About the Archive of Photographers

Photographer Archives - Endangered Cultural Heritage

Photography is one of the most important media achievements of our society. As a medium of communication, documentation and artistic expression - and thus as an essential component of our visual memory - it is of utmost importance.
But photography is also a cultural asset threatened by loss: the classical archive, in which negatives, slides and photographic prints are available on demand, loses its function in many places. Hard disks and databases take its place, the pixel replaces the grain.
At the turning point from analogue to digital photography, there is a risk of losing important testimonies to the 175-year history of the medium.

Photographer Archives - cultural heritage worth protecting

Today, more than ever, there is an urgent need for a perspective for a reliable and lasting future of photographic archives.
The Deutsche Fotothek and the Stiftung F.C. Gundlach have taken up this challenge together with other partners.
With the Archive of Photographers in the Deutsche Fotothek, they have created an institution that - as a strategic partner of photographic institutions - assumes responsibility for coordinating the preservation, professional archiving and presentation of photographic works and bequests.
In cooperation with the closest possible network of photographic institutions, the Archive of Photographers wants to preserve the life's work of German photographers and photographers working in Germany as a substantial part of our cultural memory. The Archive of Photographers cooperates with the non-profit association Netzwerk Fotoarchive, which was founded in 2011 by Berufsverband Freie Fotografen und Filmgestalter (BFF), Bundesverband der Pressebild-Agenturen und Bildarchive (BVPA), Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh) and FREELENS, among others.

Prospects for Photographers' Archives

The Deutsche Fotothek is facing three major challenges with its Archive of Photographers::

Advice and brokerage

First of all, it is to be known as a point of contact for photographers and their descendants, for institutions and museums, for science and for those who are looking for images and thus become a central authority of the photographic heritage in Germany.

  • Establishment and promotion of an infrastructure for the preservation and activation of photographic archives;
  • Placement of photographic archives at suitable locations in cooperation with partner institutionn;
  • Advice and support in archiving, digitisation and publication of visual material, also in the form of joint projectse;
  • Active participation in already existing discussion and consulting structures for all aspects of conservation, care, inventory and registration of the photographic heritage;
  • Acquisition of funding for exemplary processing of photographic archives.

Collecting and Preserving

The Deutsche Fotothek can and will include nationally significant photographic archives in its Dresden depots. The resulting collection of important photographic works and bequests is stored in air-conditioned warehouses and maintained by specialist staff at the highest conservation standards. In addition, the Deutsche Fotothek will actively contact photographers whose importance for photography makes them the ideal candidates for preservation.

  • Establishment and maintenance of a collection of photographic works and bequests in the Deutsche Fotothek, which represents in particular the work of German photographers and of photographers working in Germany from the beginnings to the present day;;
  • Maintenance and professional storage in air-conditioned magazines and conservation care by qualified staff;
  • Identification and preservation of important photographic archives in private ownership as well as in large and small institutions for preservation in suitable photographic institutions;
  • High-resolution digitization, initially exemplary and later as comprehensive as possible;
  • Long-term archiving of digital images according to OAIS standard.

Cataloging and Publishing

Thirdly, the Deutsche Fotothek presents the works of important photographers from the beginnings to the present as a virtual showroom on the Internet under the title Archiv der Fotografen - Archive of Photographers. In addition to photographic works from the archives of the Deutsche Fotothek, a growing number of important photographic archives from the partners' collections will be displayed in this storefront in the future.

  • Supervision of the photographers' archives as a showcase for the quality and diversity of the works of German photographers and as a central, publicly accessible research tool for photography;
  • Identification and acquisition of relevant photographic holdings in large and small institutions as well as in private property for presentation in the photographers' archives;
  • Maximum visibility and reach of the image collections through integration into higher-level portals such as Europeana or the German Digital Library;
  • Distribution and activation of photographic works also through publications, exhibitions and - on request - through agency activities.

Start now and grow together

The Deutsche Fotothek cannot and should not claim to establish a general ad hoc solution for dealing with photographic archives in Germany. Rather, it is a matter of creating the nucleus of an expandable infrastructure with this institution. Preservation, indexing and presentation is understood as a unit.
All of this requires widespread awareness, acceptance and support from photographic institutions and the general public. These ambitious goals can only be achieved if it is supported, advised and improved by a broad base of photographers, institutions, associations, scientific institutions, companies and individuals.
The aim is to create a competence centre, whose central and decentralised activities for the preservation of the photographic heritage will be bundled and presented under a virtual roof.

This approach is accompanied by a board of curators that ensures orientation, quality assurance and transparency:

  • Jens Bove (Deutsche Fotothek, Dresden),
  • Sebastian Lux (Stiftung F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg),
  • Miriam Halwani (Museum Ludwig, Köln),
  • Margot Klingsporn (Photo- und Presseagentur FOCUS, Hamburg) und
  • Bernd Rodrian (Institut Heidersberger, Wolfsburg)

Preserving photographic heritage for the future

The Deutsche Fotothek is well equipped to assume responsibility for the preservation and dissemination of photographic works and bequests on the basis of its many years of experience and with the support of the participating institutions.

Who benefits?

The general public through

  • Preservation and maintenance of the cultural heritage;
  • public visibility of photographic works and legacies

Photographers and their heirs through

  • reliable and durable preservation of archives - original preservation and long-term digital archiving;
  • permanent media presence of their work

Institutions through

  • Advice and support in the maintenance and preparation of their photographic collections;
  • SVisibility of the collections in the context of German history of photography;
  • Improvement of the public perception of an institution and collection at national and international level

How can you support us?

Whether it will be possible to develop a future perspective for the many photographers' bequests in Germany that are threatened with loss - beyond the possibilities offered by individual institutions - depends to a large extent on the idealistic support of institutions, associations and companies in addition to the successful acquisition of third-party funds.

You can support us by

  • making our concerns known and supporting them in public
  • through your active participation in the acquisition of photographic bequests and archives - for instance to place them at suitable locations, for inclusion in the Deutsche Fotothek's collection or for digitisation
  • and above all by providing digital image material - in a representative selection or comprehensively - from the photographers' archives in your collections for presentation in the virtual Archive of Photographers in the Deutsche Fotothek.


Dr. Jens Bove
Head of Deutsche Fotothek
Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Dresden (SLUB)
01054 Dresden
Phone: +49 351 4677-600/-601
Fax: +49 351 4677-736

Sebastian Lux
Managing Director
Stiftung F.C. Gundlach
Parkallee 33
20144 Hamburg
Phone:+49 40 444551
Fax +49 40 445149

Margot Klingsporn
Managing Director
Photo- und Presseagentur FOCUS
Alter Fischmarkt 3
20457 Hamburg
Phone.: +49 40 4502 2311
Fax: +49 40 4502 2350