In 1951 the documentary filmmaker Alfred Ehrhardt spent five months in Portugal to make the 82-minute black and white film Portugal – Unbekanntes Land am Meer (Unknown Land by the Sea) for which he received his third German National Film Award. It was the first feature-length cultural documentary to have been made outside the country by a German filmmaker since 1945.
As he so often did, Ehrhardt also took photographs in Portugal while shooting his films. A selection from this collection of almost 400 photographs is now being presented to the public for the first time.
Portugal in the 1950s—these are images from a time when people still carried heavy loads on their heads and went barefoot, when the corn in the field was still cut by hand with a sickle, when the wine was harvested to the accompaniment of music, and grapes were trampled with by foot. Nets of sardines and tuna were hauled in by hand, and cork was the only material used to plug bottles. Even in Ehrhardt’s time there was exotic aura surrounding such archaic production methods, which appear—not only to today’s viewers—to be images from another world; they also obviously held great fascination for Ehrhardt. To him the life of the Portuguese seemed to be “of Biblical simplicity and tranquil cheer.” Although the emphasis of the films and photographs lies on the folkloric tradition of manual crafts, Portugal is nevertheless show as a land of contradiction between the past and the present. Ehrhardt films and photographs the luxury liners and airboat landing field in the harbor of Lisbon, the newly constructed districts in the northern areas of the capital as well as the industrial fabrication of canned sardines and cork products. (read more)
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