Flag Raising Ceremony. Staged Photographs to the Third German Art Exhibition

in Dresden 1953

1988 - 1989

Matthias Leupold is no documentary photographer, however "realistic" his pictures may appear. The reality of his pictures is always staged.


Born in 1959 in East Berlin, he lived in the Prenlauer Berg district there until his emigration to the western part of the city in 1986. Since 1983, he has worked on pictures, staged with actors, of counter-worlds to everyday East German life. His investigations and treatment of the latter's norms and conventions led him to seek images of the "reality behind reality" and topics shut out of public



Matthias Leupold's project "Flag-Raising Ceremony", begun in 1988, is concerned with the Third German Art Exhibition of 1953 in Dresden in East Germany. The paintings and sculptures shown there adhered to the doctrine of "Socialist Realism" and, for a long time, determined the norms and topics of the visual mediation of social reality in the young GDR. With them, a "German national cultur oriented toward peace" was also supposed to be created, one in which the heritage of the avant-garde of the 1920's - and thus also of the Bauhaus School - had no place. Matthias Leupold was irritated that, on leafing through the catalog, he, who was not familiar with the exhibition, immediately felt that he knew the pictures. He was thus much less interested in the individual exhibits of the Third German Art Exhibition than in their normative character for form and content, which produced this sense of recognition. Thus, Matthias Leupold not only reconstructed - though with some significant deviations - specimens of some of the exhibition's paintings and sculptures as "living pictures" with actors for reproduction with the camera, but could also effortlessly avail himself of similar examples in the photo-journalism of the time and even invent pictures of this kind of portrayal of reality himself.


For all their proximity to the reference objectes of his stagings, Leupold's photographs are seldom mimetic reproductions. Often enough, details left out or added, as well as altered body positions, result in commentary on or interpretations of the starting material. The degree of the actors' identification with the roles that they play in the "living pictures" is often substantial, adding to the complexity of Leupold's restagings.


In this way, Leupold analyzes and comments upon the early iconographic signs of socialism.


With the artistic method of re-staging, by trying to describe the difference between reality and the realism of the desired picture of reality, Matthias Leupold photographs are also a critique of the visual media of the 1950's and 1960's in East Germany.

Gunther Dietrich im Gespräch mit Matthias Leupold zu der Serie Fahnenappell, Dokumentation Bernd Böhlendorf, 14 min, Berlin 2018

Solo exhibitions (selected)

2003 / 2004

Die Vergangenheit hat erst begonnen. Szenische Photographien 1983-99 (Retrospective) Kunst und Medienzentrum Berlin-Adlershof; Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle/Saale; Städtische Galerie Iserlohn and Kunstverein Ahlen with Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, Alte Feuerwache Fotogalerie Mannheim; Kunsthalle Erfurt

Leupolds Gartenlaube & Fahnenappell Photographic Resource Center at Boston University, Boston



Fahnenappell, Militärhistorisches Museum, Dresden



Fahnenappell–Szenische Fotografien zur III. Deutschen Kunstaustellung in Dresden 1953, Bauhaus Dessau


Group exhibitions


Berlin–Moskau Moskau–Berlin Staatliches Historisches Museum, Moskau



Die Kunst in der DDR, eine Retrospektive der Nationalgalerie Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin



Das Ende der Utopien. (1. Ars Bartica-Triennale der Photokunst) Schloß Gottorf, Schleswig; Haus am Waldsee, Berlin; Japanisches Palais, Dresden; Museet for Fotokunst Brandts Klaedefabrik Odense; (DK) Kunsthalle/Taidehalli Helsinki; Maison du Danemark, Paris; Center of Contemporary Art, Warzcawa; Center of Contemporary Art, Tallinn; Galeria Miesska, Arsenal Poznan



Fahnenappell and Leupolds Gartenlaube Photographic Ressource Center at Boston University


Leupold, M. and Kleinerüschkamp, W., 1992. Fahnenappell. Szenische Fotografien zur III. Deutschen Kunstausstellung in Dresden 1953. 1st ed. Marburg: JONAS. 

Public collections

Bibliothèque nationale de France

Berlinische Galerie

Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg

Museum Folkwang, Essen

Kunstmuseum Moritzburg Halle/Saale


Photographer of the Year Bronze Award LIPF 2008, China
Lianzhou Foto Festival, China