Ein-heit & I Loved my Wife

Tine Guns
I can’t talk about editing in photography without mentioning Michael Schmidt. He believed that juxtaposing a series of photographs greatly increases their emotional power.


exhibition view Waffenruhe
“Waffenruhe reiterates a fact that has long seemed blindingly apparent to the more discerning photographer, that photographs must be put together like words, or individual movie frames, in order to sing their full song. It advocates persuasively that the most effective form of presentation for the straight photograph is probably the book. A vessel for the poetically juxtaposed sequence of images, the book becomes the primary artwork, rather then the necessarily less concentrated row of prints on a gallery wall.” Gerry Badger on Michael Schmidt’s Waffenruhe
Michael Schmidt was a german photographer who made amazing artist books. Most famous are his ‘Berlinbooks’ Waffenruhe (Ceasefire, 1987), which documents west Berlin in the years just before the wall came down and Ein-Heit (U-nit-y, 1996), which was made in the immediate wake of German reunification.
The splitting of the word Ein-Heit combines the euphoric state of the reunification with the widespread skepticism towards it.
The book merges pictures Schmidt’s own photographs of people in the united Berlin with pictures of propaganda pamphlets, newspapers, magazines and Nazi rallies. The sequencing is brilliant with interesting juxtapostions, but all pictures are printed without mentions of their historical meaning. Which makes them open to interpretation.
‘Each viewer is challenged to judge whether a given image represents East or West Germany, a villain or a victim, a moment in 1935, 1965, or 1995.’
The book is a complex, layered portrait of the German Identity, an exploration of history and the individual vs mass media.


Michael Schmidt, Ein-heit
I’m already looking forward to the retrospective of the artist’s work at the National Galerie Berlin in 2020.
Recently on facebook I got the question of Dieter De Lathauwer if I owned two copies of U-ni-ty. (which I gave away, so if I once gave you this book and you don’t want it anymore.. people might be interested :-) ) so the link for this article with Belgium was easily made.
I recently saw Dieter’s presentation of his own book at the Fomu Photobookweek. ‘I Loved My Wife-– Killing children is good for the economy’ is a book on the ‘Aktion T4’ a non-voluntary euthanasia program that was carried out in psychiatric institutions in Germany, Austria and occupied Poland. Thousands of ill children were killed because the cost of keeping them alive was ‘too high for society’. The title was borrowed from a Nazi propaganda film in which a man proudly declares that he has sacrificed his wife to the Nation.
The book combines pictures that Dieter de Lathauwer took of the psychiaric institions where Aktion T4 was performed in Austria with propaganda films stills.
The exhibition is on view until 2/4 at Botanique Brussels


Dieter De Lathauwer, I Loved My Wife