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First prize photo of the competition sponsored by the City of Luebeck for the 10th anniversary of the Falling of the Berlin Wall.
"East German corner" with my photos, Goethe-Institut, Wellington, New Zealand, November 2009
Goethe-Institut, Wellington, New Zealand, New years greating card 2008

Documentaries (selection)

2016: „26 years of the reunification of East and West Germany“: Exhibition in Prague/Horni Pocernice (Czech Republic).

2015: „25 years of the reunification of East and West Germany“: Exhibition in Brunsbuettel (West Germany). Catalogue: „25 Jahre Deutsche Einheit“

2009: „20 years of change“: about the reunification of East and West Germany. Exhibitions in Wismar (former East Germany) and Brunsbuettel (West Germany). See catalogue article below: „Sönke Dwenger - 20 years of change“

2008: The 'Goethe-Institut' (German Cultural Centre) in Wellington purchased one of my photos about reunification of East and West Germany to use for their annual Christmas and New-Years-greeting-card 2008/2009.

2006: Portraits of artists and artworks in the landart project 'Kunst+Landschaft' (transl. 'art+landscape') funded by the European Union (catalogue)

1999: Solo exhibition (with catalogue) at the City Gallery of the Elbeforum (Brunsbuettel, Germany) 'Soenke Dwenger. 1989 - 1999. 10 years of Change' about reunification of East and West Germany. The exhibition covered photographs documenting the changes in East Germany after the crumbling of the GDR and the following reunification. This exhibition has been requested by and was lent to museums and other cultural organizations and shown throughout Germany, to name just a few: the Museum in the historical City Hall of Moelln, the Educational Center of the Konrad-Adenauer-Foundation in Wendgraeben near Magdeburg and the City Hall of Bad Segeberg. Presently there are about 100 of my documentary photographs in the collection of the City Gallery of the Elbeforum in Brunsbuettel in Northern Germany.

Exhibitions (selection)

2015: Participated in the State Exhibition for Photography in Schleswig-Holstein 'RFLXN 05' (catalogue)

2011: Off the main road: A group exhibition by 5 artists at the Red Barn Gallery, Rangiriri, North Waikato

2011: Poetry in nature: Flora of New Zealand. Photo exhibition in Brunsbuettel, Germany

2011: Finalist Environmental Art Photography Challenge 2011 (Project with Sculptor Jo Pervan), Arts Post Gallery, Hamilton, New Zealand

2010: New Zealand - A country in the ocean: Maritime photo exhibition at the harbour gallery, Buesum, Germany

2010: Engineering industry Please click here

2010: "The year after the wall came down": Exhibition in Wismar (former East Germany). March to October 2010.

2007: Participated in the exhibition 'Deutsche Kuenstler aus Schleswig-Holstein (transl. German artists from Schleswig-Holstein)' in Shenzhen/China (catalogue)

2004: Participated in the State Exhibition for Photography in Schleswig-Holstein 'RFLXN 02' (catalogue)

1995: Participated in the exhibition 'Deutsche sehen Deutsche' (transl. 'How Germans see Germans') in the museum for post-war history, the House of History in Bonn (the German capital at that time) (catalogue)

1990 und 1993: Industrial photography for the Bayer AG; Exhibitions in several Bayer-factories in Germany and France (catalogue)


1995 and 2001: Awarded first prize in the photo competitions celebrating the Kiel-Canal Anniversary (in category 'professionals')

1999: Awarded first prize in the photo competition sponsored by the City of Luebeck (History Work Shop) for the 10th anniversary of the Falling of the Berlin Wall.

„Soenke Dwenger. 1989 – 2009. 20 years of change“

Exhibition poster. Click on photos to enlarge.

By Silke Eikermann-Moseberg, Head of the Art Gallery Elbeforum, Brunsbuettel, Germany

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality... Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” (*1)

Summer 2009: Soenke Dwenger is walking through Hamburg, his digital camera, as usual, is his constant companion. Even when his purpose is not to take photos he is always on the prowl, dissecting his environment, focusing, scanning. On most these occasions he finds motifs which his excellent eye photographically unveils, sometimes in the starkest manner, at other times rather subtly but always sensitively and unerringly. On this summer’s day in Hamburg he discovers a sticker on a bonnet: “MFS – Mobiler Fahrrad Service (Mobile Bicycle Service)”. Has nobody made the connection to Ministry for State Security (MfS)?

What happened to our knowledge of recent history? Soenke Dwenger’s photos also document thoughtlessness, sometimes the rampant “Ostalgia” (pun describing the nostalgic feeling for the former Ost = German for East, translator’s note). In June 2009 a survey by the polling institute Emnid found: 49% of East Germans believe that the GDR had more good than bad aspects. Even in the West 18% share this view. Are people regarding history more and more ignorantly and without reflection? How can a sharp, clear image of the lawless GDR be gained if the instruments of power, the violence against dissenters, the violations of human rights or simply the desolation of grey and wearisome everyday life can no longer be captured or recalled?

Summer 1999: Has it really been 10 years already? The exhibition of documentary photographs “Soenke Dwenger. 1989 – 1999. 10 years of change” was on display from August 22nd to October 3rd 1999 in the Stadtgalerie im Elbeforum. The 10th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall was approaching. Soenke Dwenger documented the changes in the East, offered us his subjective view in order to hold on to that which was in the process of being lost, as he said back then. We recognize fragments of history and stories, important history and everyday stories, above all, however, opposites, contradictions, polarities, which Dwenger rescues from oblivion, such as the photo of a colourful billboard with the text “BILD gives this house away!” in front of a grey building made of prefabricated slabs, taken in Neuruppin in 1992.

Autumn 2009 marked 20 years since the peaceful revolution in the East. This prompted retitling the exhibition to “Soenke Dwenger. 1989 – 2009. 20 years of change”, which contains photos already exhibited a decade ago and added to the permanent collection in our Museum along with many new works. In the past decade Soenke Dwenger has travelled systematically to compelling places, taking photographs that are worthy of inclusion into museum collections for their historical importance, such as memorials, bunkers or rooms such as the one in the former remand prison of the GDR Ministry for State Security in Berlin-Hohenschoenhausen. Here, in 2006, Soenke Dwenger took here, among other things, an oppressing photo of a visitor’s room (See exhibition poster). We gaze into a conservatively wallpapered room with a table and a chair. The free view into the next door room is obstructed by bars, as well as the view to the outside.

Through the window opening to the outside a pale, blue light seeps into the room, spreads like a veil over the window, the surface of the table, the seat of the chair onto the floor. The window does not lead to freedom, the atmosphere is cold, we feel a shiver running down our spine. Soenke Dwenger reduces this place of indefinite perspectives to an emotion of eery silence: Captivity, desolation, loneliness, scantiness. Even the room‘s heater appears to be chilling. We are moved and altered by Soenke Dwenger’s photographs. Photographs of such places as the visitor‘s room in Hohenschönhausen provide an image of the sort of past we are unwilling to confront. Looking at the photo, an uncanniness sets in when it, as Roland Barthes suggests, ’...moreover ... emits the sinister aftertaste that is innate in every photograph: the return of what is dead’ (*2). And this return is important – for it alone allows us to truly understand.

Soenke Dwenger captures the passage of time; he documents, comments, and relies on our cooperation: His photographs challenge the flexibility of recollection or even create new levels, indeed a new basis of recollection. To achieve this, he searches for the optimal segment of reality which is conducive to his subjective gaze. Even to date he encounters such stark polarities as in the photo “Dresden: Luther and Mercedes opposite the Church of Our Lady” 2007. The poster says: “Sometimes statements need to be standing on asphalt.” (See photo) Luther? Facades that masquerade as history? Or rather the luxury of the West, the Mercedes Benz? Soenke Dwenger perceives these images of a still incomplete unification in a sensitive and empathetic way and with a fantastic eye for the staging of reality. A further example is the lady in her blue dress who, with dynamic, wide strides walks past a dilapidated façade symbolizing stagnancy.

His photographs demonstrate a depth of knowledge of the classics of photographic history, and while not mimetic, they show a core depth of understanding and revelation of technique. Soenke Dwenger has developed a signatory style which is evident in all of this exhibition. And the fact that we need to look closely, that we have to remember openly and relentlessly when after 20 years of peaceful revolution the “ostalgic” glorification is running rampant. “Photographs really are experience captured, and the camera is the ideal arm of consciousness in its acquisitive mood.”, Susan Sontag wrote (*3). The work of Soenke Dwenger will help us to sharpen our consciousness in regard to 20 years of “Germany after the change”.

Translation by Beate Jones, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

  • 1 Susan Sontag: On Photography. New York 1977, Penguin Classics 2002, page 15
  • 2 Roland Barthes: Die helle Kammer. Bemerkungen zur Photographie, aus dem Franzoesischen von Dietrich Leube, Frankurt/Main, 1985, p. 17 (here: translated into English by the translator of the text)
  • 3 Susan Sontag: On Photography. New York 1977, Penguin Classics 2002, page 3 and 4
  • Download the catalogue: pdf (1,1 MB) Graphic Design: Michael Herold

My Exhibition at the Elbeforum in Brunsbuettel, Northern Germany, October/November of 2009

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This is my Trabant 601. Sit down please, and take a look around.

My Exhibition in Wismar, former East Germany, November of 2009

Wismar9.11.09foto petra steffan.jpg
Wismar tv dwenger.jpg

During the Exhibition Opening I was interviewed by Mr. Steffen Czech, Editor of the Community Television Station in Wismar. The Cameraman is Mr. Benjamin Barz.

"20 years of change": Media

Restormel Twinning Newsletter, February 10th, 2010

By Edmund Anstey, Restormel, England

Readers may recall Newsletter printed, over several editions the story of Frieda Sauer’s meeting up with her English husband, Walter Clough in Heide in 1945. The story told to the then newspaper Editor Soenke Dwenger was a particularly interesting one and demonstrated quite clearly the futility of any war. Freelance photographer and journalist Soenke is at present on a 3 years visa in New Zealand. With her Christmas card to us, Frieda very kindly told me of the personal invitation she received from Soenke to attend his Exhibition in the Elbeforum, Brunsbuettel. His photographic Exhibition ‘20 Years of Change’ is Soenke’s work about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Also on display was Soenke’s very own ‘Trabi’!

It was I am told, a very impressive Exhibition at which many prominent Dithmarsians were present. Whilst there, Frieda obtained a copy of the Exhibition catalogue which had been translated into English which Soenke, with whom I am still in touch, signed personally for me. The following is the text from the Exhibition catalogue. The text is by Silke Eikermann-Moseberg. Here is the English translation from the catalogue by Beate Jones from New Zealand.

Summer 2009: Sönke Dwenger is walking through Hamburg. As usual, his digital camera (...) See above

25th October 2009, Elbeforum, Brunsbüttel. By Berndt Steincke. (In German language)

Music performed by Die Gesegneten Cordhosen, my Band in Germany.