Road Map To Happiness

Road Map to Happiness Pictures of a Street 1979-1981, Edited by Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur, texts by Gabriele Conrath-Scholl, graphic design by Jutta Herden, Hatje Cantz, €49.80.

A book such as this represents a unique contribution to German post-war rebuilding history, as a cross between factual inventory and personal enthusiasm: serial photographs of imagination and the reality of everyday life on a street in Dortmund. Somehow, seen through our eyes today, it is hard to accept it as the reality of that period; acceptance, however, enables us to penetrate the flavor of German life at the time.

Between 1979-81 Wilhelm Schürmann (born in 1946) created a series of photographs of the neighborhood surrounding his childhood home on Streinhammerstrasse in Dortmund. During his forays, the artist captures, with both intensity and humor, facades, displays in store windows, living rooms, and residents, unfolding a fascinating panorama presented here for the first time on such a scale. His images portray the Ruhr district, symbolizing the euphoria of Germany’s economic miracle and the ensuing phase of disenchantment.

Wilhelm Schürmann is not just a photographer, but also a well known collector and curator of contemporary art. This is the first publication of the photographs he took between 1979 and 1981 in Steinhammerstrasse. Having grown up there, Schürmann not only examines the many facets of his own background but relates impressions of a German cosmos, a small world full of descriptive details. A “roadmap to happiness,” a brochure for a lottery outlet peeking out of a pants pocket, is only one example of his many fabulous images.

–J.-C. N.