‘Sucher’ (literally ‘seeker’) and ‘finder’ are the very different camera terms used in German and English, respectively, to designate the same technical device that photographers look through to compose the motifs they wish to capture. One of Bernd Becher’s early students at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the photographer and graphic artist Volker Döhne meticulously and passionately fulfils these two purposes since 1976. A native of Remscheid, his work has been shaped by North Rhine-Westphalia’s regions, where his photographs of the Ruhr Valley, the Rhineland and the Bergisch Land expose historical and social relationships. His 1976 series Stille Orte (literally: Quiet Places) focuses on an exceptional architectonic structure, the outdoor toilet that usually stood adjacent to the home and whose disappearance serves here as a symbol of changing social structures. This first large-scale retrospective offers a survey of Volker Döhne’s art from 1976 to 2018, placing his oeuvre in the context of the history of the Düsseldorf School of Photography. Twelve of his photographic series strikingly demonstrate how Döhne regularly redirects the viewer’s attention to ostensibly unremarkable and sometimes even absurd everyday situations: to automobiles in the urban space, railway bridges, houses alongside a street, paths that end up nowhere or the back seats of vehicles parked on the roadside. He documents living spaces that enable us draw conclusions about the state and development of our society. Despite the narrative pleasure and occasional twists of humour evident in his photographs, they are characterised by an objective balanced composition and a depth in focus that similarly highlight the seemingly insignificant. A separate chapter is devoted to the artist’s photographic examination of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and his Krefeld buildings Haus Lange and Haus Esters. Detached from a social context, Döhne’s pictures concentrate on the solitary structures erected in the New Building style during the late 1920s.
The exhibition also introduces visitors to Volker Döhne’s work as a graphic designer. Handcrafted from the typesetting to the binding stages, Döhne’s artist’s books create an intensified dialogue between text and image. Many of the Kunstmuseen Krefeld’s catalogues, posters and exhibition invitations bear his stylistic imprint. Designed by the artist himself, the accompanying booklet features texts by Volker Döhne as well as Katia Baudin, Martin Hentschel, Julian Heynen, Magdalena Holzhey, Thomas Janzen, Sylvia Martin, Eva Meyer-Hermann, Sabine Röder and Constanze Zawadzky. An edition of three photographs of the 1979 Ohne Titel (Bunt) series will be issued on the occasion of the exhibition.
Curator: Dr Sylvia Martin
Volker Döhne (born 1953 Remscheid) lives and works in Krefeld. He began attending the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 1975, where he studied photography with Bernd Becher (1975–1980) and design with Tünn Konerding (1978–1980). He was then worked as a photographer and graphic designer for the Kunstmuseen Krefeld until 2018.