Recollecting a Culture: Photography and the Evolution of a Socialist Aesthetic in East Germany is a study of the political and economic pressures on the visual arts of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It draws from the Fotokino Archive, comprised of approximately 14,000 prints and several thousand negatives, which was accessioned by the Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg Halle from the publisher V.E.B. Knapp, Leipzig, in 1989. Knapp began publication of the monthly periodical Die Fotografie in 1860. After the Second World War, along with all other media industries in the Soviet sector, Knapp fell under the control of the East German state. Publication of Die Fotografie was resumed in 1947. In 1964, the publishing house was moved to the nearby city of Halle (Saale) and its name changed to the Fotokinoverlag. Of the two periodicals published by the Fotokinoverlag between 1947 and 1991, Fotokino represented the interests of East German amateurs and photographic societies, while Die Fotografie presented professional and art photography from East Germany and abroad. In 1991, following the collapse of the East German economic and political structure, the Fotokinoverlag was closed.

As an instrument of East German socialism, Die Fotografie proposed a provocative revision to the history of photography. "The development of a socialist conception of art photography in the German Democratic Republic…" Gerhard Henniger wrote in 1966, "must be seen in the larger context of the formation of a socialist photo-art in Germany. Its beginnings go back to the workers' photography and its struggle against fascism and militarism… Only in this way can one adequately judge the national and historical significance of our daily activities." (DF 1/66, p. 8) Thus, in contrast to Western histories built upon a foundation of works by modernist and early-modernist masters, the history of East German photography was built from a body of images by amateurs and artists, largely unknown outside Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, whose photographs depicted the world from the class perspective of the worker. The works published in Die Fotografie and archived by the Fotokinoverlag were valued for their cultural and political resonance, and for their affirmation of the "humanistic impulse" as photography's most significant contribution to art.