Another View from Behind the Wall

Photo by Ute Mahler. Source: The New Yorker

Photo by Ute Mahler. Source: The New Yorker

Ute Mahler, a young East German photographer in the 1970s, photographed everyday life in the city of Lehnitz, where she lived during the Soviet era.  Her photographs are fascinating in their own right, and also in comparison to the photographs of Brinkmann and Page currently on view in Fenwick Gallery.

See a selection of Mahler’s work  in The New Yorker article from October 29th, 2014. As written by Thea Traff, a photo editor at The New Yorker:

“Most East German photography at the time, Mahler recalled, was ‘sugar-coated’ propaganda. Mahler, along with a few others, set out to photograph the less promising realities of life in East Germany.

Mahler photographed acquaintances and strangers alike, aware that her work might never reach a larger audience, and that she risked being chastised by the government.”

Campus Events: Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

George Mason Campus Weeks
Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall


Fenwick Gallery, first floor, Fenwick Library: Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989/90, by photographers Page Chichester & Helmut Brinkmann, October 15-December 15.

Special Collections, 2nd FloorPosters from the former German Democratic Republic 

Opening Reception in Fenwick Library Art Gallery, 3:00-4:30 pm, Thursday, October 16th.

Film Series
(all films in Aquia 346)

September 25 5:45-8:45 pm: The Tunnel

October 30, 5:45-8:45 pm, The Lives of Others

November 20, 5:45-8:45 pm, Good-Bye Lenin


“The Berlin Wall and Memory,” October 15, 4:30-5:45 pm, Johnson Center
Room D, by Hope Harrison, Professor at the Elliot School, George Washington University and acclaimed author of Driving the Soviets up the Wall: Soviet-East German Relations, 1953-1961 (Princeton University Press, 2003).

 “German Art from World War I to the Berlin Wall,” November 6, 7:20-8:45 pm, Johnson Center Room G, by Eckhart Gillen, Berlin, Renowned art historian and co-curator.of Art of the Two Germanys: Cold War Cultures, 1949-1990, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2009 and many monographs on contemporary German art.

“The Greatest Show on Earth: Kennedy in Berlin,” November 19, 3:00-4:30 pm, Johnson Center Room G by Andreas Daum, Professor of History, State University of New York, Buffalo and noted author of Kennedy in Berlin, (Cambridge University Press & the German Historical Institute Washington, DC, 2008).

 Lectures co-sponsored by the Omicron Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, National Honor Society

Receptions to follow the lectures.      

Gala Student Concert

“An Evening of Beethoven!” Sunday, December 7, Center for the Arts, 7:00 pm, George Mason University Symphony Orchestra, Conducted by Dennis Layendecker, Heritage Professor and Director, School of Music.

The concert will be followed by a reception and giveaways of Berlin Wall-themed items for students!

Campus Weeks events are generously supported by the German Information Office of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, Washington DC


There’s more to this story…

Did you know that only about half of the photographs in the Behind the Wall collection are displayed in our current exhibit? We selected and installed twenty-two photographs by Helmut Brinkmann and Page Chichester, taken during their travel to East Germany in 1989/90. But Fenwick Library actually has fifty-three photographs in the collection. We just couldn’t fit everything! You can browse the entire collection online.

Nothing beats seeing the work in person, so we hope that you will visit us in Fenwick Library (1st floor, Wing A) to see the exhibit. If you can’t make it, check out this gallery featuring the images selected for display:

25 years later

Photographers Page Chichester (left) and Helmut Brinkmann (right)pose at the Berlin Wall with hammers. Photograph possibly taken by an unknown passerby.

Photographers Page Chichester (left) and Helmut Brinkmann (right)pose at the Berlin Wall with hammers. Photograph possibly taken by an unknown passerby.

On November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, reuniting families and friends that had been separated since 1961 and beginning a process by which the starkly divergent East and West Germany would be made one country again.

In honor of the 25th anniversary of this momentous event, Fenwick Gallery is proud to announce our upcoming exhibit, Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany 1989/90. 

The exhibit features a selection of photographs by Page Chichester (who grew up in Culpeper, Virginia) and German photographer Helmut Brinkmann. One evening in December 1989, over drinks and a televised fußball match, Chichester and Brinkmann decided that they would go to East Germany. “The two stayed up all night planning their hastily-conceived trip.  At Noon on December 29th the two took off in a Volkswagen van carrying cameras, film, and very few provisions.” [1]

Beginning October 13th, visit Fenwick Gallery to see this incredible look inside East Germany just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

More about the artists:

Page Chichester was born in New Jersey in 1959 and grew up in rural Culpeper, Virginia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. After a two-year stint as photo editor at a wildlife-conservation magazine in Washington, D.C., he spent five years in West Germany, where he worked as a freelance photographer. He returned to Washington, D.C., in 1990 to work as a photojournalist for the National Audubon Society’s television productions department, photographing four books including one on the African elephant. He then became editor of Virginia magazine, formerly Virginia Southwest. He freelanced in Roanoke, Virginia, for several years before moving to Bonn, Germany, with his family. The tides of change have swept them to Berlin, and today, Chichester is part of the subcontracted photography crew on various cruise ships. Chichester’s photography has appeared in museum and galleries in Athens, Berlin, Bonn, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, as well as in state, regional, and national publications.

Helmut Brinkmann was born in 1951 in Duisburg, part of the coal-mining region (Ruhr Pot) of the former West Germany. He has been a professional photographer since 1979. In addition to his commercial, portrait, and architectural photography, he has exhibited numerous projects in Duisburg, Hamburg, Bonn, Greece, and Spain. In 1972 Brinkmann won the prestigious Bundesfotopreis (National Photo Award). A series of his hand-colored postcards was published as a book, Verwandlungen (Changes), by one of Germany’s foremost art publishers, DuMont Verlag. He was among the photographers chosen for the 1991 exhibit Five Bonn Photographers, is a member of the Bundesverband Bildender Künstler (National Assn. of Artists) and is listed in the Bonn Artists Directory. His work has been published in Stern, Die Welt, and other major magazines and newspapers, and he has taught photography for several years in high schools in and around Bonn. Brinkmann has traveled extensively through the former East Germany since 1989.

Biographical information is from the exhibition catalog: Chichester, Page and Helmut Brinkmann. Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989/90. Floyd, Virginia: The Jacksonville Center for the Arts, 2012.