June 13, − August 24, 2014
FORUM 032: Jens Schwarz – Beirut Eight Thirteen

This year, the first of the Münchner Stadtmuseum Photography Collection’s gallery exhibitions will feature the work of photographer Jens Schwarz. The Munich-based artist will be showing selected pieces from his long-term project “Beirut Eight Thirteen”, an extensive photographic project that he began in 2008 and which has continued to grow ever since.

The specter of civil war, political assassinations, ongoing conflicts with neighboring countries. The only certainty for the people of Beirut is that their lives could – yet again – be turned on their heads at any given moment. Jens Schwarz’s images portray a city where instability is the norm, and it is this collective uncertainty that he takes as his subject. His photographs are about yearning and passion, hope and despair, beauty and violence – and the quest for identity. The people who he follows in his work embody these contradictions, each in their own individual way. Over the past few years, Schwarz has made several trips to the Lebanon, meeting with young Lebanese who were born after the end of the civil war. This is the generation that took to the streets following the assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. It also makes up the bulk of the current anti-sectarian protest movement which is campaigning to abolish the fixed sectarian quotas that determine the composition of the Lebanese government. Schwarz established valuable contacts in this community, becoming acquainted with political activists, artists and theater directors and meeting with inhabitants of the Palestinian refugee camps. He shadowed some of his subjects for weeks on end. He was present in Lebanon during the 2009 elections – which much to everyone’s surprise were largely fair and peaceful – and photographed the election observers at work. New doors opened with each successive trip. He visited some of the protagonists on several occasions over the years, taking portraits as he followed them around in their everyday lives. According to Schwarz, “I felt it was important to get close to the people. Shared personal experiences allow the images to become a mirror of subjective experience.”

The exhibition at the Münchner Stadtmuseum will feature both older photographs and brand new ones that have not previously been shown to the public. Schwarz also showcases a wider selection of images from his “Beirut Eight Thirteen” project in the eponymous publication that accompanies the exhibition and is available from the museum’s ticket desk.

In 2009, this long-term project was awarded a grant by Germany’s VG Bild-Kunst artists rights society. In the same year, it was also nominated for the Förderpreis Fotografie der Landeshauptstadt München (Munich Photography Sponsorship Award). In 2012, a portfolio presentation of the project in Swiss art and culture magazine ›DU‹ was nominated for the Henri Nannen Prize.

Born near Berlin in 1968, Jens Schwarz studied art history at the Paris-Sorbonne University from 1990-91 and subsequently at Munich’s Ludwig Maximilians University from 1991-94. Between 1994 and 1997, he then went on to study photography at the Staatliche Fachakademie für Fotodesign (State Academy of Photographic Design) in Munich. He has worked as a freelance photographer since 1997. The main focus of Jens Schwarz’s photographic work is portrait and reportage photography. Taking him all over the world, his work addresses sociopolitical, social and cultural themes.