Rare color photographs of the German "economic miracle"
Germany after the war 1952–1967
Josef H. Darchinger. Wirtschaftswunder
Edition of 1,000 + 200 APs
Limited to 1,000 copies, each numbered and signed by J. H. Darchinger and containing a signed pigment print.
It was no more than eight years after the surrender of the Nazi government when Josef Heinrich Darchinger set out on his photographic journey through the West of a divided Germany. The bombs of World War II had reduced the country’s major cities to deserts of rubble. Yet his pictures show scarcely any signs of the downfall of a civilization. Not that the photographer was manipulating the evidence: he simply recorded what he saw. At the time, a New York travel agency was advertising the last opportunity to go and visit the remaining bomb sites. Darchinger’s pictures, in color and black-and-white, show a country in a fever of reconstruction. The economic boom was so incredible that the whole world spoke of an "economic miracle." The people who achieved it, in contrast, look down-to-earth, unassuming, conscientious, and diligent. And increasingly, they look like strangers in the world they have created.
The photographs portray a country caught between the opposite poles of technological modernism and cultural restoration, between affluence and penury, between German Gemütlichkeit and the constant threat of the Cold War. They show the winners and losers of the "economic miracle," people from all social classes, at home, at work, in their very limited free time and as consumers. But they also show a country that looks, in retrospect, like a film from the middle of the last century. Of his color photographs, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote, "they are exceptional contemporary documents indicating how swiftly the grayness of everyday life became infused with color again."
“A critic once said that Darchinger could think with his eyes. The photographs in the book Wirtschaftswunder prove that he can also feel and speak with them.”
- SPIEGEL.DE, Hamburg
Josef Heinrich Darchinger (1925-2013) started working as a freelance photojournalist in 1952. Darchinger’s photographs began to regularly appear in reputable German print media starting in the mid-1960s. In his years as a photographer for Der Spiegel and Die Zeit, Darchinger had a formative influence on the magazines’ national news coverage of Bonn. He also presented his work at exhibitions and in collections of photographic portraits—for instance of Helmut Schmidt, Willy Brandt, Richard von Weizsäcker, or Heinrich Böll. Darchinger received numerous awards, among which was the prestigious Erich Salomon Award from the German Photographic Association.
Klaus Honnef is honorary professor of photography theory at the Kassel Art Academy. He was one of the organizers of documenta 5 and documenta 6 in Kassel, and has been the curator of more than 500 exhibitions in Germany and abroad. He has written numerous books, including TASCHEN’s Contemporary Art, Andy Warhol, and Pop Art.
In 1977, Frank Darchingerbegan his career as a photojournalist, while also assisting his father, Josef Heinrich Darchinger, with the classifying and updating of his legendarily vast and efficient photographic archive. It was through his endeavors that his father’s work has become accessible to the general public. Today Frank Darchinger works as a freelance photographer in Bonn.