MUTTI – Angela Merkel exhibition by Filip Singer

23. 11. 2021 – 28. 1. 2022

400 ASA Gallery

„Danke Mutti,“ chanted a small crowd of inhabitants of the city of Beaune, which at the beginning of November saw their president Emmanuel Macron say farewell to a federal chancellor Angela Merkel, as she was leaving her office after sixteen years in power. A similar kind of  acknowledgement would also represent a public opinion poll showing that  many Germans are convinced that she has led them through many challenging crises and that it was because of her key role that the European Union was able to overcome them. 

How did she do it? It wasn’t because of a well-formulated program she enforced. On the contrary, it was her conviction that the most important thing is to listen and to always search for a common ground because she believed it to be the only way to overcome differences univitably arising in politics as well as in life. We can find the source of this conviction in her biography.

More than 30 years ago, she was just a young woman who wanted to succeed in German politics, a believer yet divorced, coming from the Eastern part of a recently reunited country, the part which in the post war years was not – unlike its Western counterpart – prosperous and which was deeply scarred by the comunist regime. With such a starting position, she could not act as decisively or with a superior attitude, typical for many uprising as well as senior politicians. If she wanted to be successful in such an environment, she had to act with a sense of purpose and a great restraint. She had to be scrupulously well-prepared and focus on factual argumentation.

„Danke Mutti“ – or in English “Thank you Mom” – sounds friendly, even familiar so it is hard to find any weakness in it. Figuratively speaking, if one gets used to the idea that all problems are handled by parents, one becomes unprepared to handle them without relying on their support. The same problem is faced by people who are not able to bring up a successor. Angela Merkel had a particularly bad luck picking her successors as shown by the recent elections.

The same can be said about anyone who spends a lot of time with crisis management,  be it financial instability, migration or the corona crisis, as work on such issues only necessarily created new problems to tackle.

Photos included in this exhibition show not only the chancellor Merkel, but the whole of Germany. They bring up questions about the now legendary saying “We can do it”, accompanying the 2015 resolution that let in hundreds of thousands of migrants. As any political slogan, it is a shortcut to a much more complicated reality. At this critical moment, the federal government was choosing between  closing and keeping the borders open. The decisive argument came from the country’s historic experience of being divided by the Berlin wall and so the idea of armed soldiers barring out migrants at the border was unacceptable. It was not a decision between a categorically good or bad solution. Angela Merkel chose values over pragmatic solutions, which sparked a dividing debate throughout Germany. Divide which has been present ever since.

These few words, represented by the pictures at the exhibition about Angela Merkel, should not come out as sceptical. Not only because that would not be polite but primarily because it would mean that Czechs are not able to accept how important she was to us. It was thanks to her origin and  academic experience that she was able to understand how countries of the Soviet bloc work and why it is important for them to be part of the final compromise. Life was never easy for her, having to listen to chronic complainers unable to come up with their own solutions. Who else would have the patience if not Angela Merkel, the Mutti?

Filip Singer *1980 in Prague

Filip Singer has been working  on documentary photography since 1999 when he became interested in remote parts of Siberia and the former Soviet republics. In particular, his interest revolves around changes of the environment and their impacts on common people living in the former USSR. His photographs capture, above all, the impact of humans on the environment, as well as the lives of people in some of the most polluted parts of the world. For example, he has ventured to Norilsk – a city situated north of the Arctic Circle, secluded from the world, and polluted by its nickel mines. On another occasion, he documented the desolate mining wastelands surrounding Azerbaijan’s capital of Baku. He has captured the mining of diamonds deep in the Siberian taiga, in the city of Mirny, as well as the illegal extraction of coal in Donbas, Ukraine.  

Since 2005, he has collaborated with the international photography group SPUTNIK PHOTOS and has joined the Anzenberger agency from Vienna. 

In 2006, he began to work externally with Hospodářské noviny, magazine Respekt and the photography agency ISIFA. This collaboration has led him to journalistic photography. Even though these are distinct categories, he tries to apply his experience from documentary photography in his journalistic work.

Since 2008, he has been a core member of the international European Pressphoto Agency (EPA). He photographs all of the main events in Central Europe and other countries around the world. For instance, he has taken photos during the Ukraine revolution, protests in Turkey, the migrant crisis on Lesbos island, or grand sport events, such as the Olympic games, the Australian Open, the European Football Championship and others.

Through the EPA agency, he has published his work in foreing media, such as The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Time, National Geographic, Newsweek, Guardian, El Mundo, Le Figaro, Stern, and others. 

In 2017, he became a member of the German EPA team and moved to Dresden, from where he covered events in former East Germany. He was  also frequently requested to cover events in Berlin, where he finally moved in 2020. There he has been mainly documenting events surrounding the now departing chancellor Angela Merkel.

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