Aren't I supposed to look grim ?!

Aren’t I supposed to look grim?!.

My photographic work explores identity and memory in areas that have been affected by major changes in the more distant past. In my degree project in the former German Democratic Republic I investigate how people today, 18 years after the break of communism, integrate memories of the socialist past into their everyday lives. This work is part of a larger project that explores the relationship between individual remembering of the socialist past in former East Germany, and academic and popular discourse as conveyed through the media and political discussion. The images represent glimpses of individual memories as I perceived them from conversations during my journey through the former German Democratic Republic in the summer of 2007: a time when the unification has become normalised, a whole generation has already grown up without personally having experienced a separated Germany; but also a time when traces of the former divide are still omnipresent in German media and everyday conversations. My images focus on the visual surroundings of people – mainly places and objects – as well as the way people chose to present themselves in front of the camera. Thus, through evoking memories and imagination, I hope that the viewer will get access to people’s experiences in former East Germany today.

Nostalgia is often used to explain how people deal with assumed disorientation following political and economic changes in post-socialist realities. In the former German Democratic Republic individual and shared experiences do not necessarily fit this label of ‘nostalgia’, conveyed through ‘official’ narratives. Individual identification is not limited to the country’s political and economic situation and positive memories of the socialist past often appear as a normal human experience rather than as an indicator for deficiency or identity disorientation for the majority of East Germans, 17 years after the reunification of Germany.

  • Katrin Streicher
  • 2007