Trabant Press

Granta, #165, Autumn 2023
By Durs Grünbein
Have a good trip with Trabant 
(…) “In April 1991, a few weeks before the assembly lines came to a standstill and production came to an end, an enterprising Dutch photographer arrived at the Zwickau plant. He set out to record a doomed world. Like August Sander, whose camera scientifically registered the professions and ordinary people of the Weimar Republic, Martin Roemers documented something soon to vanish. He captures the everyday moments of working lives, which the participants could not imagine ending.Yet everything happened very quickly. Here you can see the last bits of manual work, the worn- out faces that hold their own in front of the camera, the individual workers in their different outfits – mechanics, painters and welders, many women among them – people on their breaks, the young woman in the canteen.
You sense the workers at the Zwickau plant know that the writing is on the wall. The man reading the newspaper, Auto Bild, with the headline A NEW MERCEDES EVERY YEAR; the woman in the apron dress, leaning against the pipework; the woman holding the drill, a tattoo on her right forearm; a man with his lunch in his hand; one in the smoking corner; another lost in the assembly room, behind him a wall plastered with pin-ups opening up like the jaws of the future, symbols of the counter-culture – that of the hyper-sexualized West. The longer you look, the more you become suspicious of any idea of authenticity. It’s as if the scenes have been staged for one last performance. The details are what count, the little things that reveal more than the photographer (and the viewer) could have known at the time. The scrapyard with the excavator grab hanging menacingly in the air burns itself into your memory, as does the slogan on the factory gate: HAVE A GOOD TRIP WITH TRABANT. Black-and-white pictures that capture the mood of an end-time. It’s the gaze of a Western photographer fixed on another continent, as distant as Africa. A document of recent colonial history. How else to view the ruins?” 


Freie Presse / Zwickauer Zeitung, Jan. 14, 2019
Trabantproduktion wird museumsreif

The Wall Street Journal, April 24, 2009
“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.”

Newsweek Japan, Feb. 6, 2008
幻の車が醸す レーニンの薫り  Last Days of the Trabant  

Photoscala, Nov. 28, 2007
“A brilliant example of the power social-documentary photography still can have today.”
Article (German)

Carola Jüllig, Head of Photography Department, Deutsches Historisches Museum
“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.“