Design, Visual Identity, Campaign and Exhibition Graphics for Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Cologne

“Images tell stories. But who selects, archives, and presents them? How do they shape or distort memory? How do we "read" old photos today? And what counter-images can we create?

Dedicated to the power of the visual, the exhibition series Counter Images | Gegenbilder sheds light on the role photography plays when we write, mediate, and remember history.

Almost 200 years after its invention, photography has become a global medium. Never before have so many images been produced and distributed as today. In the beginning, however, it was closely linked to colonialism and ethnology. Western photographers took pictures of people, objects, and landscapes in colonies. In Europe, these images were, and in some cases still are, considered objective – just like the medium of photography itself. In fact, however, they were often used to classify people on the basis of external features in the name of a pseudo-scientific “racial science”. In this way, they contributed significantly to the stereotypes that are still effective today.

Counter Images | Gegenbilder takes a critical look at photographs that have come down to us, questioning their history and the supposed knowledge they carry. The RJM offers curators and artists a platform for counter-positions to those modes of representation. Using contemporary works, they reveal the power of images and enable new perspectives.


What image do young photographers create of the world?

In this edition of the exhibition series Counter Images Gegenbilder, international artists grant personal interior views of public and private places and events.
Photographs accompany our everyday perception and shape our image of people and places. The photographs in FIRST PAGES are highly topical. They counter stereotypical images through their immediacy. The works show our present from many perspectives. With this they also take a counter-position to the Historical Photo Collection of the RJM.
Over 40 students present their work here as photo books. The images are arranged and woven into a narrative. Almost all of the books on display are unique and fascinate with their different formats and forms.
We invite you to browse through the FIRST PAGES, to read and to question your own mental images.
This presentation is a collaboration with the universities of Hannover and Dortmund. The works were created between 2018 and 2022 as part of the national and international photo book classes.

Somaya Abdelrahman, Shirin Abedi, Kaisar Ahamed, Hannah Almstrup, Kseniya Apresian, Arafat Bin Siraji, Lucas Castel, Daniel Chatard, Gino Dambrowski, Khardra Farah, Anna Fritsche, Kira Tanita Grenz, Andy Happel, Nanna Heitmann, Nicole Heinsohn, Allison Hess, Lukas J. Herbers, Elias Holzknecht, Victoria Jung, Carsten Kalaschnikow, Eyad Abou Kasem, Josh Kern, Yannis Konstantinos, Katrin Kutter, İnci Şen, Moritz Lehmann, Karsten Maatz, Hader Mahmoud, Mathilde Mahoudeau, Jana Mai, Viola Maiwald, Helena Manhartsberger, Mehdi Moradpour, Sina Niemeyer, Prova Noorjahan Nizamy, Aslı Özçelik, Emily Piwowar, Tripty Tamang Pakhrin, Anna Roters, Amelie Sachs, Tabea Scherzberg, Chantal Seitz, Anastasia Shvachko, Ashutosh Shaklam, David Speier, Benjamin Thieme, Tatsiana Tkachova, Malte Uchtmann, Robic Upadhayay, Angelina Vernetti, Tim Wagner, Daniel Vogl and Fares Zaitoon.

Project team
Thekla Ehling, Lucia Halder, Frederic Lezmi, Paul Spehr
Nanette Snoep

Project Idea
Lucia Halder

Exhibition Design
Martha Schwindling (Exhibition Architecture)

Photos below: © Thekla Ehling