"Before/ After" – the photographer Hubert Perschke documented the change in the Rhenish resettlement village of Manheim

Take pictures to emotionally capture the loss of the homeland

One of the panels for a new exhibition by photographer Hubert Perschke literally shows "a corner" from the resettlement village of Manheim. Two photos on the left give the view into Berrenrather Straße, right into Bennenwinkelstraße. One pair of pictures is from 2012, the other from autumn 2019. What actually moved him back then, in 2012, to photograph a kind of 90 degree panorama with two pictures, he no longer knows, a coincidence, says Perschke.

At that time he had been on the road for his book "Our Manheim", photographed streets, houses and people, a book whose lively description of Manheimer's life was highly sought after by the inhabitants. Only a few copies, which were printed on his own at the time, were left.

In autumn 2019, he was able to identify the place where the two pictures Bennenwinkel/ Berrendorfer Straße were taken, especially at the post of the road sign, around which the pictures seem to be reflected, Hubert Perschke describes. The two new photos showed the same perspective with the same focal length and from the tripod height typical of the photographer.

Later, when editing the new images on the computer, he decided to photograph other motifs "before/after". Perschke looked again at many thousands of photographs of his archive from 2012/13. Always with regard to the exact retrievability of the camera location, always looking for distinctive orientation points in the landscape such as the church or more hidden objects, such as signs on water or gas pipes. He deliberately chose autumn as the time of recording, in order to underline the tristesse of the place, in the predominantly covered sky he tried to work out more "presence in detail".

In the process, he had to completely reorient himself in today's townscape, which was mainly characterized by fallow land, and in part rolled up old road maps during the search for traces.

It is a search for traces, which the viewers of the photos also get involved in. When looking at it, the viewer involuntarily goes on a search for traces and an emotional journey of discovery, similar to the photographer in a search image. 

Hubert Perschke
Click here for Hubert Perschke's tree portrait project.

"I never had to photograph the broken Manheim."

Photographer Hubert Perschke

"I never had to photograph the broken Manheim," says photographer Hubert Perschke. "I actually intended to remember the place as I saw it in 2012." Now he is trying to capture the loss emotionally through his pictures.

The sight of the destroyed swimming pool touched him most intensely, here too Perschke photographed, this time without a comparable template from the old days. In the small indoor pool, his children had learned to swim in the 1970s, and next door in the gym he had been doing sports himself as a buirer. The Manheim Judo Club also trained there, which at that time received national attention.

Many residents of Manheim feel the loss of their homeland even more intensely, says Perschke: "I have seen people standing by the hole who have been crying." The anger of many was significant when forest squatters suddenly reactivated their homes in 2018. And Hubert Perschke also finds the manheimers' demand for demolition as quick as possible understandable: "When the houses are gone, they don't have to deal with it anymore."

This time, however, he does not expect a high level of interest from the Manheimers in his current work. Unlike the publication of the book "Our Manheim" and the much-publicized exhibition, which Perschke also showed in the foyer of the Düsseldorf state parliament, many Manheimers would have finished with the chapter today. The aesthetic adventure of the "before/after" project was in his foreground, even if he invites a critical examination of the question whether the demolition of the place was still necessary today.

Would Hubert Perschke also photograph Manheim-neu? "If I ruled it out in the first place, I would have a prejudice," he says. And Neu-Manheim acts on him just like any other new building area, so he knows people who tried to connect to the old place, for example, in the garden design. 

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