Cinema photography.Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
Deutsches Filmmuseum, Frankfurt
– 31 May 2015
Since its inception almost 120 years ago, the cinema has been a place of aspiration. The “Filmtheater” exhibition, which is running until 31 May 2015 at the Deutsches Filmmuseum in Frankfurt, is showing the photography of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre in a standalone exhibition for the first time.
The work of the Parisian photographers has always been characterised by their fascination for ruins: as photographic archaeologists, they have been searching out clues in the ruins of modern industrial society since 2001. In their “Theater” series they research old US movie palaces using a large-format camera – always as a pair, but with only one camera. Their prime objective is to capture the “psychology of an era”, as they see the architectural remains as more than simply empty buildings, but rather as a symbol of the social development of the USA. They stand for the “complex relationship between art, history, economy and modernity, and illustrate the shift towards mass production and globalisation.”
Just 30 years after the invention of the cinema in the 1920s, the number of visitors had risen to 90 million every week, among a population of only 123 million people. This was the period in which increasing industrialisation also ensured that the majority of US citizens suddenly enjoyed something in the way of leisure time. The film industry responded to this by building numerous cinemas that promised to fulfil people’s wishes and aspirations. Despite another boom in the wake of World War II, the number of moviegoers subsequently dropped considerably following the invention of television. In the 1960s there was a final, major decrease in cinema-going, and the many movie palaces were suddenly empty: some became dilapidated, while others were repurposed as fitness studios, supermarkets or bus depots.
The “Filmtheater” exhibition now shows 30 selected pieces from the “Theater” series, and these also form the focus of the exhibition. Many of the photographs on display exert their full impact only on the second or even the third glance, as the level of decay therein is not always immediately noticeable. However, the grandeur of the spaces and their former splendour also remain evident after many decades. Alongside the exhibition, a film room within the exhibition space invites visitors to learn more about German cinematic history.