Lukas van Bentum
Identity Negotiation

In April 1945, the Prussian city of Königsberg had been all but destroyed. The remaining German inhabitants were expelled by the Soviet leadership. The Königsberg Offensive became a founding myth of the new city of Kaliningrad, which was established in accordance with Soviet ideology. However, with the recent accession of the border countries Poland and Lithuania to NATO and the EU, Kaliningrad has become a Russian exclave within Europe. Today, the older population fears “Europeanisation” and the loss of Russian while the younger generation are showing a shift towards European culture. In this photo-reportage, Lukas van Bentum examines the connections between the received image of history, contemporary state doctrine, symbolic architecture and local identity of a new generation growing up in a region characterised by the demarcation between Russia and the European Union, as well as the potential for European integration that is inherent in the city’s location.

  • Fascism
  • Identity
  • Memory
  • Russia
  • Youth
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

The decisive factor in my career as a photographer was definitely the receipt of my scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, which supported me greatly during my studies. In addition, during my studies, I was particularly influenced by the teaching of Prof. Roman Bezjak in Bielefeld, my year abroad at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and the School of Speculative Documentary. Besides that, the selection for “gute aussichten – junge deutsche fotografie – new german photography 2019/2020” finally enabled me to present my work to a larger audience and to connect and interact with other professionals.

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

I first became aware of the Kaliningrad region in connection with the United States’ withdrawal from the INF Treaty with Russia to ban land-based short and medium-range missiles. According to information from the Pentagon, the cruise missiles presumably stationed in Kaliningrad, the former Königsberg, seriously violated the INF agreement. Up to this point, the Kaliningrad Oblast was an area, whose existence was unknown to me. Especially because of this lack of knowledge about a region that is in the middle of the EU, I wondered what it must be like for a generation of my age to grow up in such an isolated region.

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

Since facts and expert knowledge are often dismissed as “fake news” or opposed by “alternative facts”, simply offering more data and facts may not work against politicians and people who defend themselves against facts that are in conflict with their prejudices or feelings. Alternative facts have to be refuted not only by data, but also by shared stories, experiences and emotions of real people and their effects on the major global problems. They can expose how the major problems facing the world really affect individuals and communities. They can be more assignable, more real – reality is what we feel.
This does not mean that we have insights and arguments in emotional behaviours, but that we conduct and share research in a way that helps people connect with people and issues with the aim to understand them.

The photographer Lukas van Bentum talks about his project Identity Negotiation and about how he experienced the process of creation.

»The individual in my work should be representative of something bigger.«

Lukas van Bentum

Curated by René Schröder

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

*1995 in Düsseldorf, Germany
Lukas van Bentum studied Photography and Media in Bielefeld and the Belgian city of Ghent. His long-term projects focus on political and social topics in Germany, Russia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. Van Bentum is interested primarily in the influence of history, gender-role models and aspects of identity among people and communities.


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