Artist talk with Barbara Stauss: 29 March, 19h
Johanna-Maria Fritz has been traveling the world as a photographer for almost ten years. The Berlin-based artist finds her motifs in crises, conflicts, collapsing states, persecuted minorities, and at the margins of society. Because there, where few people look at, she identifies the truth. „There, I see people who are absorbed by their own problems and have never learned to pose according to our standards“, she explains.
Fritz has had portraits of Taliban men woven into rugs. Made by the same girls whom the Islamists had forbidden to learn thus to hope. Supposed iconic imagery that illustrate the inhumanity of the current regime.
In spring 2022, Fritz was also one of the first photojournalists in Ukraine, taking pictures in Butcha and the Donbas, among other places. Her work from the front proves that journalistic documentary can meet high aesthetic standards, that beauty can even accentuate the unimaginable. These images have become modern icons.
In the exhibition, the recent works are juxtaposed with two older series that were created as long-term art projects. Photographs of ‘witches’ in Romania and circus performers in Muslim-majority countries. Motifs that resemble dreamy landscapes full of contrasts, intimate despite their precarious situations.
Assault on Europe
Russia's invasion of Ukraine followed its occupation of Crimea and the destabilization of the Donbas by Moscow-directed so-called separatists eight years earlier. Kremlin ruler Vladimir Putin had been emboldened by weak sanctions and new gas deals to go even further. Many people in Western societies only became aware of the danger posed by Russia's new imperialism with the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022: Moscow's attack on its neighbour is also an invasion of Europe.
In 2016 Johanna-Maria Fritz has already photographed the Donbas region and the now completely destroyed Mariupol. She portrayed people who suffered from the consequences of the war and who, in consequence, were committed to an orientation towards the West.
Since the beginning of the war, Fritz travelled to Ukraine several times to photograph for major German and Swiss media (including DER SPIEGEL, Die Zeit, NZZ). Her photos from Kyiv during the siege, from Butcha immediately after the liberation, and from Bahmut during the battle for the city are harrowing testimonies to Russian brutality. They should serve as a warning that Ukraine must not be left alone again. "Once you have looked into the faces of people who have lost everything, you cannot look away," the artist claims.
Text by Thore Schröder