Ute Mahler (born in Berka in 1949) is one of the photographers from the ex-GDR with the most prominent style. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, with several East German colleagues she founded the agency OSTKREUZ, that has since been very successful. Through the series Zusammenleben (Live together), begun over forty-five years ago, she intended to show the way in which people live together and depict the unsaid in a subtle way. These black and white photos gently, but uncompromisingly, illustrate life in former East Germany.
In 1988, Ute Mahler ended this series of infinite possible compositions with men, women, children, friends and strangers, as she felt that she had captured the essentials.
Ute Mahler talks about her work in 2019 with exhibition curator Sonia Voss:
‘I was still a student in Leipzig when I began to photograph groups of people. To begin with, they were just random.
But they all raised the same question: how do people interact together? (…) I was twenty or so years old. I wanted answers. I wanted to see what was hiding behind the prescribed official false optimism. I was looking for the truth in the inner realm of people’s lives. (…)
I met them in their homes, in the street, at parties and in their day-to-day lives that they were living in this country that they called GDR. (…)
I carried out this work freely, at liberty; it was very personal in nature and not commissioned. Without any staging. (…) But I took them for myself. (…) I wasn’t looking for anything sensational, I wanted to find something universal, extending from tenuous relationships, family and friendship, depicting happiness, impermanence, despair, resignation and/or proximity.
I took my last photo in 1988. I felt that I had found enough answers to my questions. Maybe it was linked to the political upheaval at the time but I’m not sure.’