Karl Heinz Offermann, born in 1949, lives in Aachen, Germany, and works as a freelance photographer. He is self-taught. He found his early entry into photography, especially industrial photography, through many years as a technician at various research institutes of the RWTH Aachen
Up until today, my appreciation of technical minutiae in mechanical facilities remains a great source of inspiration. To me, it is a particularly appealing theme to picture mechanical functions and connections such that new points of view are opened up to the viewers. I am especially fascinated by old and traditional techniques. It is through this love of mechanical engineering and classical methods and processes that I created the series on industrial icons and Ruhrgebiet culture, facilitated through years of visits in the area and its surroundings.
In addition, I have dedicated myself for many years to the subject of street photography. Travels through France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Hungary, Czechia and Denmark offered many interesting motifs on this subject. Particularly interesting from a photographic point of view were the visits to Ireland, Scotland and New York, USA.
The possibility to capture the picture of people in their environment and natural surroundings without any form of posed or beautified representation is a special kind of documentary photography that continually inspires me anew.
Quote: I do not find the motifs, the motifs find me!
Through the proximity to the Rhenish lignite mining area, the subsequent loss of home through resettlement of residents due to the constantly expanding mining became another topic of mine. Here, with the help of documentary photography, an international climatic event was successfully captured that will continue to occupy people’s minds for a long time to come. I documented the slow death of the villages of Pier, Manheim and Morschenich and the associated fates of the affected people photographically for several years.
From 2016 – 2019, I documented the increasingly extensive protests by activists against demolishing more villages and settlements alongside the threatened demolition of the Hambach Forest, which was occupied by activists by erecting tree houses.
Always appealing to me are works that I create in my studio. In this way the series “Time over” developed, in which I depict things of everyday life, but which have changed through aging processes, external influences, and weathering so that they are hardly recognizable in their original function.
Exhibitions of my previous works took place in the Netherlands, Amsterdam, Belgium and Germany, among others.
For me, the term “street photography” means noticing motifs in public, recognising them and capturing them with the camera. The motifs usually arise spontaneously. They are neither planned nor staged. Street photography is exciting. I never know what’s coming up, but it’s precisely the unsteadiness, the uncertainty, the spontaneity that makes this kind of photography so special for me.
The challenge of capturing a moment in everyday life in the shortest possible time so that it becomes something special has a great appeal for me. Today, our everyday life is both diverse and fast-moving. Everyone is busy in their own way and often loses themselves in time and space. This is where motifs emerge!
The street becomes a stage for social reality.
The photos are a reflection of this reality, neither posed nor manipulated, simply portrayed in absolute authenticity by the people themselves.
I don’t look for the pictures, the pictures find me!
Loss of homeland through resettlement
The village of Manheim, first mentioned in a document in 898 and since 1974 a district of Kerpen in the Rhine-Erft district in North Rhine-Westphalia, is located in the Rhenish mining area and thus in the mining zone of the Hambach open pit mine. In 2012, the resettlement of residents to Manheim-neu began. The people had been prepared for the move for many years and knew that they would have to make way for lignite mining. Since 1974, the population of Manheim has steadily decreased from 1761 inhabitants to currently only 18 households with a total of 112 people.
The solemn deconsecration of the parish church of St. Albanus and St. Leonhardus in Kerpen-Manheim took place on May 20, 2019. The ritual of profanation has great significance in the Catholic Church. In Manheim, it was a final symbol for 300 residents who said a final farewell to the church and their district with a church service.
Examples of the fineness of everyday, useful and helpful things.
Things that were helpful to us with their functions. Things that were then replaced and returned to nature.
Symbols of the Resistance
Hambach Forest 2016 – 2018
The Hambach Forest is a 200-hectare forest that, as of November 2018, still large forest
in North Rhine-Westphalia, between Cologne and Aachen. Since the 1970s, the energy vider
the energy supplier RWE has been clearing the forest expansion of its Hambach open-cast lignite mine.
The Hambach Forest is regarded as a symbol of resistance by the anti-coal movement against the environmental destruction and climate damage caused by the coal industry, and the imminent coal phase-out as part of the energy transition.
Already from mid-April to mid-November 2012, around 50 environmental activists of the anti-coal power movement occupied a small part of the part of the forest to protest against deforestation and for a coal phase-out. At this point, the first tree houses were erected.
Despite several demolitions of the tree houses by the police were erected again and again by environmental activists to occupy the forest.
Due to the imminent clearing of the forest, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia decided in September 2018 to evict the the existing tree houses because of an alleged lack of fire protection. It justified the move as necessary to ensure the safety of the occupants, ensure the safety of the squatters. The state government rejected any connection with the clearances planned for October.
The clearing of the Hambach Forest was carried out on Thurs 13 September 2018. The
one of the largest police operations in the recent history of North Rhine-Westphalia.
In the forest, according to the police, there were 77 tree houses in at least four “villages” with the names: Norden, Oaktown, Beechtown and Gallien.
The photographs of the tree houses are contemporary witnesses of a protest movement demonstrating far beyond the borders of Germany for the preservation of the forest, the phase-out of coal-fired power generation, environmental destruction and climate damage caused by the coal industry.