KölnTag: Ubier Monument and MAKK

It’s KölnTag and I had the chance to visit two very different sights today: A 2,000-year-old hidden monument and a museum full of contemporary art and design.

The Ubier Monument

Hidden between normal residential houses, you will find the entrance to the Ubier monument, a stone construction that was part of a Germanic settlement before Cologne became a Roman colony. I do not want to recite what our knowledgable (and dry-humored) guide told us about the lively history of this archeological find from 1965. I rather want to use this space to remind me and others that Cologne—while considered ugly by many—is a lady with layers who is willing to let the attentive observer sneak a peek at her wealth of history, art, and hidden treasures.

Think about that the next time you pass by one of her many eyesores.

MAKK – Museum für Angewandte Kunst Köln

My highlight of the day: the exhibition of photographer Horst H. Baumann at the MAKK (Museum of Applied Arts Cologne). My visit included a one-hour guided tour.

Baumann (1934–2019) was born and died in poverty. Inbetween he established a modern take on photography that is not exclusive to journalists or trained photographers, but open to each and everyone. He called himself a street photographer and considered his job to be part of the moment he captured.

You’re right in the thick of it. And as someone with a 35 mm camera and a lens with a short focal length, you don’t stand out. You are there as a contemporary. And you are therefore all the more credible.

—Horst H. Baumann

At the same time, it was the reduced, the graphical, the almost geometric that he seeked in his photos. A lot of what I heard and read about Baumann struck a chord with me and I tried to take a photo of the exhibition that he would have liked.

The cast shadow of another visitor is looking at a grid of four photos by Baumann. There is also a reflection of the same visitor in one of the photos.

It surprised me that I was able to pinpoint why I like his photos and that the reasons were quite… simple: golden ratio, playful use of soft focus, high contrast, complementary colors, interesting perspective. It feels empowering to me that Baumann uses a lot of the best practices that one would also learn in a graphic design course. Because it means that everyone—even me—can get a long way with the basics. Style, the inexplicable sense for space and subject, the skill to capture an atmosphere and make photos look alive… well, that’s a different story.

And the stuff I go to museums for.