The Photographer Evelyn Richter:
The work of one of the members of the "founding generation" of photography in the GDR
Introduction: Documentation, Vision, Projection

Andreas Krase
Berlin, 1993
Translated by Chris Egger, 1994

In the past years several attempts have been made to describe the phenomenon "Photography in the GDR". Especially after the end of the GDR it has become apparent that there has been a phase of intensive developments and processes. This phase began in the late 70-s and led to the acceptance of photography as a medium of artistic interpretation that could persist even in a climate of official resistance.

Because the public was so sealed off there was, in the population, a real need for information and discussion that could be satisfied, among other things, with photographs. And on the other hand this caused a very distinctive form of moral self-conception [Selbstverstaendnis] with the photographers. But this was not the only peculiarity of the photo scene in the GDR.

"Photography in the GDR" also always includes the fact that certain decisions made by artists and photographers could cause the departure from that "photo-scene" - the forced or deliberate emigration from the GDR - that people and their artistic aspirations were formed by very specific circumstances and conditions.

For this reason we must not only talk about that closed system GDR inside of which this photography developed. We must also consider the ruptures and gaps, the difficulties in orientation of those who left and the feeling of powerlessness and of being left over that came to haunt those who stayed behind after each of several "waves of emigration" and m ade them question the meaning of all their endeavors.

Seen from without only those works count, of course, that are perceived as distinctive and that are rated according to their spiritual and sensual radiance. Seen from this angle it should be noted that art photography in the GDR essentially consisted of three strains that can partially be assigned to certain age groups of photographers.

Strongly simplified we can say that there was a dominance of socially active Live-photography that in the beginning had to gain acceptance against strong resistance from the official cultural-political establishment and that was pursued by only very few photographers. The missionary and emotional power of those pictures of reality constituted a basic value that was not questioned. Because of this it was possible that photography and some photographers could indeed become a kind of moral institution and found a tradition that rooted in the documentary abilities of photography.

During the late 70s a new generation of photographers that was generally quite critical of the realities in the GDR started to consciously use photography as a means of subjective expression and they began developing a personal vocabulary of forms. Reality here became a material that served as a model for photographic vision. It became the stuff of which dreams as well as nightmares could be made.

Yet another method was used by those photographers who not only viewed reality all around them in a critical light, but who for the most part rejected it. For this reason they began to stage their pictures in front of the camera, they began to create reality before their cameras. In this context photography was but one medium among many others to choose from. The artists often related their projections to multi-media happenings and performances that sometimes provoked absurd overreactions by the state powers.

Those last developments later attracted the strongest attentions and, like the second strain of developments, soon became quite well-known through exhibitions.

Much less attention has been given to those approaches that were rooted in documentation and that were viewed as less spectacular or as more traditional after the end of the GDR. But without the photographers of that "founding generation" we can not fully understand the entire development since their work created important points of reference for the processes that followed - not to mention the direct and mutual effects on politics and cultural politics in the GDR.

One reference to the "founding generation" was expressed in the total rejection of a photography in the tradition of the "human interest": the radical change of values in the new generation, their often playful cynicism and the rejection of out-dated social, utopian dreams could not co-exist with a documentary or "realistic" photography.

It is easy to name the members of that "founding generation" since there are only two photographers: Evelyn Richter from Leipzig and Arno Fischer from Berlin. The stories of their lives, though specific, can nonetheless be considered paradigms since they contain not only the fate of the post-war generation in East Germany but also a part of modern history that certainly befits a discussion of "GDR Photography". Both acted as teachers at the "Hochschule fuer Grafik und Buchkunst" [College for Graphic and Book Arts] in Leipzig and through the instruction of photo students they exerted an additional influence -a fact that can not be overestimated.

Though the following text is about Evelyn Richter's life and work it is hoped that this may serve as an introduction to the topic "Photography in the GDR" and that further contributions will help us in gaining a better, more coherent knowledge.

Evelyn Richter. Notes on her life and work.

"Whereas the avant-garde has been searching for a new visual language to expand our perceptions I see the potential of realistic photography in increasing, with its media-specific language, tolerance and openness through knowledge and in making them, through exact seeing, more sensitive to each other as well as to the perception of all of life." 1

Emotionality, human knowledge and history combine in Evelyn Richter's work in an unmistakable way. Her activities as a photographer are inseparable from the circumstances of her time which, for her as for most people of her generation, were conditioned by the material, political and cultural consequences of WWII in East Germany.

Paradoxically, the only generation that can properly be called a GDR generation is the one that reached adulthood just as the war was over and that began leading their own lives in devastated post-war Germany: the entire span of their professional lives fell between the years 1945-89. And they all, from one position or another, shared in the fate of the GDR -its utopian ideas, its constraints and excesses. The opening of the border in 1989 came too late for the people of this generation to catch up with the opportunities they had missed. But with the end of the GDR disappeared an essential cause of friction that had worn down so many and with which many had made their peace.

This is true for Evelyn Richter, too. Her photographs developed in that field of tensions of the circumstances around her: her cultural frame of reference, however, was always European Culture. Her specific determination as well as her passionate readiness to assert her artistic concepts are shaped by her twofold identity as a photographer and as a woman, both in a highly subjective as well as an objective-inevitable manner.

Evelyn Richter was born in 1930 in a town called Bautzen in Saxony and grew up in a well-to-do family that was open-minded about arts. On her father's side her family had been living in the area for generations. Early-on she developed a relation to a tradition that had grown organically and was culturally conscious. This shaped her later life and, with its shaping of basic values, foreshadowed future conflicts. She attended a convent school that her parents had carefully chosen because of its distance to Nazi education and then later, until the end of the war as well as during the upheaval that followed, Unified Comprehensive School [Oberschule].

The end of the war brought the entrepreneurial family Richter the loss of house and home and complete expropriation of all their land. But at least it also brought the release of their oldest son from a POW camp. Ever since, though, there also existed for Evelyn Richter the stigma of middle class and this influenced all of her life's decisions in many ways.

There was, first of all, this completely new perspective of having to connect her own life with an economically independent existence - an effort that grew to an unconditional desire especially because of the many hindrances and exclusions as well as her inability to internalize rational demands to earn a living. But even so the "art world" increasingly became the center of her life. In her parents' home these developments were observed with goodwill and worry: her father urged her to choose a practical profession. Finally, the young woman left for Dresden to look for a training opportunity in the a rts and crafts.

The big city promised an escape from provincial confinement. But to a young woman with an interest in art Dresden, in its tragic state of total destruction by the war, had nothing to offer in terms of real possibilities for education. A coincidence led Evelyn Richter to a Dresden architect who was working on the preservation of historic monuments. In the house of Dr. Karl Bellmann and in the studio of his son-in-law Pan Walther she made her first, momentous contact with photography.

"I got there, I saw the pictures, they were pictorial things, in old frames, deep, velvety tones - I was fascinated. What I saw there was pure art photography, Dresden tradition. I saw this, had a conversation with him {Pan Walther.[Krase]} and I told him that I wanted to be a photographer. In THAT moment I made the decision." 2 At that point, it was in the year 1948, Evelyn Richter quit school and started her education as a photographer. Pan Walther (1921-1987), whose self-conception [Selbstverstaendnis] as a photographer came out of the tradition of German photographers Hugo Erfurth and Franz Fiedler, represented in those days the continuation of a conservative aesthetic in photography.

Pan Walther taught his students classical composition and the rules of a photographic use of light. He imparted to her the conviction that a photograph is not just a pure copy of something but mainly a creative product. However, there were no further stimuli as far as contemporary photography was concerned. Important documentary achievements - e.g. the deeply distressing reports by Richard Peter sr. about the destruction of Dresden - were taken note of respectfully but in a reserved manner: this, as well as all photojournalism, was not art. A different story was the Dresden painter/photographer Edmund Kesting (1892-1970) whose multiple exposures and sandwiched montages later prompted Evelyn Richter to do some experimenting on her own.

Much more important was the extensive circle of friends of the families Bellmann and Walther: the woman photographer Grete Back (1878-1965) and the photographer Franz Fiedler (1885-1956) who could, due to their age, authentically relate the experiences of pictorial photography gave lectures every now and then in art photographic techniques.

The cultural atmosphere of those years, according to Evelyn Richter's memories, was dominated by a sense of renewal and cultural opening. The deficit of information from without and the exodus of the artistic avant-garde during Nazi dictatorship had created a great desire to catch up spiritually, a kind of mental hunger for experiences for which every thing even remotely resembling normalcy became an event. But the political and economic formation of the state of East Germany did not stop for the artists of the banks of the river Loschwitz. The circle of customers of traditionally educated middle cla ss people who demanded art-photographic representation disappeared more and more. Very soon Pan Walther quit his studio business and followed his wife to West Germany. In 1952 Evelyn Richter finished her education on her own and worked as a photographer at the Technical University of Dresden. In 1953 she applied to study photography at the College for Graphic and Book Arts in Leipzig, up until 1989 the only art college with a degree program in photography in the GDR.

But the head of the photo department, the photographer Johannes Widmann (1904) who specialized in architectural photography, soon turned out to be the exact opposite of the wishes projected onto him, and so did the entire program.

The short phase of relative detente that followed Stalin's death and the violent political upheavals in the year 1953 had only little effect on the college. Under the constraints of the dogma of realism Evelyn Richter experienced an atmosphere of intolerance and stylistic uptightness in the fine arts. And even though some lasting friendships grew as well the climate of everyday relations condensed to silence and depression. And this depression is expressed, among other things, in the portraits of her classmates. By and large the program followed completely out-dated patterns. The demanded orientation on 19th century history painting and genre painting and its ideologized imitation in Soviet art lead to absurd excesses: in the school basement, where into the post-war era high-tech printing studios had been located, the students photographed tableaux vivants after literary sources. This loss of [a connection to] reality hit Evelyn Richter in many respects hard and she came to see the art college increasingly as an "obscure institute". Her attempts at developing observational photography in the sense of Live-photography were hardly taken note of at all. When finally attending lectures at other colleges in Leipzig became cause for public reprimands (e.g. the audience of the well-known German scholar Hans Mayer or applause in pu blic concerts of the latest music) and when attendance was strictly enforced, Evelyn Richter was no longer willing to be part of the college.

Moreover, Evelyn Richter, who would not deny her social origins nor her relation to traditional culture, got the small stipend which she was at best able to receive as a "middle class intellectual" terminated. Financially, her departure from the college was at first cushioned by an assignment that she had received from the state factory "Fotochemische Werke Berlin", a former Kodak factory, while still a student. The occasion was the testing of a highly sensitive film (DIN 24) that had been introduced in the mid 50s and that opened up totally new dimension s in the representation of events and for live documentation. Evelyn Richter photographed in various theaters in Berlin and in the theater in Gera. Her attempt to become a permanent employee in Berlin and to establish herself there, with one eye on the West, was unsuccessful.

Even though in terms of content and style she moved towards the themes she was interested in she was still living between two extremes emotionally and spiritually. On the one hand her family's expropriation still weighed heavily on her mind. On the other hand she was very aware of the fact that she was neither brought up to lead a practical existence nor did she have an innate ability for it. The impression that she got on several trips to West Germany convinced her that it would be difficult for her to integrate her personal interests and her desire to assert herself in either system.

Evelyn Richter decided to stay in the GDR, among other reasons because here the cost of living was markedly lower and because the border between the two German states was basically still permeable enough to allow travelling. Connected to this attitude of wait-and-see was the hope that the political system, which in its most basic statements promised a more just social order, was able to change. But that hope ultimately turned out to be an illusion. In the following years and up until the beginning of the 60-s Evelyn Richter exhausted all the possibilities of movement that were available in her specif ic situation. In the fall of 1955 she was able to see the exhibit "The Family of Man" in West Berlin and the impressions that she got of contemporary Western photography had a lasting effect on her. Magazines of the publication "Magnum" or the ideas of "subjective photography" of Otto Steinerts from Essen acted as catalysts in the process of artistic orientation especially because of their exquisite singularity.

Evelyn Richter noticed Henri Cartier-Bresson, the photographs of August Sander or Dorothea Lange a little later, after she had already developed some important positions by herself. The determining stimulus came from seemingly very ill-suited surroundings. In 1956 she won first prize in a juried exhibition for the World Youth Festival in Moscow. Her photograph showed an African dancer in the light of a camera flash and was interpreted by the jurors as "a symbol for the fight for freedom" itself.

In this way Evelyn Richter had a chance to go to the festival that was held the following year in Moscow. During her stay in Moscow some of the foreign visitors, Evelyn among them, were given a tour by a Russian art historian through archives that were normally closed to the public. There a great number of works in the tradition of classical modernism lay hidden. At the same time the public waited in long lines to see an Italian exhibit of modern art. The curious pushing and shoving of the people, their hunger for modernity and artistic experience in an atmosphere that was otherwise still dominated by timidness and shyness deeply impressed Evelyn Richter and convinced her to make her first documentary based entirely on her experience. This was also the beginning of her work "Austellungsbesucher" ["Exhibition Visitors"], a theme that she pursued for years.

People in front of works of art, in states of deep contemplation, alert attentiveness or physical exhaustion were for Evelyn Richter a chance to "observe mental activity as proof for the transmission of most delicate reactions which for me enlighten the hope that there is something essential in man".4

By chance Evelyn Richter switched to a small format camera and she was able to complete her process of distancing herself from picturesquely staged single images step by step. Ever since, an intuitive and sometimes lively manner of working with the camer a that was based on physical movement became her way of photographing: the feel and the concepts of harmony of art photography formed the basis for her decisions in framing coincidental constellations of visual elements. In seemingly unimportant events the moment was seen as symbolic of [larger] conditions and as revealing history. A Leica that she was able to trade for valuables of her family in 1968, secretly and across the border, became an adequate tool.

After her return, contacts to members of the photographers' association "action photographie" in Leipzig intensified, most of whom she had known since she was a student. During one of the officially very controversial exhibitions of the photographers' association she met Arno Fischer, a photographer from Berlin who was in a comparable situation: in November 1957 the two of them went to Poland and in Warsaw they had contacts to reporters of the magazine "Swiat", an event that reinforced their photographic ideas. In addition a joint exhibit took place.

Around 1960 both Arno Fischer and Evelyn Richter pursued, independently of each other, demanding book projects that came to an abrupt end when the inner-German border was closed. Looking for a way out of this financially and politically threatening situation Evelyn Richter found a new source of income in commissions from the VEB "Messeprojekt" in Leipzig. Here she met a small group of open-minded exhibition designers who took advantage of the fact that the GDR wanted to compete internationally in the field of trade fairs. Thanks to this there were sometimes also relatively demanding photographic commissions. The locations for these shoots were very often in production plants of factories and Evelyn Richter came in direct contact with the industrial wor king environment. But because only stereotypical and posed images were accepted that were to acknowledge the positive results of a socialist way of production these commissions themselves did not give her a chance to realize her own observations photographically.

Evelyn Richter's interest was mainly in the female factory workers to whom she felt a special connection both through her basic experiences as a human being of the present and as a woman. The women workers who were decorated in the eyes of the law and idealized as heroines of production by propaganda in reality lead a rough and meager life amidst out-dated machinery. This contradiction soon became Evelyn Richter's real theme - independent of its original context. Even though she had to fight for permission to shoot every time and despite the fact that her way of observational photography was v iewed with suspicion even by the workers themselves, Evelyn Richter was able to develop her method of long-term observation here. Her photography was oriented - as was the case later on - towards the depiction of people in their everyday social surroundings and their way of life. The photographic image was not solely "aimed at the recording of concrete social circumstances but at the actions of individuals. From this grew the photographs' authenticity and subjective believability. However, this was only possible because of the artist's vigorous energy that enabled her to persist against all odds.

First consultations with the publishing house "Edition Leipzig" increased her hope to have her own publication: just like Arno Fischer's photographic work about East and West Berlin. Evelyn Richter's book about women in the GDR became impossible after the wall in Berlin was closed.

After that the publishers refused to sign the already agreed-upon contract since every form of critique or even just every hint of a critique in public was to be prevented - and as such were denounced even unmanipulated depictions of everyday reality.

The consequences of the erection of the wall in 1961 can not adequately be described: after getting completely sealed off the real frame of reference, both spiritually and personally, was arbitrarily restricted; contacts to friends and lovers stopped, for many people irrevocably. The outrageous nature of building this wall was not accepted by Evelyn Richter as a permanent event. Just like the dogmatic discussions of artistic aesthetic in the 50-s this manner of creating political fact was felt to be grotesque.

Evelyn Richter's understanding of the risks of an uncertain existence as well as her desire for personal independence had made it seem irresponsible to her to have a family. The sealing of the border, though not entirely unexpected, created finalities ev en in very personal matters for the rest of her life.

Her passionate interest in artists' portraits which intensified after 1962 can be interpreted, as a theme, as the erection of a human counterpoint to those violent politics. She was able to secure her material existence through advertisement photography and through her work as a photo editor arranging exhibitions for the "Messen der Meister von Morgen (MMM)" ["Trade Fairs of the Masters of Tomorrow"]. Through this Evelyn Richter was able to maintain her status as a freelance artist, although increasingly out of the spotlight. She gave up taking her own pictures in this context more and more because of the existing regulations and she specialized in de signing exhibitions. The money she earned this way she invested in her own work and - in contrast to later years when the state offered commissions and stipends - this was the only way she could afford to take pictures at all.

Evelyn Richter's deep love of music was the beginning of another project - portraits of musicians, conductors and composers - that she pursued over many years. Mostly at concerts and personal encounters she found a chance to photograph and despite the distrust that was everywhere she was able to develop friendly relations over the course of several years - as for example with the world-renown violinist David Oistrach from the Soviet Union. The expenses she paid mostly out of her own pocket: towards the end of the 60-s there were some commissions from the magazines "Freie Welt" and "FF-dabei" in Berlin.

Evelyn Richter concentrated on the comportment and the impression on others of a few outstanding artists and she tried to fathom the secret of their personal charisma and their power to convince in their effects on each of their particular surroundings. At the center of her depiction [work?] is the communication of attitudes, of hard work and complete personal involvement as the basis for spiritual work, the way she experienced it in musicians like Oistrach.

Making music - simultaneously an immense psycho-physical stress and an artistic ability to enjoy - becomes a metaphor for creative achievement. Her personal style of "simple, clear composition based on an unpretentious moment" reached its peak.

In doing this Evelyn Richter remained true to a basic conviction that understands the photographic image as an authentic consequence of true human expression and that opposes the manipulation of the photographic image with the genuineness of experience and the author's credibility. More and more she came to see the photographic book as the only adequate form of publication - a combination of single images and sequences with a temporal development of actions which are based on psychological tensions and which provoke a comparative contemplation of the pictures.

After working out the basic concept she contacted the Henschelverlag in Berlin and they accepted her idea of producing a photographic monograph on David Oistrach. Since the beginning of the 70-s Evelyn Richter had been working intensively to perfect the pictures as well as the concept of the book. For this reason it hit her very hard that despite all her efforts she was not allowed to follow Oistrach's personal invitations to attend his concerts in West Berlin. Instead of paying the few pennies for the short train ride to West Berlin, again and again she had to travel thousands of miles to Prague and Moscow to see the musician at work.

In order to render the connection between working environment and lifestyle more transparent she developed a combination of documentary study and psychological interpretation that was to be complemented with an accompanying text. In their sequence the photographs were conceived as elements of an experiential crescendo comparable to the experience of a musical piece. But especially the text part was unsuccessful and there was a constant incongruence between the demands of the author and the publisher. Her passionate involvement was based on her intense need for self-expression, the desire to carry her ideas through in as pure a way as possible and to realize her book as one whole work of art [Gesamtkunstwerk]. To this end she was willing to accept a very heavy burden - not to mention the fact that due to the shortage of goods in the GDR she had to work under very modest circumstances as it was and that the purchase of materials necessitated larger and larger expenditures. The publishers pursued their own goals in using Evelyn Richter's concept and photographs - e.g. lucrative licensing in t he West from which the photographer would get no share - and because she insisted on having the responsibility for the entire project problems between her and the publishers increased. Evelyn Richter's artistic claim collided with other existing interests and the situation developed into an almost typical conflict between a non-conformist artist and the established state structures.

These structures explicitly opposed any form of strong-willed creativity and supreme subjective achievement. What was wanted instead was a conforming to an atmosphere of mediocrity and resignative insight. Completely unaffected by market-economical considerations Evelyn Richter was striving for perfection and for control over all aspects of production of her "Gesamtkunstwerk" book. Through her attitude she made it very difficult even for sympathetic partners to work with her and this became ever more noticeable later.

Despite this tense situation Evelyn Richter at the same time developed another project for a book that was dedicated to the composer and conductor Paul Dessau. In this case, too, she was working on an integrated concept of photographs and text in the sense of an expanded depiction. Again the book was planned to be subdivided by inserted pieces of text. W hen the book on Paul Dessau was published Evelyn Richter, by and large, had been able to assert her own ideas of book composition against the VEB Musikverlag. But she also had to accept some major changes. The loss of editorship and impending legal batt les made other projects - a book on conductors, among other things - impossible and effected a deep psychological and physical crisis for Evelyn Richter. General exhaustion as well as work-related stress worsened the effects of an illness that prevented her from working for several years and that left her with permanent health problems. In this situation Evelyn Richter, out of the blue, received a commission to photographically illustrate a popular-scientific book on developmental psychology. A concept by the psychologist Hans Dieter Schmidt existed already.

Even before that assignment Evelyn Richter had been observing - with her camera -one of the children of her family and she was able to use some of that material. Coordination with the author of the text happened without any major disagreements: on the basis of mutual acceptance Evelyn Richter was able to realize an interdisciplinary way of working in her description of a social problem. An approach that - with reference to the tradition of the "Bauhaus" in Weimar and Dessau - she had been demanding in vain so far.

After some time Evelyn Richter withdrew some of her own pictures and included photographs of other artists that concentrated on conflict situations in a variety of milieus. The "different sequences of verbal and visual logic", the different objects of pictures and text became a valuable experience.8 The topic itself bore a potential for political conflict since it depicted, among other things, the accommodation of large groups of children in the day-care centers of the GDR. The popularity of the book - it appeared for the first time in 1980 - was partly due to a considerable deficit in information and a need for communication in an area that was as a whole disrupted in its communicative balance.

After completing this project she had the opportunity to fill a teaching position that had become available at the Hochschule fuer Grafik und Buchkunst [College of Graphic and Book Arts].

This was certainly an especially tricky situation since 30 years earlier she had been ex-matriculated from just that art school. However, she had always exerted an influence on the college - from without - and she still maintained personal relations to some of her old classmates who were now working there and who supported her cause. Moreover, there was a favorable constellation even on an official/political level: they could not help but notice her unusual energy and her rank as an artist even if only rather reluctantly in the beginning.

Since 1981 a full-time employee, Evelyn Richter was able to work in a by now relatively tolerant atmosphere. And she was able to communicate her ideas of a socially motivated, in theme and concept clearly determined photography. Her insistence on a broad artistic education and sensibility, on a correlation between artistic genres as well as her unwavering belief in the basics of an individual search for truth guaranteed her the interest of her students. However, the teaching environment itself left something to be desired: the equipment in the photography department was in very bad shape; and the number of students was deliberately kept low -only 4-6 students per year were accepted in the entire country, plus a number of external students.

The college acted as a protective umbrella for the small number of students and teachers and over the years it produced quite a number of important photographers. But it was a far cry from a spiritually stimulating environment because of the lack of competition.

A much younger generation of photographers partly "withdrew from the dominant culture and its institutions and searched for their own path outside the political system".-9- And their efforts were noticed even behind classroom doors. The younger generation increasingly questioned the argumentational effectiveness of the traditional visual languages, as for example classical Live photography. The experience of powerlessness in the realization of their personal concepts and last but not least the fact that their professional as well as private lives were dominated by the lack of even the most basic things made the "aesthetic of skepticism"10-- more and more apparent - in Evelyn Richter's work as well. The persistent constriction of their lives and above all the depravity in terms of cultural tradition that could be felt everywhere had their effe ct on Evelyn Richter - more and more hopeful impulses disappeared for good. In this climate of constant frustrations only few events provided relief: most of all an invitation to the "Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie" in Arles in 1987 where Evelyn Richter's work was one of the main contributions.

Since the opening of the Wall in 1989 Evelyn Richter has been in constant motion, with her typical restlessness as well as her difficulty in organizing the practical things of her life in a rational manner.

For this reason she has not yet started the pending overview of her accumulated works; even prominent honors, like the Honorary Ph.D. she received from the Leipziger Kunsthochschule [College of Art in Leipzig] as well as an important photo award have not been able to trigger anything meaningful in this direction.

Even so: the perception of Evelyn Richter's work has changed in many ways. Many of her photographs are historically specific to the East German state. But after its disintegration her pictures did not lose their power. Quite in the contrary: their innate qualities have only become clearer. Evelyn Richter's photographs are statements about general phenomena of humankind and humanity in this time - the time after WWII, which in East Germany has always remained the post-war era. Even so, the - at first glance - melancholy features of many of the people she photographed did not forebode the "status melancholicus" in anticipation of the historic failure of the GDR. A differentiating eye will see many facets of human expression: complete absorption and a dreamy state of reverie in the portraits of gypsies and young factory workers; meditative concentration and creative fulfillment in many artists' portraits; as well as numb depression, spiritual weakening, deep pensiveness, self-confidence and leisure.

The woman at the Linotype, the returning worker, the exhausted musician taking a break are all participants in a message between resignation and promise. A message that refers to a concrete, historical situation as much as essential, hopeful abilities of the human race. Insofar as there is no reason to draw strict parallels between the fate of a state and the content of an artistic oeuvre.

History is obviously neither predetermined nor ending. And this is true for Evelyn Richter's photographic work as well which reflects her desire "to create contacts [Beruehrungen]. Contacts in the sense of spirituality and concern."--12--

Note: a catalog has been published on the photographer's work: Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg Halle (editor), Evelyn Richter. Zwischenbilanz. Photographs from the years 1950-1989, Halle 1992, with texts by Ludger Derenthal, Ulrich Domroese, Andreas Krase ISBN# 3-86105-071-7