Ceasefire, 1985 – 1987

Unlike the studiedly sober photos of his earlier series, the picture of the still divided city Michael Schmidt drew in the mid-’70s in the book and exhibition project Waffenruhe (Ceasefire), with its condensed, fragmentary and contrasting black and white photographs, is highly subjective and multifacetted. This group of works marks the radical end point of the attempt to give form to a photographic rendering of Berlin’s political situation and to express its confusing complexity and lack of perspective in atmospheric images.

His photography does not at this stage make predominant use any longer of the means available to documentation; instead, it formulates in picture sequences that consistently defy expectations the dystopian attitude towards life of a generation immediately before the fall of the Wall. Schmidt develops the picture of a world marked by non sequiturs and lacunae, which has conclusively rejected any claim to one-upmanship. In concert with theatre director and writer Einar Schleef’s texts that form part of the book, a totally idiosyncratic, uncompromising take on the fragility of human existence emerges.

The project was funded in the context of the celebration of Berlin’s 750th anniversary and was first shown in the Berlinische Galerie at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in the immediate vicinity of the Wall.