Harf Zimmermann – Hufelandstraße, 1055 Berlin, copyright 2018
Publisher: Steidl Verlag
Change is gonna come
In the summer of 2017, I visited the exhibition of William Klein at C/O Berlin. As always, the main event is located on the ground floor, while the more unknown artists exhibit on the first floor. Although I came for Klein, who did not inspire me very much, I went with great joy to Harf Zimmermann’s „Hufelandstraße“. Zimmermann himself lived in Hufelandstraße from 1980 to 1990; the photographs were taken in the years 86 and 87, i.e. shortly before the fall of the Wall. While small businesses fell victim to the big combinants in most of the GDR, Hufelandstraße looks like a Gallic village. Butchers, lamp dealers, shoemakers, florists, today you would probably call this a healthy mix of individual shops. Add to this the large, mighty Wilhelminian style buildings and you feel like you’re at the Kudamm. Well, by GDR standards.
The wonderful thing about Zimmermann’s work is its objectivity, the focused view, the documentary. It’s not street photography shot from the hip, but it’s not boring facade photography either. People and space are interdependent. Be it the employees of the shops or, as in the second part of the book, the people in their private apartments. But also a wedding couple, a few „teenagers“, even a Santa Claus were photographed.
Many photographs seem like a still life, exactly balanced, with no information too much or too little. This is of course due to the use of the large format camera. Zimmermann himself stresses that he simply wanted to create a document of the times, because he felt that the street, in this constellation, would not survive. And so it happened, albeit in a different way than assumed. Thus Zimmermann succeeded in creating a unique contemporary document, without any bizarreness.