Ostkreuz. Agentur der Fotografen. Die Stadt. Vom Werden und Vergehen

A portrait of a city that is an amalgam of all cities. 17 photo stories. The exhibition celebrating the twentieth anniversary of the Ostkreuz agency was shown at C/O Berlin from 8 May through 4 July 2010 and will be on view at the Kunstfoyer der Versicherungskammer Bayern in Munich as of 4 November. In 2011 it will begin its journey around the world with the Goethe-Institut. Approximately 180 photographs in black & white and color will be on display.

The Agency

OSTKREUZ was founded in 1990 by seven photographers in Berlin, and it is considered as one of Germany’s most eminent photo agencies. The agency currently has eighteen members. Almost every one of them is the recipient of national and international prizes. The photographers work for prestigious magazines such as, among others, Newsweek, Stern, GEO, NEON, and the New York Times Magazine.

There was a day, some time ago, on which mankind crossed a threshold and did not even take notice. Nothing was different afterwards, and yet, something had changed. From that day forth, more people lived in towns than in the country. The history of that day goes back more than ten thousand years, to the time when the first city was founded. Perhaps the city was located in Asia Minor, perhaps in Mesopotamia, or perhaps in India. In the beginning, it was certainly no more than a dot in the countryside. A place for people who wanted to share their longing for prosperity, security, and freedom. They sought companionship because they thought this longing could best be satisfied in a community. That was the idea. That was how it began. Today, the city has left its stamp on the face of the earth and all its continents. The city is growing most rapidly in Africa; it houses the most people in India; it has absorbed the most land in Europe. There are now more than thirty megacities on Earth with populations exceeding ten million. Since 2008 more people live in towns than in the country according to the United Nation’s population report. But the story doesn’t end there. It is just the beginning of a new chapter.

“The city has been more than just a dot in the countryside for quite some time now. It holds the key to the future. It is where the fate of mankind is determined. What happens to the city also happens to us. One collides with things in the city that could be avoided in the country. The city is a focal point for great poverty, and yet, it often provides the only chance to escape it. The city shows what power planning can develop, as well as how it can dwindle into impotence. It gives everyone the feeling of belonging to a whole, while making it clear to them that their districts are not compatible. It offers closeness and creates anonymity. It is everything and its opposite – at the same time, in the same place. The time has come to take a look at this city, which could be anywhere but is not to be found on any map. The time has come to determine the features through which it reveals itself; to recognize the forces that emanate from it; and to describe the new chapters that unfold within it. That is the task the photographers of the OSTKREUZ agency have set for themselves.

“They have gathered together photographs from all over the world depicting the rise and decline of this metaphysical city. They show how it rises in the guise of Ordos in the expanse of the Chinese steppe and is reclaimed by nature in the guise of Pripyat in the Ukraine; how it grows into an uncontrollable convolution in the guise of Lagos in Nigeria; how it forms agglomerations in the slums in the guise of Manila; and how it rots from the inside out in the guise of Detroit in the USA; how it bursts its borders in the guise of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates; and how it is razed to the ground in the guise of Gaza in Palestine; how it lives on appearance in the guise of Las Vegas, on an ideal in the guise of Auroville, and on a myth in the guise of Atlantis. What remains before our eyes is the portrait of a city that is an amalgam of all cities; a city that predates our memory and exceeds our power of imagination; a city in which time seems not to exist, and yet, it is always the city mankind has created for itself. Mankind is responsible for the rise and decline. They come and flee, build and destroy, hope and lose hope, push towards the center and stand on the outskirts, seek companionship and remain alone. It is they who would satisfy their longing. The place they invented for all this, they call ‘city.

The Photographers

Sibylle Bergemann, Jörg Brüggemann, Espen Eichhöfer, Annette Hauschild, Harald Hauswald, Pepa Hristová, Andrej Krementschouk, Ute Mahler, Werner Mahler, Dawin Meckel, Thomas Meyer, Julian Röder, Frank Schinski, Jordis Antonia Schlösser, Anne Schönharting, Linn Schröder, Heinrich Völkel, Maurice Weiss

The Cities

Ordos, Inner Mongolia, China
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Moscow, Russia
Istanbul, Turkey
London, England
Manila, the Philippines
Tokyo, Japan
Berlin, Germany
Shanghai, China
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Detroit, Michigan, USA
Florence, Italy
Liverpool, England
Reykjavik, Iceland
Minsk, Belarus
Pripyat, Ukraine
Chernobyl, Ukraine
Lagos, Nigeria
Auroville, India
Gaza City, Palestinian territories
Berlin, Germany
Ushuaia, Argentina
De Haan, Belgium
Krakow, Poland
New York, USA
Offenbach, Germany

Exhibition Catalog published by Hatje Cantz, 2010

OSTKREUZ – Agentur der Fotografen (ed.)
Introduction by Marcus Jauer; Protocols by Marcus Jauer and Anne-Dore Krohn
Epilog by Felix Hoffmann
German/English, 2010.
296 pages, 170 illus., 130 in color, 40 in duplex
29.10 x 31.60 cm, hardcover
ISBN 978-3-7757-2659-7


Felix Hoffmann and Ostkreuz