June 22 – September 16, 2018
FORUM 046: Claudius Schulze – State of Nature

The Münchner Stadtmuseum FORUM 046 young photography exhibition showcases a selection of works by Claudius Schulze (born 1984, Munich). As a freelance photographer Claudius Schulze works for magazines such as Der Spiegel, Stern, NEON and GEO. His artworks increasingly fall within the field of landscape photography, with a preference for large-format images. The Münchner Stadtmuseum presents a section from his extensive “State of Nature” series (2011–2017). Schulze’s photographs are accompanied by historical landscape art drawn from the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s collections. By juxtaposing both contemporary and historical depictions of nature, this exhibition encourages visitors to look at landscapes past and present from a wider, comparative perspective.

For his “State of Nature” series, Claudius Schulze crisscrossed the whole of Europe, traveling some 50,000 kilometers in all. Armed with a large-format camera, he photographed from the top of a cherry picker truck what generally passes as picturesque scenery. His photographs were taken on the North Sea and Atlantic coasts, in the Alps, Pyrenees, Uplands, and on the banks of some of Europe’s major rivers. They depict a world where everything is, it would appear, just as it should be – mountainscapes are invariably picturesque, forests, the deepest of green, and beaches kissed by sun. But this apparent idyll is not what it seems. Every photo contains a disruptive element, which is sometimes conspicuous, and sometimes more subtle. Humans have interfered with the natural environment on a massive scale to shield themselves from storms, avalanches and floods. We use technology to build structures to tame the forces of nature and their cycles. Europe’s landscape has been shaped by dikes and dams, retention basins and snow fences, all erected as protection against natural disasters.

Claudius Schulze, Folkestone (from the State of Nature series), 2014 © Claudius Schulze, Courtesy: Robert Morat Galerie
Claudius Schulze, Lac de Migouélou (from the State of Nature series), 2015 © Claudius Schulze, Courtesy: Robert Morat Galerie
Claudius Schulze, Grimsel Pass (from the State of Nature series), 2013 © Claudius Schulze, Courtesy: Robert Morat Galerie

Schulze’s images do not seek to define boundaries between culture and nature. Instead, his photographs reveal the extent to which each penetrates the other. The landscapes he depicts could hardly have been settled or exploited without these protective structures. Sunlight could not glisten on the surface of mountain lakes if their waters had not been artificially dammed; the only reason that dunes rise up before our eyes is because they are protected from storm surges and erosion. Entire tracts of land, from the mountains to the coast, would be totally unsuitable for human habitation or tourism were it not for complex systems that keep natural cycles under constant control. We are now in a new “State of Nature”, the Anthropocene, where humankind is itself now a force of nature and a contributor to geological and climatic change.

Schulze’s “State of Nature” series places local perspectives within a global context. The artist complements his own photographs with satellite images and infographics that bring home the multiple ways in which humankind is increasingly transforming, colonizing and exploiting the natural world. However, the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s exhibition uniquely seeks to show that human intervention is not necessarily “bad” in itself and can potentially serve to protect life. The exhibition includes historical depictions of disastrous floods that have struck the city of Munich taken from the Münchner Stadtmuseum’s Graphics Collection. For example, when an earlier incarnation of Munich’s "Ludwigsbrücke" bridge collapsed in 1813, more than 100 bystanders who had gathered on the bridge to watch the floods were hurled to their deaths. In the flood of 1899, both the "Luitpoldbrücke" and the "Max-Joseph-Brücke" bridges were destroyed. As long ago as the 19th century, measures had already been taken to reinforce the river banks transforming the watercourse into a canal that would be less susceptible to flooding. Finally, between 1954 and 1959, the Sylvenstein Dam was built to protect the city from floods. This particular dam, a structure designed to regulate nature, also features in Claudius Schulze’s “State of Nature” series. Interestingly, no major flooding disasters have affected the city of Munich since it was built.

Looking to the future, the question is no longer one of whether humankind should meddle with nature or not. The issue is really to endeavor to ensure that when we do alter natural systems, any intended benefits do not ultimately result in any direct or indirect harm to anyone. This is a key challenge facing our globalized society today.


Claudius Schulze was born in Munich in 1984. He lives and works in Amsterdam and Hamburg.
2004 - 2007 Political Science and Islamic Studies, University of Hamburg
2007 - 2010 Conflict Analysis and Resolution Studies, Sabanci University, Istanbul
2009 - 2010 M.A. in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, London College of Communication
since 2016 PhD, London College of Communication

Exhibitions (Selection)

2018 State of Nature Fotofestiwal, Lodz
State of Nature, Triennial of Photography, Hamburg

2017 State of Nature, Le Latitudini dell’Arte, Genoa
2013 Generations of Christiana, Jan Grarup Gallery, Copenhagen
2012 Socotra. An Island, aff Gallery, Berlin
2011 Socotra. An Island, HotShoe Gallery, London
2010 Picturing an Ethical Economy, Trinity Wallstreet, New York

Opening and Conversation with the Artist

Thursday, June 21, 2018, 6:00 p.m. opening

Friday, July 20, 2018, 3:00 p.m. Claudius Schulze speaks about his work with Katharina Zimmermann.