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.


One Prolog, Three Projects. The kick-off of the multi-annual exhibition series brings together curators, artists, activists, scholars, and critical design mediators.

The opening exhibition Prolog launches an intervention within the permanent exhibition. The counter-images presented here illuminate the photographic process as an interplay of many participants – photographers and the photographed, collectors and archivists, curators and viewers – revealing the unequal power relations within images, including those from the colonial era.

At the same time, artistic counter-positions use photography as a tool of resistance and self-empowerment, countering the images in the collection with new narratives and interpretations, inviting us to reconsider and question the images in our own minds.

The works exhibited in Prolog shed light on how photographs are created, collected, and shown. Exploring historical backgrounds and contradicting stereotypical representations,
they also illuminate the limits of the photographic medium itself.”

Guest Curator
Sandrine Colard

Informal Curators
yasmine eid-sabbagh and Jung Sae Yun, Maman Salissou Oumarou, Francis Oghuma, Reimer M., Danie Meyer, Hojin Lee, Elizaveta Khan

Kiri Dalena (Artist in Residence) with Lizza May David & Jaclyn Reyes; Tuli Mekondjo (curated by Sandrine Colard), Mo Laudi (curated by Sandrine Colard)

Nanette Snoep

Project Management
Caroline Bräuer

Project Idea
Lucia Halder

Exhibition Design
Martha Schwindling (Exhibition Architecture)

Photos below: © Silviu Guiman