Malte Uchtmann

In 2018, Germany was home to more than a million refugees. These people were first housed at initial registration facilities throughout the federal states; later, they lived in communal accommodations run by the municipalities. High rents, particularly in large cities, often make it impossible for them to move out. Therefore, many recognised asylum seekers are still living in the communal accommodations, which are meant to be temporary. Limited access to social infrastructure and a lack of private space limit their lifestyles. The refugees often experience their many years of living in this type of housing as a time of no prospects and great insecurity. For many, it leads to social isolation. With his photographs, Malte Uchtmann examines the shared accommodations made available by the state. He shows social structures that can be visualised in the architecture of the refugee housing and describes their effect on refugees and locals alike.

  • Architecture
  • Escape
  • Germany

»Can architecture be discriminatory?«

Malte Uchtmann

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Malte Uchtmann talks about his book dummy, the architecture of refugee accommodations and their importance for integration.

3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

For me, one defining moment was the beginning of my studies at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts. In particular, theoretical examination with the medium of photography, as well as with depiction and representation, dramatically changed my view of photography. I became aware of how important it is to me to have a concept as a foundation for a project. This is why I tend to describe myself less as a visual journalist and more as an artist who works sociopolitically.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

Since I grew up next door to a refugee accommodation centre, I had already been examining places for some time. When accommodating refugees took on a new presence in 2015, the architecture and location of these shelters stood out more and more for me. I found it telling how little those buildings had been integrated into the urban context and it excited me to feel what their architecture evoked in me. I had the feeling that structures that are seldom, or not at all, expressed in language were visualised through the architecture of the accommodation centres. So I started photographing them.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

In my opinion, the visual journalism of the future will, above all, be multifaceted. I think that more diverse perspectives are needed, as with old visual strategies, to approach subjects in different ways in order to tell more than one story. I think in doing this, we should expect more from viewers than we currently do. For instance, in the context of journalism we should show more complex, more conceptual projects with new visual approaches that require viewers to examine the subject in more depth.

Curated by Anne Speltz

© for all photos by the photographers
© for all videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1996 in Hamburg, Germany
Malte Uchtmann studied architecture in Berlin before taking up Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts in 2016. His project ARRIVING was nominated for the 2019 Felix Schoeller Photo Award and was shown at the Horizonte Zingst Photo Festival as well as the Chobi Mela Festival in Bangladesh. Uchtmann’s photographs have appeared in DIE ZEIT, Uni SPIEGEL, SPIEGEL Online and other publications.


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