The Mu­se­um Lud­wig holds an out­s­tand­ing col­lec­tion of pho­to­graphs en­com­pass­ing some 70,000 works from the be­gin­n­ing of pho­tog­ra­phy in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry to the pre­sent. Start­ing March 24, parts of the Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion will be show­cased in a spe­cial Pho­tog­ra­phy Room within the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion of the Lud­wig Mu­se­um in an ef­fort to gra­d­u­al­ly pre­sent the col­lec­tion. The room pro­vides the Mu­se­um Lud­wig with a per­ma­nent space ded­i­cat­ed to pho­tog­ra­phy.

Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son and Heinz Held: Peo­ple with Pic­tures is the ti­tle of the first pre­sen­ta­tion, which will be on view un­til Au­gust 20. The French pho­to­g­ra­pher Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son (1908–2004) and the Cologne-based pho­to­g­ra­pher Heinz Held (1918–1990) met sev­er­al times: In 1956, when Carti­er-Bres­son trav­eled to Cologne, where his pic­tures were shown at the pho­tok­i­na fair, Heinz Held not on­ly as­sist­ed in in­s­talling the ex­hi­bi­tion but al­so pho­to­graphed it. It is like­ly that they al­so met at the house of their mu­tu­al friend L. Fritz Gru­ber, the foun­der and head of the pho­tok­i­na ex­hi­bi­tions. We do not know what they talked about, but they shared a sim­i­lar ap­proach to pho­tog­ra­phy: us­ing a small cam­era, strolling around un­no­ticed, and wait­ing for the mo­ment when some­thing un­ex­pect­ed, touch­ing, or fun­ny would hap­pen—u­su­al­ly un­no­ticed by the per­sons pho­to­graphed. Carti­er-Bres­son called this the “de­ci­sive mo­ment.”

In 1967 the Kun­sthalle Köln or­ganized a so­lo ex­hi­bi­tion of Carti­er-Bres­son’s work. The cor­pus of around two hun­dred pho­to­graphs mount­ed on woo­d­en pan­els is now part of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion and was last shown in its en­tire­ty on the oc­ca­sion of Carti­er-Bres­son’s death in 2004. The es­tate of Heinz Held is now al­so part of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig and cur­rent­ly the fo­cus of re­search. Em­brac­ing the spec­trum of both their oeu­vres, this ex­hi­bi­tion pre­sents im­ages of peo­ple in mu­se­ums and ci­ties. The paint­ings, sculp­tures, posters, or street signs in th­ese im­ages of­ten en­ter in­to a dia­logue with their view­ers or passers­by. Carti­er-Bres­son iden­ti­fied the sur­re­al po­ten­tial of pho­tog­ra­phy in this sort of cor­re­spon­dence, and Heinz Held char­ac­ter­ized it as a “mag­ic” that “stirs the heart.”

To ex­pand our ex­hi­bi­tion area, we are al­so si­mul­ta­ne­ous­ly open­ing the FO­TO LAB, a space in which chil­dren and adults can par­ti­ci­pate and ex­per­i­ment. Vis­i­tors will be able to ex­pe­ri­ence how a cam­era ob­s­cu­ra—the orig­i­nal cam­er­a—­works, pose in front of a pho­to mu­ral, or put to­gether their own ex­hi­bi­tion us­ing fif­ty re­pro­duc­tions from the Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion. Th­ese re­pro­duc­tions were pro­vid­ed by Pix­um, an on­line pho­to ser­vice based in Cologne. This space will an­i­mate the Mu­se­um Lud­wig’s Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion in a num­ber of ways while al­so mak­ing it more ac­ces­si­ble.

The dig­i­ti­za­tion of the col­lec­tion in a scho­lar­ly database for re­search­ers is another im­por­tant part of the work of the mu­se­um’s Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion. Thanks to the gener­ous sup­port of Pix­um, the Mu­se­um Lud­wig has been able to dig­i­tize 4,000 pho­to­graphs from the Ag­fa Col­lec­tion in the last two years. The Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion will be pub­lished se­quen­tial­ly, in sec­tions, at www.kul­, mak­ing it ac­ces­si­ble to ev­ery­one. The dig­i­ti­za­tion will cont­in­ue with the Gru­ber Col­lec­tion, the ac­qui­si­tions of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig, and the Mrazkowa Col­lec­tion, and will al­so be sup­port­ed by Pix­um for the next two years.

The Mu­se­um Lud­wig pre­serves one of Eu­rope’s largest and most sig­ni­f­i­cant col­lec­tions of nine­teenth and twen­ti­eth-cen­tu­ry pho­tog­ra­phy. From the out­set it was above all ded­i­cat­ed col­lec­tors who con­tribut­ed to its di­ver­si­ty and qual­i­ty. Just one year af­ter the found­ing of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig in 1976, for in­s­tance, the corn­er­s­tone of the pre­sent Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion was laid with the purchase of works from the L. Fritz Gru­ber Col­lec­tion. This nu­cleus was then cont­in­u­al­ly ex­pand­ed through fur­ther do­na­tions from the cou­ple L. Fritz and Re­nate Gru­ber. Gru­ber fos­tered first-rate con­tacts to pho­to­g­ra­phers in Ger­many and abroad and, as the or­ganiz­er of the pho­tok­i­na-Bilder­schauen (pho­tok­i­na pho­to ex­hi­bi­tions), helped to bring their work to public at­ten­tion af­ter the col­lapse of the Na­tio­n­al So­cial­ist dic­ta­tor­ship.

To­gether with the col­lec­tions of the Ag­fa Pho­to-His­to­ra­ma, the pho­to­g­ra­pher Robert Le­beck, and Daniela Mrazko­va, as well as a large body of Rus­sian pho­to­graphs of the 1920s and 1930s on loan from the Peter and Irene Lud­wig Foun­da­tion, the Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion of the Mu­se­um Lud­wig in­cor­po­rates ear­ly daguerreo­types, unique in­cunab­u­la from the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, ma­jor artis­tic pho­to­graphs, al­bums, and port­fo­lios, as well as wide-rang­ing ma­te­rials on the cul­tu­r­al his­to­ry of the medi­um. The pho­to­g­ra­pher Robert Le­beck, for ex­am­ple, amassed nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry pho­to­graphs and al­bums on a large scale—in­clud­ing nu­mer­ous trav­el pho­to­graph­s—that have been housed in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig since 1994. And, at the out­set of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, the pho­tog­ra­phy his­to­rian Erich Stenger be­gan sys­te­m­at­i­cal­ly col­lect­ing pho­to­graphs and his­tor­i­cal ma­te­rials on pho­tog­ra­phy, such as car­i­ca­tures and books. Th­ese were purchased by Ag­fa in 1955 and pre­sent­ed at the Ag­fa Fo­to-His­to­ra­ma Mu­se­um on the Bay­er/Ag­fa fac­to­ry premis­es in 1974. A rec­og­nized “na­tio­n­al trea­sure,” the col­lec­tion was ac­quired by the Mu­se­um Lud­wig in 2005.

A first-rate ex­pan­sion of the Rus­sian Avant-Garde col­lec­tion area was made pos­si­ble with the purchase of the Daniela Mrazko­va Col­lec­tion in 2008. Reg­u­lar spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions make the Pho­to­graph­ic Col­lec­tion in the Mu­se­um Lud­wig ac­ces­si­ble.

In re­cent de­cades the col­lec­tion has been brought up to date through purchas­es and gifts, in­clud­ing works by An­dreas Gursky, Tho­mas Ruff, Wolf­gang Till­mans, Chris­to­pher Wil­li­ams, and Sh­er­rie Levine, to name on­ly a few.

All works in the mu­se­um's col­lec­tions have to un­der­go conser­va­tio­n­al man­n­ers on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Pho­to­graph­ic works are ex­treme­ly sen­si­tive to light and can on­ly be on dis­play for three months, be­fore they have to be tak­en back to stor­age where they re­cov­er. Th­ese phas­es of re­cov­ery can take up to five years. We do our best to pre­sent a se­lec­tion of works from the pho­to­graph­ic col­lec­tion in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion and in spe­cial ex­hi­bi­tions reg­u­lar­ly.