War photographs astounding in their modernity, which oscillate between surreal-looking moments of beauty and the pure reality of war. A journey into the “heart of darkness”, now published for the first time in book form.
Dieter Keller (1909–1985) was close friends with artists from the New Objectivity and the German Bauhaus movements. These contacts shaped his artistic vision and significantly influenced his photographic compositions. In 1941/42, Keller served as a German soldier in Ukraine and Belarus. Despite a strict military ban on photographing civilians and war victims, he managed to secretly shoot several rolls of film during this period which he eventually smuggled to Germany.
From early on, Keller used serial and informal photography to create filmlike image sequences that encourage a subjective experience of reality. Even by today’s standards, Keller’s photography adheres to a modern-looking visual aesthetic, which on one hand proves the visual influence of his artistic friendships, but also clearly demonstrates that the photographer uses aesthetic perception as a key to his own reality processing and mental coping. As such, his disturbing photographs are embedded in an art history discourse with the European graphic tradition of representing the cruelty of war, as depicted in the horrifying scenarios by Hieronymus Bosch, Francisco de Goya, or Otto Dix.
Text in English and German.