Trabant About

Trabant. The Final Days of Production (1990-1991)

I was an art school student in my twenties when I made the Trabant series. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, I wanted to make a series about socialist industrial culture in East Germany. In Zwickau, I photographed the production of the Trabant in the ‘Sachsenring Automobilwerke’.

The Trabant, a compact car with a plastic body made in East Germany since 1957, was well known beyond the borders of the German Democratic Republic. In the West, the ‘Trabi’ was seen as reactionary and was looked down on for its technical simplicity. Within the GDR, it was unloved and treasured in equal measure, a fixed component of everyday life and a reflection of social status. In 1991, the final Trabant was fabricated after 34 years of production. In 1992 I went back to Zwickau and photographed scrap Trabants as they were broken down for parts and the new car which was built on the former Trabant factory site: the Volkswagen Golf IV.

Book publication: ‘Trabant. The Final Days of Production – Die letzten Tage der Produktion’ (Wasmuth Publishers)

Works from this project are included in the collections of the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) in Berlin and the MAST Foundation in Bolgna, Italy.

“A bitter sweet exhibition There is a surreal sadness in these photos, as the resolutely old-fashioned Trabant, in various stages of production, slides along in scene after scene.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“Roemers eindrucks- volle Aufnahmen spiegeln den Übergangsprozess zwischen Planwirtschaft und kapitalistischer Wirtschaft wider. Da er Zugang zu allen Bereichen des Werks hatte, präsentieren die Aufnahmen ein unverfälschtes Bild der Arbeitsbedingungen. Ein Blick hinter die Kulissen, der neben einer Portion unterschwelligem Humor zeigt, dass die veralteten Produktionsbedingungen an ihr Ende angelangt sind. Mit seinem unbefangenen Blick als Außenstehender kreieren seine Fotos eine dichte Atmosphäre kurz vor dem Stillstand.“
— Carola Jüllig, Head of Photography Department, Deutsches Historisches Museum