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The Eye of War.
Ukraine 1941/42.


Photographs by Dieter Keller. Text by Adam Broomberg, Xiaofu Wang, and Dr. Norbert Moos. Edited by Dr. Norbert Moos.
Buchkunst Berlin, 2020. In German, English. 118 pp., 88 black-and-white illustrations, 9½x7¾".



Publisher's Description

Dieter Keller (1909-1985), born the son of the successful owner of the Franck-Kosmos publishing house, was close friends before and during the Second World War with artists of the New Objectivity and the Bauhaus. The many years of contact with Willi Baumeister, Alexej von Jawlensky, Ida Kerkovius and a friendship with Oskar Schlemmer documented in more than 90 letters shaped his artistic eyesight and significantly influenced his photographic compositions. 

In 1941/42 Dieter Keller was stationed as a German soldier in the border area between Ukraine and Belarus. During this time, despite a strict military ban, he managed to take pictures of civilians and victims of war, secretly expose several films and smuggle them into Germany. Keller took pictures with a Soviet Leica replica, a so-called fedka. 

After the war, he developed the 35mm film rolls in his house in Stuttgart-Vaihingen and made 201 enlargements as unique pieces. The negative films produced on the nitrocellulose base burned in 1958 due to spontaneous combustion. Dieter Kellers very early on used the means of serial and informal photography and created cinematic image sequences to stimulate a subjective experience of reality. 

The photographic transfer of images of cruelty and seeming apocalyptic destruction into abstract and formal image constructions, therefore, does not lead to the habitually emotional flattening and blunting process of documentary photography at Keller, but intensifies the subjective concern. 

Even by today's standards, Dieter Keller follows a modern-looking visual aesthetic, which is partly thanks to the influence of his artist friends, but also makes it clear that the artistically trained photographer of the Bauhaus period generally knew how to use aesthetic perception as a key to processing reality and coping psychologically. In this respect, his disturbing images of war horrors among the civilian population fit into the European image tradition of representations of war, as was shaped by the horror images by Hieronymus Bosch, Francisco de Goya, or Otto Dix.


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