The photographer Bernard Larsson (born in Hamburg, 1939) was working from 1959 to 1961 as William Klein’s assistant in a France marked by its recent defeats in Indochina and Algeria. It was from here that he embarked on travels through Fascist Spain and Morocco.
Moved by the construction of the Berlin Wall in August 1961, he left Paris so that he could build up his own picture of the situation in the divided city. Larsson was to become one of the most important photographers of everyday life on both sides of the Wall, culminating in the publication of his book ‘Berlin: The Complete City. Political Photographs’ in 1964. This publication stands out from the large number of photo-books about Berlin, since as a Swedish passport-holder Larsson was able to capture the ominous mood that had descended over both halves of the Allied-controlled city.
Once the protest movement that had swept through US university campuses and the ‘Third World’ finally reached Berlin in 1966, demonstrations erupted from June onwards at the Freie Universität against the university’s authoritarian system of governance and the city’s lack of democratic accountability. Over the course of a whole year, Larsson documented the demonstrations in a kind of photographic diary. This photographic record came to an end when he took a picture of the deliberate fatal shooting of Benno Ohnesorg by a West Berlin police officer on 2 June 1967. That same month, there was an exhibition of large-format photographs taken by Larsson of the student-run AStA inquiry committee. A few weeks later saw the publication of his pamphlet, entitled ‘Demonstrations: A Berlin Model’.
In ‘Leaving is Entering’, Larsson presents his Berlin photographs alongside a selection of pictures taken in the same period, which lend some wider international context to the years covered by the exhibition. His visual essay concludes with photographs from Warsaw, Prague, and Budapest, as well as others featuring a number of pop icons.