Ashkan Sahihi, JHearts (Szenefrau / Scenester) © Ashkan Sahihi

Solo Exhibition

Die Berlinerin – Portrait of a City

Ashkan Sahihi

Opening III: Tuesday, December 8, 2015, 18h
Exhibition: October 17, 2015 – January 10, 2016
Free Guided Tours:
each Sunday at 15h
Opening hours
Tue-Sun, 10-20h
Winter break: the gallery is closed on Dec 24, 25, 31 and on January 1, 2016.


Ashkan Sahihi’s photography project, Die Berlinerin, grew out of a desire to capture the dynamics of Berlin – at a time when the city finds itself in a state of upheaval. Amid broad demographic change, Berlin is moving, developing, leaping forward. Like a researcher in the field, Ashkan Sahihi turns his gaze toward those who shape city life to an especially high degree, often without due recognition: women. From September 2013 to August 2015, he recorded this singular moment by photographing 375 female Berlin residents. He chose to focus on this half of the population because, he believes, women today are increasingly assuming positions of power – in a society where feminist movements have only gradually edged their way into the mainstream.

As a starting point, Ashkan Sahihi selected 35 search criteria based on occupation, age group, social class, and family origin. In the second step, he visited each subject in her own space. Each woman was photographed in an environment of her choice, wearing her own clothing, using a simple digital camera under natural lighting conditions. The pictures were edited only minimally, and none of the compositions were cropped. After each photo shoot, the subject was asked to fill out a questionnaire. The portraits and questionnaires provide a cross-section of Berlin’s female population, evoking August Sander’s “People of the 20th Century” – his renowned and extensive portrait series from the early 1920s featuring people in and around Cologne.

Drawing on research, discussions, encounters, and artistic and personal decisions, Ashkan Sahihi’s photographs reveal traces of each woman’s background and present. Minute clues in the chosen environments point to the subjects’ cultural backgrounds and milieus, their professions and positions, the time and place of the portraits. These details draw the viewer in, encouraging reflection on propositions of female identity – shaped on the one hand by the subjects’ self-presentation, on the other by the artist’s photographic gaze. The subtle signals permeating these images pose a number of questions: Who are these women, and what does it mean to photograph them today? What objects do we see in the pictures, and what do they indicate? Are there visible distinctions between women from East and West Berlin, between members of the upper class and working-class women, between those of German and immigrant descent, between younger and older women? Do these women appear to fit the categories Sahihi imposed at the beginning of the project? Are these categories too narrow, or might they overlap? Does the working mother present herself primarily as a mother in a domestic setting or as an executive at work?

Ashkan Sahihi strives to see and not show. Die Berlinerin is not documentary photography. These pictures do not attempt to explain a particular time or subculture, but each portrait captures the complexity of the individual depicted. Taken together, the manifold constellations of photographs reveal connections and relationships about this time and this place. Die Berlinerin is a photographic portrait of the entire city.

To include as many of the 375 portraits as possible, Die Berlinerin will be presented in three stages:

Opening I: Friday, October 16, 2015, at 6 pm
Opening II: Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 7 pm
Artist’s talk with Ashkan Sahihi at 6 pm
Moderated by: Dr. Annette Wostrak, specialist on culture and media for the Green Party in Berlin’s City Council
Featuring images of women in/as:
Craftswoman – Businesswoman – Woman in Gastronomy – Student – Socially Engaged Woman – Educator/Professor – Tourist – Life Coach/Yoga Teacher – Freelancer/Self-Employed – Athlete – Scenester – Actor

Opening III: Tuesday, December 8 2015, at 6 pm
The Berlin Brandenburg International School presents the song “Berlin City of the Night” from the musical “Twins” (composed by Taylor and Hayley Emerson)

Featuring images of women in/as:
Daughter of Affluent Family, of Middle-Class Family, and of Working-Class Family – Designer/Creative Professional – Woman in Film/Media – Manager/Executive – Journalist/Photographer – Woman in the Artistic/Cultural Sector – Woman with Alternative Lifestyle – Woman with Immigration Background – Pensioner/Grandmother

A comprehensive catalogue accompanies the exhibition:

Ashkan Sahihi: Die Berlinerin
DISTANZ Verlag, Berlin 2015.
848 pages, 375 color photographs, 375 questionnaires.
Hardcover, with texts by Kimberly Bradley, Thomas Hüsken, and Olin Roenpage, German/English, 49.90 Euro

About the artist

Ashkan Sahihi (b. Tehran, 1963) came to Germany when he was seven. He moved to New York in 1987 and photographed for leading publications including the Zeit and Süddeutsche Zeitung magazines, Der Spiegel and GEO, New York Times Magazine, the New Yorker, and Vogue. His work was first exhibited at New York’s Andrea Rosen Gallery in 2000 and has been featured in solo and group shows at MoMA PS1 in New York, the Berlin Academy of Arts, MACRO in Rome, and elsewhere.

Event Details

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