Aenne Biermann

Cherry Plantation

1930

In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Artist
Aenne Biermann 1893–1933
Original title
Kirschplantage
Medium
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
Dimensions
Image: 233 x 165 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased with funds provided by the Photography Acquisitions Committee 2013
Reference
P80368

Summary

Cherry Plantation 1930 is one of a group of vintage black and white photographs in Tate’s collection by the German photographer Aenne Biermann; it was printed by the artist at the time of production. As the title suggests, it shows a cherry plantation presumably in the German countryside. The image is composed in a portrait orientation rather than landscape and shows cherry trees both in the foreground and the background; however, as a result of this tight composition and the elevated viewpoint, the trees in the foreground are slightly cropped, as are the rows in the orchard beyond. This technique of cropping out or photographing something from a different angle is typical of the style of photography known as ‘New Objectivity’, which developed in Germany in the 1920s and with which Biermann was associated. Nature and botany were subjects of particular interest for Biermann, who produced many close-up studies of plants and foliage in her studio (see, for example, Amaryllis c.1927, [Tate P80260]). However, this type of outdoor composition is quite rare in her output and shows her desire to experiment, as well as her versatility and skill both in the studio and outdoors.

Throughout her seven-year career (cut short due to her early death in 1933), Biermann produced a large portfolio of work. Having started out photographing her young children in the early 1920s, by 1926 her interest had developed into a serious photographic practice. In 1928 Biermann met the geologist Rudolf Hundt who subsequently asked her to work on several commissions photographing rocks and minerals. According to her own account, it was these early commissions that marked the beginning of her ‘serious’ photographic work. Biermann gained public recognition in late 1928 when the German art historian Franz Roh published an article referring to her plant photographs in the academic journal Das Kunstblatt. Following this, her work was shown in many of the major international photographic exhibitions of the late 1920s and early 1930s, such as the important touring exhibition Fotografie der Gegenwart (Contemporary Photography exhibition) organised by the Folkwang Museum, Essen in 1929. The following year Roh published a monograph on her work entitled 60 Fotografien (1930), as part of the Fototek series.

Biermann became one of the major proponents of the ‘New Objectivity’ (Neue Sachlichkeit) in German modernist photography, initially influenced by and then working alongside photographers such as Albert Renger-Patsch (1897–1966) and August Sander (1876–1964). Her work typified the movement’s interest in embracing the mechanical ability of the camera to capture the real world in a clear, objective manner. Her subject matter included portraiture, plants, flowers and inanimate everyday objects.

Further reading
Ute Eskildsen, Aenne Biermann: Photographs 1925–33, London 1988.

Shoair Mavlian
July 2013

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