Born in Berlin in 1945, Michael Schmidt photographed his city for almost twenty years. Since the 1920s, Berlin has been the center of European political and cultural movements: The Weimar Republic and the avant-garde movements, Nazism, Year Zero, the Berlin Airlift, John F. Kennedy’s speech, spies coming from the cold, the Berlin Wall, the protesting generation that marks 1967… The Berlin images contributed to the myth of a post-apocalyptic city, a space closed of since 1945 and still enclosed in 1987. This is the subject of Waffenruhe (“Ceasefire”, or, literally, “The silence of arms”), reflecting this sadly romantic, autumnal, somber history.
Michael Schmidt does not deal with an objective reality on the traditional social landscape, but uses the out-of-focus and scale alterations to show the world through an incessant winter mist. He is an artist of fragment, complexity, contradiction. Though earlier he was looking for an equilibrium between objectivity and his personal perception, Waffenruhe marks a rupture in his work. He cuts all ties with Düsseldorf’s school of objective style and develops an aesthetic of immediate experience, a deliberately subjective point of view, and a relationship to reality marked with emotion. For him, the Wall did not only signify separation, but also a collection of losses in his own life. The images work with Einar Schleef’s text to create a brusque and entirely individual perspective on the fragility of human existence. The first edition, published in 1987 by Dirk Nishen Verlag became one of the most influential photography books. Thirty years later, reedited in facsimile, Waffenruhe is available again.
Irène Attinger is in charge of the library and bookstore at Paris’s Maison Européenne de la Photographie.
Michael Schmidt, Waffenruhe
Published by Koenig Books