contemporary art / history of art

Anke Heelemann

Born in 1979 Hoyerswerda (Germany) Anke Heelemann lives and works in Weimar (Germany). She studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst (Academy of Fine Arts) in Leipzig (Germany), at the Bauhaus Universität (Bauhaus University) in Weimar and at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney (Australia). She received several grants, inter alia from the Kulturstiftung des Freistaats Thüringen (cultural foundation of the Free State of Thuringia), the Bauhaus Universität Weimar and of the Freistaat Thüringen (Free State of Thuringia).

Since the invention of photography, people produced an unimaginable quantity of private photos. A huge part of it got lost. Another part of it still exists in cellars and attics and finds its way back to attention through household clearances to flea markets and auctions. The paper prints, diapositives and photo albums build an ownerless world of images that have lost its context. Due to this observation Anke started to collect anonymous private photographs and gave them a new home in 2006, when she founded the FOTOTHEK – Fachgeschäft für vergessene Privatfotografien (FOTOTHEK – specialist shop for forgotten private photography).

The base of the FOTOTHEK is a salesroom in Weimar with a huge collection of anonymous private photos and diapositives. Over 100,000 images, taken in between 1880 and 1980 are showing snapshots from holidays, family portraits and a lot of other items. They are kept sorted by subject in index boxes or in one of around 300 photo albums and are not for sale. Nevertheless, people can borrow photos, send image messages and adopt pictures. Or they can only explore the collection and enjoy their discoveries. There is a product line with postcards, notepads, daylight slide viewers and many more.

However, the shop is only a part of Anke’s artistic activities. More than a shop keeper, archivist or photographer she is a conceptual artist who works with the medium of photography. Since almost 10 years the label FOTOTHEK stands for the entirety of her artistic creation with recourse to the collection of forgotten private photos. The spectrum of these activities is huge: Anke initiates and participates at exhibitions, installations, performances and interventions in public space. She creates new formats like lecture-performances and participatory events. Once a month, people around the world get the electronic newsletter with the photo of the month, commented by a volunteer. All in all the FOTOTHEK is not only a place but artistic activity that targets the confrontation with private photographs to establish a new practice with the recycled images.

Artwork of the month / December 2015