Road Atlas

Street Photography from Helen Levitt to Pieter Hugo

road Atlasby Beate Kemfert, Christina Leber

“Of course street photographs do not just tell stories, they also depict history, by capturing the state of society. Transcending all artistic claims, as documents of everyday life, they cover supposed banalities, and it is not just future generations who will take in with amazement that milk was once sold in bottles and as late as the 1970s there were horse-drawn carts in Polish cities.”

(German, English) Seventy years, 29 photographers, 167 photos. And audience participation is invited, nay required: many of the photos will only then cease to be superficial when the reader is willing to speculate just what’s going on. All have titles and dates, and each photographer is introduced with about half a page of text but beyond that, the story is yours to discover. And depending on what you discover and what you find interesting, this book can become, as the title hints at, a roadmap for further exploration.

RoadAtlas berlinSome of the names are well-known, others not so much. Araki, Burri, Klemm, Shore, Streuli, Struth and more, book-ended by the two in the title. Author Kemfert is the curator at Opelvillen (yes, that Opel, of car-making fame) in Rüsselsheim, Germany and it is her insight into art and its role in public life that allows her to make a meaningful selection from among the now 7000+ artworks, mostly photographs, in the custody of DZ Bank headquartered in Frankfurt. The bank sees it as part of its civic duty to sponsor and collect art and make it accessible to the public, free of charge, five days a week. This book is based on a traveling exhibit and contains an essay by German journalist/photographer Freddy Langer along with further commentary by artitst Hubert Beck, Adrian Giacomelli, Felix Hoffmann, and Janina Vitale. All works and their particulars are listed at the back.

RoadAtlas crashPresented in alpha order by photographer, the photos begin in the 1930s and go to 2010. From iconic Route 66 to classic New York City street, from Moldavian village centers to Nigerian street life to car crashes in 1950’s and ‘60’s Germany, the purpose of the photos is to perceive the road as a metaphor for life, to make you pause and see the familiar with fresh eyes and not avert them from the unfamiliar.Road Atlas nigeria


Copyright 2014, Charly Baumann (

Road Atlas, Street Photography from Helen Levitt to Pieter Hugo
by Beate Kemfert, Christina Leber
Hirmer Publishers, 2011   [In US: Univ. of Chicago Press]
168 pages, 47 color plates, 64 halftones, hardcover
List Price: $49.95 / €34.90
ISBN-13: 978-3777439617

RSS Feed - Comments

Leave a comment

(All comments are moderated: you will see it, but until it's approved no one else will.)