To sit at the table and to have a skinful – as they say – to always have a skinful on those Sunday afternoons with Bergmann schnapps in the new high-rise flat – and the woman smokes and smiles into the camera, and you smile too because you feel good right now before you start the journey back down the shaft, the tunnel, the week, to sit down for a change and take in a deep breath instead of the dust in the mines, and let work be work in the Ruhrpott* and catch up with yourself and your schnapps allowance perhaps and fix the pouring spout on the schnapps bottle because it’s Sunday and COZINESS and what’s more it’s summer outside, and you don’t need to think about how this all started, when this Sunday-afternoon-always-having-a-skinful became a social ritual – and to take photographs of it or have your photo taken – whether you have guests or not – and the boy is smiling into the camera too and doesn’t have to think how it will turn out when we stack the photos on top on each other later from one generation to another on these afternoons on Sundays, do you remember? – “Go get them out – they’re over there behind you in the chest of drawers, the photographs of the old days…! And bring them over here to the table, my lad!” Pictures are emergency shelters. Rainer Totzke
*The Ruhrpott is the colloquial name for the Ruhrgebiet.
Interior of a Sunday
Sunday. After the meal together. In summer. The windows are closed so that the heat stays outside. The light falls softly into the living room. The tablecloth, starched. With some stains from the meal. With marks from the glasses. A broken thread lies on the table. Further to the left is newspaper, a book. In the centre is a packet of cigarettes. Free time to talk. In the presence of others. An interior of togetherness on a Sunday afternoon. At the table, four people and a gap where someone has stood up.
Handiwork. Sewing a seam up or a button on. A time when the few possessions were looked after. Done up. Improved. Using the things that are there. The table can be folded out. It is folded away and put centreways to the sofa when no one’s eating.
A cigarette was stubbed out shortly before the photograph was taken. A time trace of the successive actions and gestures. Talking. Getting on with each other. Talking about everyday things and laughing together. Then, taking a photograph. A moment is created. The moment of togetherness is frozen. A lightness to it.
Who the photographer is, is unsure. A man or a woman. Look at me – a phrase that was said perhaps, a phrase that only turns the attention away from the table, and otherwise does not interfere. The short moment of the chair being pushed away, the impulse in a photograph to capture the togetherness, the faces that laugh in the direction of the photographer, none of it posed. It’s a brief turning away, a diversion of attention. From the table into the room. During an era when photography as a medium was not yet a private mirror.
The glance towards this anonymous photographer, the glimpse into this private world is a view of a time lost and, at the same time, a curious counter-glance takes place. The tranquillity of this Sunday scene, the cheerfulness of those looking into the camera seems to carry its smile into the present and to traverse time. The laughing expressions from another era reach into today. A strange intimacy can be felt. Birgit Szepanski