As a staff photographer attached to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s editorial department Barbara Klemm was on the road world–wide for over 30 years. Indeed, until only a year ago she played a key role in shaping the face of that newspaper. The MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst exhibition features about 50 photographs she took during a fortnight’s stay in China in 1985.
Today, photographers of Barbara Klemm's ilk have become a rare species. Not just in terms of the process and approach she takes, but above all as regards the stance she adopts, maintaining a due distance to the persons photographed. Klaus Trende has rightly said that Klemm's pictures "are among the highlights of German photo art of the 20th and 21st centuries. They are mature, clear, avoid frills, and yet have a true-to-detail subtext that emerges very softly and silently. It is the product of a personal intellectual outlook and a life's work, the nature of the photographer, of her refusal to compromise, her thirst for life, her willingness to enter into dialog, her aesthetic stance, her uncorruptability and integrity. Here, there is no reliance on artifice or on high-impact staging, no emphasis on composition from petty details, or self-important gestures in exploring the terrain. What prevails is a overwhelming sense of liberty and an unspectacular way of seeing. What we witness is the essence of a face, a street scene, a social group, taken respectfully and with the requisite depth of field.
Ever since it first opened in 1991 MMK has been collecting pictures taken by the Frankfurt-based photographer.