Fotografie / photography
13. May 2023 - 13. August 2023
Johanna-Maria Fritz: Like a Bird
Circus culture in Islamic countries

Gaza Strip, Palestine. © Johanna-Maria Fritz
A clown in armed conflict or a fully veiled woman juggling clubs: When a state of crisis becomes normality, moments of light-heartedness are of a special kind of magic, a dynamic that is well-documented in Johanna-Maria Fritz’ long-term project ‘Like a Bird’.

The scenes captured by the photographer in Afghanistan, Dagestan, the Gaza Strip, in India, Indonesia, Iran or Senegal are surreal and dreamlike. These predominantly Muslim countries are where Fritz found a circus culture that creates important moments of freedom and self-expression in otherwise dire circumstances, and that is the manifestation of a deeply rooted longing for peace and liberty.
Vollverschleierte Frau jongliert
Afghanistan. © Johanna-Maria Fritz

Staying well clear of romantic stereotypes and images that too often emphasise the precarious living conditions of circus artists, Johanna-Maria Fritz uses her camera to open a view into a social microcosm otherwise inaccessible to outsiders. Like A Bird shows circuses that exist within difficult conditions – be it because of armed conflict, or because of very restrictive religious contexts. While circus schools in Afghanistan provide access to education and a safe space to strengthen their self-consciousness for children and especially young girls, the circus in the Gaza Strip is a refuge for its members and their audience, where they can escape the perils of their every-day-lives, at least temporarily. The photographs from Iran, which subtly subvert the stereotypical role models propagated by the government, clearly illustrate that circus is not only a welcome distraction, but always a reflection of social conditions.

With sensitive portraits, orchestrated performance and documentary photography, Johanna-Maria Fritz presents communities who preserve and present their traditions as well as their hopes for a better future in the face of social change and political crises.

Biography Johanna-Maria Fritz

Johanna-Maria Fritz was born in Baden-Baden in 1994 and studied photography at the renowned Ostkreuzschule in Berlin, the city where she now lives – when she is in Germany. For the past decade, Fritz has been travelling to different regions, to document events, ways of life, and people that are often overlooked.

Curator: Daniela Yvonne Baumann

Opening: Friday, 12 May 2023, 7pm