The Scandal Photo Shoot
"Berlin Naked – Liberal Capital City"
:: The Concept
In autumn 1998, Dr. Dietmar Kreutzer, author of the best-selling book about nude males in advertising (KAUF MICH – "Maenner in der Werbung"), and the photographer Henning von Berg created the concept of an unusual project for the summer 1999:
A unique group shoot in public places to document clearly the tolerance and the open-minded climate of modern Germany. Six men were chosen to pose naked in public around the old / the new capital Berlin.
This was to be connected to a promotional story for Kreutzer's planned second book about male modelling careers (MAENNER MODELS PUR – "Modelling in Germany"). Two photographer colleagues of Von Berg were invited to support the project: Suzanne de Brito-Schroeder/Munich and Jovan Evermann/Cologne.
The very first publication of the photos was to be in Germany's PLAYGIRL magazine in October 1999. The coffee table book debut was planned for November 1999.
:: Background History
In October 1990, 45 years after the end of World War II, and 1 year after the collapse of the dictatorship in the Russian allied sector (in former East Germany), the reunited German parliament "Deutscher Bundestag" decided to move the capital and its government departments of the newly reunited country from the quiet small city of Bonn to the re-awakening metropolis of Berlin.
Many people worldwide were hesitant of this larger unified country and
the change of the capital city. They had not realized that within the
last half century the state of Germany has been transformed into one of
the foremost modern, western democracies. The ‘Bundesrepublik
Deutschland' is very democratic and much more liberal then most other
republics in the world!
The monumental building "Reichstag" was built in 1889 and hosted the parliament in both its most successful and most tragic times: The "Prussian Kingdom", a monarchy (18 th -19 th centuries). The "Second German Reich", an imperial monarchy (1871-1918). Then the "Republic of Weimar", the first democratic state (1918-1933). And last, the "Third German Reich", the Nazi's dictatorship (1933-1945).
The actual German politicians now wanted to make a strong statement to the world by choosing this historically tarnished building for their democratic parliament. The old ‘Reichstag' should become the home of the new "Deutscher Bundestag".
The renowned British architect, Sir Norman Foster, was employed to transform the traditional structure into a more futuristic landmark. One of the main aspects of the contemporary design was to permit every citizen to enter the building. Foster created a tremendous glass dome on the roof, which can be visited by the public to watch the parliament in action. This glass construction was meant to symbolize the transparency of German politics.
:: The Photo Shoot
The actual photo shoot on July 7th, 1999 was much less complicated then expected. The three main photographers, two photographer-helpers, and the six courageous models walked through the centre of the city to ten famous landmarks. On command, the six men stripped naked and were photographed.
The 10 sightseeing points were: at the new DaimlerBenz-Headquarters; the Marlene-Dietrich-Platz at the rebuilt "Potsdam Square"; in the glass dome of the parliament building "Reichstag"; at Germany's national symbol, the "Brandenburg Gate"; at the "Café Einstein" Unter Den Linden; in front of the French luxury department store "Galeries Lafayette"; at the entrance of the metro station "Franzoesische Strasse"; bathing in the fountain on "Wittenberg Square" located in front of Germany's largest department store "KaDeWe"; strolling the zebra crossing on Berlin's main shopping boulevard, "Tauentzien/Kurfuerstendamm".
Hundreds, perhaps thousands of tourists enjoyed the show with much applause and whistling. Nobody was affected or demanded an arrest of the photo-shoot group. At two sightseeing points the police asked very politely to stop the shooting, which was done immediately. But they never confiscated any of the films. And the six bare men had a really great time with lots of fun in the hot sun on this special summer day.
The photo results were intended to be published in Germany's PLAYGIRL magazine (in October) and the coffee table book about modelling (in November). The magazine editor and the book author worked hard to achieve these goals.
:: The "Scandal"
Suddenly, a scandal started when one of the photographer-helpers tried to gain personal attention by selling unauthorized photos of the "Reichstag" nude-shoot to a gay magazine. The chief editor of MAENNER AKTUELL printed two pictures (in August). Unfortunately the snapshots were shown without any explanation of Henning von Berg's motives for the shoot.
Immediately, the two pictures were also published in numerous international newspapers worldwide. In Germany a few conservative politicians and priests screamed…. and the culprit photographer-helper went proudly from TV talk show to TV talk show. Later, in October and November the true story was published in PLAYGIRL magazine and the book MAENNER MODELS PUR. Through litigation, a half year later, the culprit photographer-helper had to pay a penalty to the models.
:: The Moral Of The Story
As a result some lawyers became rich but at least nobody penalized the initial author Dietmar Kreutzer, or the concept planner/photographer Henning von Berg, or the two other photographers Suzanne de Brito-Schroeder and Jovan Evermann. Proof that the arts are unrestricted in liberal Germany.
Important for this whimsical project was not so much the perfect posing of the models in front of the cameras, as was the spontaneous happening of naked models on public streets and the "first ever" nude photo shoot in the parliament.
In the following you can see some samples of that fun shoot. There are many more images available from the photographer's archives, which haven't been shown yet. On request, interested publishers will find a wealth of material for very special editorial stories.
(Translation: Ron Anderegg, Los Angeles)