July 4 – August 31, 2014
9th series of grants for documentary photography from the Wüstenrot Foundation

With works by Paula Markert, Till Müllenmeister, Marcel Noack and Christine Steiner

Founded in 1990, the Wüstenrot Foundation supports the work of young photographers who are committed to exploring the documentary approach to photography and whose treatment of form and subject matter provides new perspectives and food for debate. An international jury selected four prize-winners from a total of 80 entries: The works of Paula Markert, Till Müllenmeister, Marcel Noack and Christine Steiner all address “real-life” themes, setting them apart from the ironic-artistic conventions of postmodernism.

The artistic positions of these four artists attempt to capture the reality behind their photographs in all its mutability and interpretability. In pursuit of this goal, the grant recipients in the 9th series of grants for documentary photography all chose very different subjects and modes of presentation.

The works of Christine Steiner, which deal with the non-territorial workplace models of the modern services industry, take the form of conventional photos intended for wall display. She investigates the temporary and conceptual transitions that today’s office spaces are subjected to as a result of the constant drive for workplace optimization dictated by postmodern management theory. In her series of portraits of major players from the world of finance, Paula Markert supplements this traditional method of presenting photographs with an audio installation that allows her subjects to speak for themselves. The series explores the social milieu of the people who work in the major financial centers of Paris, Frankfurt, New York and London, revealing just how little in common they appear to have with the majority of these cities’ inhabitants. Meanwhile, Till Müllenmeister combines his series of multi-part tableaux on precarious living conditions in Kenya with a large-format slide projection of his portraits. The project aims to explore the living conditions and feelings of people from other cultures who often appear to us not only as foreign but as “alien”. As observers, we can only gain a closer understanding of them by getting to know the characteristic patterns of behavior and emotions of the people in their country. Finally, Marcel Noack documents the landscape of the Lusatia region in eastern Germany that is threatened by opencast lignite coal mining. He depicts places and areas of countryside that have already disappeared in wall displays arranged as triptychs, accompanied by an installation comprising a map and filing boxes. Lignite mining has once again become an extremely topical issue following the German government’s decision to phase out nuclear power.

The grants for documentary photography are awarded every two years by the Wüstenrot Foundation in cooperation with the Photography Collection of the Museum Folkwang in Essen. The 10,000 euro grants are intended to enable their recipients to carry out a new project. At the end of the year-long project period, the outputs are presented in a traveling exhibition and accompanying catalog. The exhibition, catalog and exhibition tour are covered by the grant and are funded in full by the Wüstenrot Foundation.

The diploma theses of the four grant recipients are presented alongside their prize-winning works, since the projects supported by the grants are in some respects a continuation of the work begun in these dissertations. Christine Steiner explored the relationship between the architecture of schools and their educational ideologies and models. Paula Markert looked at how our families influence the development of our personality. While Till Müllenmeister documented the presidential election campaign in Nairobi, Marcel Noack captured how his home town of Weißwasser was transformed by the demolition of residential and public buildings.