Worker photography

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Workers ' photography is a sub-area of social documentary photography that emerged within the workers' movement . Its heyday was between the two world wars, but was suddenly interrupted in Germany by the National Socialist tyranny. In West Germany, workers 'photography experienced a certain renaissance in the 1970s, which after the formation of regional groups in 1978 finally led to the establishment of the "Federal Association of Workers' Photography". This came under the influence of conspiracy theorists at the beginning of the 21st century .



Social documentary photography developed in the second half of the 19th century and can be seen as a forerunner and inspiration for worker photography . The living and working conditions of the "working class" were the first time in published among others by Henry Mayheur and John Brinny publication "London Labor And The London Poor" (labor and poverty in London ) The photograph (in the form of based on photographs drawings ).
Other important precursors and social documentary photographers were Jacob Riis , the 1890, the living conditions of work and homeless in New York documented ( "How The Other Half Lives"; How the other half lives), Lewis Wickes Hine , of the Child Labor of the beginning The 20th century in the USA made his theme and the photographers of the Farm Security Association (FSA), including Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, with their documentation of American farm deaths during the Depression towards the end of the 1920s. In Germany, August Sander in particular is the photographer who focused on the social with his work “People of the 20th Century”.

These photographers dedicated themselves to the living and working conditions of small craftsmen, workers and social marginalized groups from outside. The movement of worker photographers received inspiration from these and other photographic projects and often referred to such examples in form and content. It emerged as part of the labor movement. Worker photographers documented their own social situation during the Weimar Republic and understood photography as a “weapon” for changing society. The majority of worker photographers in the Weimar Republic remained anonymous.

Worker Photography in the Weimar Republic

The development of workers 'photography in the Weimar Republic is closely connected to the history of the workers' movement, especially that of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), but also to general trade union cultural work. Worker photography was a tool of public relations and propaganda . Owning a camera was not a given. It cost a worker several months' wages.

In view of the declining circulation of the party press, the Xth Party Congress of the KPD in 1926, as well as the Reich Agitprop Conference held in the same year, initiated a change in the KPD's media policy (primarily related to the party organ “ Die Rote Fahne ”). The Reichs-Agitprop-Conference called on the editors to do more photo coverage. If worker correspondents ensured the connection between the party newspaper and the local party work as well as the local labor disputes with reports, worker photographers became picture chroniclers of the party and society from a socialist point of view. Against this background, the Communist delivered Münzenberg published Corporation Workers' Illustrated Newspaper (AIZ) a major boost to the development of the working-photographer movement. On March 25, 1926, she called for a photography competition. This was intended to reduce the dependence on bourgeois picture agencies and to obtain picture material that was closer to partisan reporting.

As a result of the AIZ competition, the “Central Office for Amateur Workers Photographers” was founded in Berlin that same year . Other local groups quickly sprang up in other cities, and in September 1926 a Reich Committee of German Workers' Photographers was founded. In 1927, the “Association of German Workers' Photographers” (VdAFD) was established with 25 local groups. The connection to the KPD, which had helped establish the organization in the long term, remained close. However, membership was open to anyone who felt committed to socialism. - In addition to this new movement of politically committed amateur photographers within the labor movement, the photo groups of the Friends of Nature organization continued to exist .

The worker photographers developed a lively club life, created darkrooms, offered further training and education in photographic techniques and took photos for the communist and union press , the newspapers of the social democracy , the newspapers of the workers' sports organizations and the “Naturfreund”, the organ of nature lovers. In the interest of effective reporting, many local groups of the VdAF were organized according to the model of professional photo agencies, so that they could report promptly. In addition to photographs illustrating individual articles, reports were increasingly being made. The montages, especially introduced by the Russian avant-garde , in which AIZ practiced at a high level by John Heartfield , also became a popular means of expression. Films were also made here and there. There was also a lively exhibition practice. The magazine “Der Arbeiter-Fotograf”, which was founded in 1926 as a newsletter and was headed by Eugen Heilig from 1929, was of outstanding importance for the development of the organization .

In 1929 the VdAF had 1480 members. The worker-photographer achieved a circulation of 7000 copies. 1931, to the III. Reich Conference of the VdAF, were finally organized in around 100 local groups 2312 members. At the end of 1932, 125 groups belonged to the VdAF.

In 1930, the SPD and the Friends of Nature made efforts to set up their own amateur photographer organization. For this purpose the magazine “Das neue Bild” was published. However, these efforts have not met with long-term success.

After Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor, all social organizations and media were quickly brought into line, communists, trade unionists and social democrats were persecuted, the organized workers' photographers were only able to continue their illegal practice for a short time.

International worker photography

The practice of worker photography in the period between the two world wars was not just a German phenomenon . In addition to a broad worker-photographer movement in the Soviet Union , there were comparable organizations, e.g. B. in Czechoslovakia , France , the Netherlands , Austria and the USA . They cooperated in the “International Bureau of Workers Photographers of All Countries”. The German worker photographers worked particularly closely with the “All-Russian Workers' Photographer Clubs” and exchanged photographs for their respective magazines (in the USSR: “Rabotschaya Gazeta” and “Sowetskoje Foto”). This cooperation resulted in the "Unionfoto GmbH", a picture agency, behind which Russ-Foto (a Soviet photo agency), the Soviet workers' photographer organization and publishing houses of the USSR stood.

Worker Photography in the Federal Republic of Germany

Photographic work

Walter Ballhauser , who did not belong to the organization of workers 'photographers, became known in the 1970s as a photographer who took photos in social documentary terms in the sense of workers' photography.

From 1972 workers' photography groups were founded, in 1972 in Hamburg , 1973 in Cologne and so on. Local groups emerged that were connected to the DKP and its newspaper, Our Time . These groups worked mainly on a project-oriented basis on local social problems, industrial disputes , working and living conditions, accompanied the activities of citizens' initiatives with photographs and organized exhibitions (including regularly at the UZ press festivals). The art magazine "tendenzen" by the Munich art scientist and gallery owner Richard Hiepe reported regularly on the development of worker photography in the Federal Republic of Germany. The magazine Arbeiterfotografie has been published since 1973 . In 1978 the Federal Association of Workers' Photography was founded in Essen .

Conspiracy theoretic website

Anneliese Fikentscher and Andreas Neumann, who are also responsible for NRhZ-Online , operate the website . According to communications scientist Tobias Jaecker , anti-Semitic conspiracy theories will be spread on this website as of September 11, 2001 . According to the presentation there, the Israeli secret service Mossad was involved in the terrorist attacks because it had "long since infiltrated all Islamist terrorist organizations through and through". According to Jaecker, corresponding reports show "clear conspiracy-theoretical features" which "could hardly be kept on the basis of the few flimsy 'clues' lined up". In his opinion, the website is one of the popular German-language sites on the Internet, “which meticulously“ documents ”all possible rumors and alleged 'evidence'” about the terrorist attacks.

2012 took Fikentscher and Neumann in a trip by the operator of the Islamist site Muslim market , Yavuz Özoguz , in a private audience of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in part. This was sharply criticized with regard to Ahmadinejad's denial of the Holocaust and Israel's right to exist as legitimizing the Iranian regime of injustice.

Several members of Arbeiterfotografie then distanced themselves from the Federal Association of Arbeiterfotografie and operate under the Arbeiterfotografie-Berlin. Even the worker photography honorary member Gabriele Senft distanced himself explicitly from the federal association and justified this with the “demands of the so-called› new peace movement ‹around Jürgen Elsässer , Ken Jebsen and Lars Mährholz , as well as the possibility for Elsässer to express his right-wing populist thoughts and the efforts to blur right and left and now even to reinterpret the NPD as new ›angels of peace‹. "

In October 2012, Fikentscher and Neumann published their own text in which they questioned the perpetrators of the National Socialist underground in the so-called kebab murders , first on NRhZ-Online and then in a slightly abbreviated version in April 2014 on . The text was well received by neo-Nazis in forum posts and supported the conspiracy theory propagated there that the series of murders were "contract killings, a mixture of Turkish / Kurdish clan disputes, extortion of protection money, narcotics, etc." Then Fikentscher and Neumann submitted the text, slightly modified, for publication to the Ossietzky magazine , which only prints first-time publications, and assured them that the text had not yet appeared anywhere else. The text was then printed in issue 13/2013. Ossietzky editor Otto Köhler only noticed shortly afterwards what was supposed to be the alleged first publication and accused Fikentscher and Neumann of having “ opened a national-socialist cross front ”. He also pointed out that the two had been suggesting Israeli authorship of the accidental death of Jörg Haider since 2009 on .

In 2016, Fikentscher and Neumann exhibited photos of the Cologne Wailing Wall at the 21st Left Literature Fair in Nuremberg , a permanent rally on the cathedral square that is critical of Israel and, according to other sources, anti-Semitic . They unreservedly praised the person in charge, Walter Herrmann, as a "peace activist" without distancing themselves from the conspiracy-theoretical content of his display boards ("An elite of criminals, the new world order mafia , enslaved the rest of the world and dominated politics, media and corporations").

The Arbeiterfotografie regularly organizes its exhibitions and demonstrations in the rooms of the Alte Feuerwache in Cologne , where other anti-Semitic groups also meet.


  • Wolfgang Hesse (Ed.): The Worker's Eye. Workers' photography and art around 1930. Publication on the occasion of the exhibitions of the same name in Zwickau, Cologne and Dresden. Leipzig 2014.
  • Wolfgang Hesse: The exceptions and the rule. Lifeworld, media awareness and press policy in worker photography in the Weimar Republic. In: Yearbook for research on the history of the labor movement . Issue III / 2013.
  • Rationalization - for whom? Reports The world of work in crisis. Worker Photography Project Group Bielefeld, Berlin 1976.
  • The university as a company. Workers Photography Group Marburg, Mörfelden 1978.
  • Worker in photography. Richard Hiepe, 1974.


  • Worker Photography , Bremen 1978
  • Jochim Büthe: The Worker Photographer: Documents and Articles on Worker Photography 1926-1932 , Prometheus-Verlag, Cologne 1977

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Rudolf Stumberger: The Super Selfie and the Bargain Hunt , Telepolis Feature from January 1, 2017
  2. Wake up, damned of this earth. In:
  3. Tobias Jaecker: Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories after September 11th. New variants of an old interpretation model . Münster: Lit, 2004. (Political Theory and Culture. 2.) ISBN 978-3-8258-7917-4 , pp. 68 f.
  4. Tobias Jaecker: From "Petronazis" and the "Kosher Nostra". 9/11 conspiracy theories . In: The world after 9/11. Effects of terrorism on the world of states and society . Edited by Thomas Hunter . Wiesbaden: VS-Verl., 2011. (Journal for Foreign and Security Policy. Special Issue 2.) ISBN 978-3-531-18420-3 , pp. 927–945, here p. 934.
  5. ^ Jonas Nonnenmann: FDP state parliament candidate advertises Ahmadinejad. In: Berliner Zeitung . May 4, 2012
  6. FDP local politician at Ahmadinejad: The incredible journey of Mr. Hübscher. In: Spiegel Online, May 3, 2012
  7. ^ FDP politicians at Ahmadinejad: Hübscher's miraculous travel group. In: Spiegel Online , May 4, 2012
  8. Brief historical outline of worker photography : The Great Break ( Memento of the original from August 5, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. Thomas Willms: Sorcerer's Apprentices: Takeover of »Arbeiterfotografie« , antifa , issue 1/2016
  10. Otto Köhler: "Trapped" , Ossietzky No. 14/2013
  11. ^ About anti-Semitism at the Left Literature Fair in Nuremberg . haGalil from November 10, 2016, accessed on August 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Family meeting of the anti-Semites , haGalil of September 27, 2014