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UMass Amherst Collections

The photographs in this collection were shot in spring 1991, when American photographer Lynne Layman travelled to explore eastern Germany—from the towns of Bernberg and Dessau to former West Berlin—in the aftermath of the fall of the Wall and German reunification. It was originally exhibited at the Paul Pratt Memorial Library in Cohasset, MA in 1994.

As a teenager, Layman visited East Berlin in July 1961, one month before the Wall was built. At the time, travel was limited by special permits and ever-present guides; this experience fueled her desire to return to the “emancipated” East. Through the medium of photography, she observed and recorded special moments, using light and shadow to turn ordinary scenes and objects into dramatic images. Her overall impression was that in 1991 “the people in the former GDR [were] experiencing an economic and ideological struggle right now and true freedom and opportunity seem[ed] a long way off.”

Based in eastern Massachusetts, Lynne Layman exhibited and won awards in festivals and juried photography exhibitions, and her photographs appeared in a range of magazines. In 2018, she donated this collection to the DEFA Film Library at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which is devoted to the cinema of and related to the German Democratic Republic (East Germany, or GDR).