“It’s the fringes of the world that interest me, not its centre. The noninterchangeable is my concern. When there is something in faces or landscapes that doesn’t quite fit …”
The photographs of Sibylle Bergemann baffle because of the diversity of their subjects such as fashion, reportage, photographic essays, urban and rural landscapes as well as portraits. At first known as a fashion photographer, Sibylle Bergemann fast became noted for her photographic essays and her precise observations of hidden contexts.
Bergemann’s work has to be seen within the social context of her time. Her pictures express a critical analysis of the reality during the times of the GDR. The photographer always understood photography not as mere depiction but rather as a medium through which she can shed light on the correlations of reality while constantly interpreting and commenting the circumstances. Thus, the peculiar details of her photographs become symbols that reflect subtle stories and nuances of their time, that play with the longing of the observer, who appears to be drawn into a thoughtful mood filled with eerie, dreamlike states-of-being while looking at her photographs. The complexity found in these photographs creates the unmistakable, personal style of the photographer.
Sibylle Bergemann’s work is often serial, but the photographer has also been focusing on personal themes and photographic notes. From the 1960s onwards, fashion and portrait photography, being partially commissioned by ‘SIBYLLE’ and ‘Geo’ magazines, have become the two main subject matters for Bergemann.
‘It seems like the photographer wants to produce something that is presently absent: sparse notes from proximity, searching for roots, results of a voyage into dreams.’Matthias Flügge, 2006
This aspect within Bergemann’s work becomes particularly apparent in the situational and scenic imageries of urban regions. Bergemann began focusing on situational and scenic pictures in Berlin at the end of the 1960s and has been working on them ever since in cities such as New York, Paris, Tokyo, and São Paulo.
In addition, Bergemann has exhaustingly worked with the medium Polaroid. Working almost exclusively with b/w photography, Bergemann belongs meanwhile to a group of photographers who use color as a constitutive element in the construction of a meaning, and not as an illustration device.
AFRICA – ARABIA
At the kiosk selling Nescafé in a suburb of Dakar, continents become united in the bitter flavour of the Nescafé granules. The cup of coffee would appear to have provided the occasion for the black man wearing the costume of a warring king’s son to lay down his weapons – a triumph for the multinational company. The absurdity and comicality of a distant and, at the same time, crazily familiar scene. Wild red in the bleak wasteland, an anarchic surfeit of colour. Signals of the globalised world, run completely aground.
Polaroids, comprises over 140 polaroids taken by the artist and in them, it reveals part of Bergemann’s private dreams: young girls with red coloured lips starring at the camera, a plastic ballerina turning in front of a mirror, a small rabbit behind a tree, models in romantic costumes or Soviet emblems in a cryptic atmosphere. All these are blurred and dream-like moments of poetic nostalgia, that the photographer caught with her polaroid camera, as a hunter of vanishing moments. Her photographs transport us to timeless spaces, as if the moment could be endless and last forever. The sensitive eye of Sibylle Bergemann captured moments of intimacy, and delicate, symbolic landscapes, such as a man sitting in a tram in East Berlin or a train passing in front of a man somewhere in the streets of Lisbon.
text source: ifa
aesthetic amagazine: on bergemann’s polaroids