By Anne Fuchs (auth.)
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Extra info for After the Dresden Bombing: Pathways of Memory, 1945 to the Present
The final picture could indeed serve as a photographic representation of the first two lines of the GDR anthem: ‘risen from the ruins, turning towards the future’. Visual Mediations 39 Figure 6 Socialist worker. Richard Peter, Eine Kamera klagt an (Dresdener Verlagsgesellschaft 1949). Courtesy of Deutsche Fotothek Dresden However, the reception of the book appears to have gone against its teleological horizon. The high print-run to this day suggests that it was the central section with its photographs of ruination that provided postwar Germans with an iconic narrative that allowed them to contemplate and mourn a collective loss.
Entitled ‘reconstruction’, the last chapter reveals the book’s overriding message by celebrating a collective spirit of reconstruction through a range of photographs that always portray groups of people who are either pushing or pulling heavy machinery or wagons with rubble. The socialist iconography is evident in the photographer’s technique of de-individualisation; Peter tends to photograph his subjects from behind while they are engaged in some collective effort. These workers are too busy to stop and gaze at the camera.
There are no people to be seen, nor any signs or symbols of the time when the picture was taken. Peter introduces the city as a depoliticised space defined only by its architectural grandeur. For the contemporary readership the foreground of the first photo showing the sign of the ‘Narrenhäusle’ or House of Fools, a popular public house in Dresden, may have come across as the photographer’s allegorical premonition given that the bombing began on Shrove Tuesday and continued on Ash Wednesday. As we turn the page, the book exploits the shock effect of an aesthetic of terror: a photo on the left-hand side represents the city’s Baroque splendour from a point of view that imitates Canaletto’s painting of the famous Dresden panorama (Figure 3).