Beyond the Battlefields: Käthe Buchler’s Photographs of Germany in the Great War

19 March – 5 May 2018:

University of Hertfordshire Galleries, Hatfield

Also touring in:

20 October 2017 – 14 January 2018:

University of Birmingham & Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

2 February – 3 March 2018:

Grosvenor Gallery, Manchester Metropolitan University


Beyond the Battlefields presents a unique series of images made by photographer Käthe Buchler (1876-1930) in Germany before, during and after World War One, and which are part of the collection of the Museum of Photography in Braunschweig – where Buchler lived and worked.

Buchler’s exquisitely posed portraits and landscapes are the vision of a respectable, bourgeois wife and mother, a pillar of her community with significant technical expertise and a remarkable (and little known) aesthetic vision.

Through different picture cycles she examines the care of orphaned children and wounded troops, Germans at work and at leisure – including a fascinating series made late in the war entitled ‘Women in Men’s Jobs’– presenting the dislocations of war along with striking moments of human warmth.  In so doing she offers us a fascinating window on the preoccupations of ordinary Germans, living and working hundreds of miles away from the fighting.

Buchler‘s family was wealthy, well connected and related to the Voigtländer family – producers of some of Germany’s most advanced photographic equipment – giving her access to the best cameras of the of the day.  She was an early adopter of the ‘Autochrome’ process (the world’s first colour photographic process – manufactured by the Lumière Brothers in Lyon, France).  Colour imagery, which features in the exhibitions in Manchester and Hatfield, starts to appear in her work as early as 1913.  The mainly private and domestic scenes she photographed using the Autochrome process represent a substantial development of her skills as a colour photographer.

Buchler’s photographs offer fascinating comparisons with images and memorabilia from the same period in Britain.  They pose searching questions about the class and status structures of Wilhelmine German society and the role of women as Europe’s dynastic empires tore themselves apart eventually giving way to revolution, chaos and the Second World War.

The programme of events for the Hatfield leg of the exhibition will be made available soon; meanwhile, the programme of events for the Birmingham-based part of the exhibition can be downloaded here.

Beyond the Battlefields is a touring exhibition co-organised by the UHGalleries,

Museum Für Photographie, Braunschweig, and the AHRC-funded First World War engagement centres at the University of Birmingham and the University of Hertfordshire

Images ©Estate of Käthe Buchler – Museum für Photographie Braunschweig/ Deposit Stadtarchive Braunschweig

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