Smile please, you’re taken!

Photography Art from the ten new EU member states

17 December 2004 to 10 April 2005

The exhibition is presented within the framework of “Kulturjahr der Zehn” and made possible by funds from the Minister of State for Culture and Media


Agostino Baldacchino (Malta), Imre Benkö (Hungary), Frantisek Dostál (Czech Republic), Andrej Grants (Latvia), Martin Kollár (Slovakia), Borut Peterlin (Slovenia), Maciej Skawinski (Poland), Rimaldas Viksraitis (Lithuania), Mart Viljus (Estonia), Ioannis Yerou (Cyprus)

The photography of our Eastern neighbours is based on a long tradition of specific concepts of the images which cannot always be brought into line with Western perceptions. In the former Eastern Bloc states photography officially served to report and document the achievements of Socialism. Inofficially it was a means of inventing fictitious, often very private realities in which daily life was frequently shown in distorted form, but aesthetically transformed, it could latently convey a strong critical potential. What do the images look like today?

The view of the changing world should – according to our concept – be taken from a critical distance, whereby irony and subtle humour can pave the way, as experience shows. The title of the exhibition “Smile please, you’re taken!” can refer both to the act of photographing and to the political act of admitting to the European Union, but also offers enough latitude to document the different photographic perspectives.

The photographs from Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Hungary most clearly mark the position of our theme. The photographers from Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania see their countries from a different vantage point. Their attention seems to be drawn primarily to the manner in which the image is realised.

We were interested in a direct view of the people and events of everyday life, without staging them for the camera or reprocessing them digitally. Under these conditions, the comparison of the photographs reveals the differences in mentality. Many situations seem to be captured merely in passing by the photograph and become ambivalent occurrences, whereby the immediate element of comedy evokes metaphors of daily life. The more “Western” photography from Cyprus and Malta seems – less affected by changes – to interpret the world from a more poetical but nevertheless cheerful point of view.

Organizer: Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (NBK)
Curators: Alexander Tolnay (Berlin), Manfred Schmalstiege (Berlin)