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From Empire to Marketplace: Agfa and the Rebuilding of the German Photography Industry after 1945

Abstract : The rapid growth of the Federal Republic of Germany has often been attributed exclusively to the revival of its economy. The result has been to project the image of a country that, until the early 1960s, was overly prosaic and where art, predominantly abstract, was detached from the new state’s political and structural concerns. Yet in the area of photography, the birth of Photokina in Cologne in 1950 attests to the emergence of a close link between industry and photographic practice during the period of reconstruction. After 1945, a unified photography sector emerged in West Germany as a result of the concerted efforts of domestic firms and professional as well as amateur photographers. The Agfa corporation played a central role in helping to bring this about. When the IG Farben cartel was broken up by the Allies, Agfa was forced to become autonomous; together with pressure from foreign competition, this weakened its dominant position in West Germany, which had already been undermined by the country’s division and the destruction of its factories. Agfa became one of the spearheads for the structural modification of the German economy, from a sector of industry-based cartels, to a sector based on service-oriented consortiums. Unlike IG Farben, the industrial groupings that Agfa initiated after the war were based on the market it wished to reach. This development entailed the cultivation of customer loyalty, which involved supporting those actors who were already present in the field – associations and schools – as well as creating new structures and organizations such as Photokina in 1950 in an effort to advance the modern aspects of the medium. Rooted in an alliance between the industry and the practice of photography, this system for promoting photography created a distinctive identity for the medium and served as the basis for the dynamism and high profile of the German photography of the time.
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Contributor : Anaïs Feyeux Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, November 17, 2022 - 12:47:30 PM
Last modification on : Friday, November 18, 2022 - 3:04:01 AM


  • HAL Id : hal-03857569, version 1



Anaïs Feyeux. From Empire to Marketplace: Agfa and the Rebuilding of the German Photography Industry after 1945. Etudes photographiques, 2009, 24, pp.72-105. ⟨hal-03857569⟩



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