Grauzone – Photos of Leipzig & Berlin (1988 – 1999)

Between 1988 and 1999, photographer Ralf Schuhmann was on the move with his camera in Leipzig and Berlin. The products of these expeditions – black-and-white photographs from a time of historic upheaval – are now on show in the exhibition “Grauzone” (“Grey Zone”) at the International Newspaper Museum (IZM) in Aachen. On display: motifs from the last days of the German Democratic Republic, followed by shots of the “Monday demonstrations” in Leipzig and the fall of the Berlin Wall in autumn 1989. Then, images of the Currency Union and German Reunification in 1990. The official accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany merely marked the starting point of a unification process that is still ongoing today. In those early days, there was widespread disappointment and concern in former East Germany about the profound effects of the social changes. These feelings led to protests, some of them forthright, as can be seen in some of the photos of the demonstrations in 1991. The second section of the show features Leipzig as an illustrative example of the dereliction of East German cities during the GDR era and the first stages of restoration and redevelopment in the 1990s following reunification. The photo series “Leipzig im Umbruch” (“Leipzig in Transition”) charts the renewal and transformation of the Saxon trade fair city through to the year 1999. The photographer’s visual vocabulary – a blend of the documentary and the artistic – lends the photos in the exhibition a strong sense of authenticity and avoids time-worn clichés, providing visitors with ample scope for reflection on their own personal views of events in those days.

Ralf Schuhmann was born in Leipzig. After training as a photographer in Leipzig, he studied at the Hochschule der Künste (“University of the Arts”) in Berlin. Today, he lives and works in the Cologne-Bonn-Koblenz region. His photographs have been exhibited in Germany, Italy, Great Britain and China. (


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