Statement by the photographer, Willy RONIS
"I make it a point to capture the character of people in my photographs, to capture their gestures and attitudes, in the interest of life." (© Willy RONIS)
"The people, the streets, holidays or everyday life: whether Willy RONIS photographs the old Paris or the new cities of the GDR, his gaze always focuses on these motifs. When in 1967 he was commissioned by the association 'Échanges franco-allemands' to make a photo reportage to promote the recognition of the GDR by France, he turned his camera 'first to life'.
As a humanist, committed and with 'his heart on the left', Willy RONIS documents in the photo book 'First Life. Willly Ronis in the GDR. 1960-1967' a modern socialism in the service of the people, preferring to pass over the problems of the system. He had been to the GDR once before, in 1960, so he knew exactly what to look for. He fulfills his mission by taking photographs of young workers, students, children playing, landscapes and everyday scenes.... He also photographs the great painters, sculptors and writers and as often as possible, art classes and optical industry that fascinates him. After his return, his work was exhibited in 80 communes of France, initially developing its political and propaganda impact, leaving the artistic aspect in the background.
Willy RONIS, meanwhile, also created a historical document on the everyday history of GDR society, which is being published for the first time 55 years after its creation and 30 years after German reunification. Detached from the context of the Cold War, his pictures today unfold their full stylistic and aesthetic impact. The memorative element is very strong in them, but this is not a disadvantage - quite the contrary." (© Wasmuth & Zohlen, 2021)