The Press Photography of Red Vienna 1929 – 1938: An interview

Published on the UCL Art Museum BlogHelen Cobby interviews the researchers of the Red Vienna project, Eva Branscome and Catalina Mejia, before their Pop-Up Display and Lecture on 12th Nov.

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

Nazis handing out soup in front of Karl Marx Hof

This event is based round American press photographs depicting social housing estates during the turbulent inter-war years in Vienna. The photographs record three specific epochs within this time frame, from the building of the social houses to the take-over of Austria by the Nazis. The interview below includes Eva’s and Catalina’s thoughts about the development of their project, the active role of the photographs in the manipulation of historical events, as well as the importance of new photographic technologies emerging at the time and new relations between image and caption that this brings.

How would you summarise some of the fundamental debates posed by these press photographs? And what social constructions do you think the photographs specifically add to, or help create?

Eva: The first lot of photographs I have document the fantastic socialist housing projects that took place in Vienna at the end of the 1920s. The government realised it had a problem with overcrowding and people being homeless after the First World War. These housing projects addressed issues with families, and with children – such as not having a place to play, and being forced into crime. It was believed that by giving families decent homes, society could be changed and people could be made happier and more productive. These housing projects produced great excitement internationally by experimenting with Socialism through architecture and thinking about how it could change the world.  Continue reading