Carnegie Mellon University
April 07, 2010

The Dreadful Wreckage of History Studying Rubble Photography

The Dreadful Wreckage of History Studying Rubble Photography

Anne Fuchs, University College Dublin (Ireland)

Wednesday, April 7, 12:00 noon, Baker Hall 154R

In 1949, the year in which both German states were founded, Richard Peter, a Dresden photographer, published Eine Kamera klagt an with a print-run of 50,000 copies which quickly sold out. The book is an example of Trümmerfotografie, rubble or wreckage photography that documented the destruction of the German cities in the immediate postwar years. Research tends to interpret Peter’s rubble photographs as examples of the postwar Germans’ collective desire for exculpation by way of a displacement of their guilt. In contrast to this prevailing repression thesis, I argue that Richard Peter’s photo book provided the readership with a powerful cultural template that allowed postwar Germans to begin to process the experiences of the war, death, ruination and defeat. The photo narrative allowed them to transmute the appalling devastation of history into a suprahistorical event, thereby giving expression to the traumatic experience of apocalyptic excess.

Co-sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, the Department of History, and the Center for the Arts in Society.