Seeing Pictures // Acting Pictures. The "Freiberger Fotofreunde" (Freiberg Friends of Photography) as Community of Visual Practice
Archives holding more than 700,000 photographs and a history of almost 70 years – these are the impressive records of the "Freiberger Fotofreunde". The club was founded in 1950 and lasted through two political systems. It counts among the oldest associations on the territory of the former GDR. Through exhibitions, publications, and the illustration of press articles and brochures its members shape the image and the visual memory of the Saxon mining town up to today. GDR amateur photography remains under-analysed and therefore constitutes a significant research gap. A new positioning of the term "amateur" (discursive to categories like professionalization, economization, and technicalization) could give impulses to approaches of social theory on knowledge concepts and practices. For the amateur movement was an area that was institutionalized and significantly supported by socialist culture policy. By exploring photography as a topic concerning its various actors and their everyday practices between production, presentation and social contexts the project offers inroads into such policies of cultural governance. The Freiberg Club constitutes a research topic that is both rare and insightful: Its members have agreed to make their documents available to the project, and are prepared to give interviews and to open their meetings and events to the project researchers. The total photographic inventory makes available an unusually broad variety of materials, genres, and motives. It includes political rallies as well as snap shots in the style of social documentary photography, working environments and portraits. The pictures are of high technical quality: As the "Fotofreunde" call themselves "professional amateurs", borders between professionals and hobby photographers have consistently been blurred. Taking the example of professionalism, the project will explore a whole range of related hierarchies of knowledge and praxis. By choosing praxeological and participative approaches, the project combines historical and present perspectives, the research focuses on visual products and practices at the same time. By working with selected samples (in sub-project “Bildsehen”) visually focused analytical methods take center position but enriching analysis by conducting biographical and subject-oriented interviews. This allows for the exploration of interdependencies between the language of the images and the respective (cultural) political, social, and individual context. Hence, esthetic orientations become ascertainable in the diachronic process. The sub-project "acting through images" ("Bildhandeln") explores the still ongoing lively activities of the club with ethnographic methods. By asking how local rules of "good" photographic practice are shaped and negotiated in the community of praxis we concentrate on human-object-relations that at the heart of the visualization practices of the "Freiberger Fotofreunde".