moses worked alongside other great German photographers of the age, including Robert Lebeck, Thomas Höpker and Max Scheler.

But when most of these photographic talents left Germany for more exotic climates, Moses stayed on to unravel the mystery of his beloved homeland. “Germany is a puzzle to me”, Moses told the German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Apart from his images of some of the great artists of the time, he published a series of portraits of former East Germans called Abschied und Anfang - Ostdeutsche Porträts, Goodbye and Beginning - East German portraits. The pictures, taken between 1989-1990, and commissioned by the German Historical Museum in Berlin, are regarded as one of the most important photographical works dealing with German reunification.