A Collaborative Lens

A Collaborative Lens

In a clearing in Minsk, a fair young woman with long, blonde hair and an oversized black turtleneck gazes languidly into the camera lens. Her expression reads at once stoic and warm, coy and sensual. Shot in 2009 by the artistic duo Ute Mahler and Werner Mahler, this monochrome image is part of the pair’s photographic reimaging of the Mona Lisa, a series entitled Monalisen der Vorstädte, or Mona Lisas of the Suburbs. As the collection’s name suggests, the German photographers have re-cast Leonardo’s young enchantress with modern-day women from across Europe, giving these fresh-faced beauties their day in the proverbial sun.

Shot between 2009 and 2011, this series is one highlight from the duo’s comprehensive exhibition at Galerie Springer Berlin. Mounted in celebration of the city’s European Month of Photography 2018, the show spans four decades of images from the artists, showcasing their fruitful careers as solo practitioners, as well as their more recent collaborative works – spanning interior to exterior.

Both creatives are perhaps most commonly recognised for their contributions to the bimonthly publication Sibylle, which was regarded as the top fashion magazine in East Germany from 1956 to 1995. Both Mahlers – who were the founding members of the OSTKREUZ agency – regularly shot editorials for the magazine from 1977 to 1994, and these images are featured prominently in this exhibition. Amongst the Sibylle shots of note are Ute’s snowscape in Thuringia from 1977 and Werner’s sweeping beach scenes from Gran Canaria that date back to 1994.

Also on view are portraits of the German ballet dancer Jutta Deutschland taken by the former, and early works and landscapes from the latter. This diverse collection proves that it is still possible to see the world through a new lens.

Stephanie Strasnick

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1. Paris, dog, 1979. © Ute Mahler, courtesy of the artist.