The Düsseldorf Project

Andrea Kraus       Ernst Jäger       Peter Obermüller

My name is Andrea Kraus and I was born in 1986 in Düsseldorf - Oberkassel. I grew up with my mother as the youngest of 3 siblings. 

 

As a child I was always good at maths and physics so I wanted to be an engineer. When I finished high school at 18, I did a long trip in Russia along the route of the Trans-Siberian train. I got on-and-off the train, visiting beautiful villages and scenery. I had a wonderful time, although it was not easy to travel alone and there were some difficult times during the trip. I met many interesting people on the way and it was then that I also realized how much I enjoy taking pictures. I also realized that engineering is not what I really wanted to do, but an emotional will of following my late father’s footsteps. He died when I was 6. 

After a journey of 7 months, my money was about to run out, so I came back home to the city. I studied at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf specializing in photography. It was a very meaningful time in my life. It enabled me to materialize ideas into art and to form a better understanding of myself as an artist, a woman, a human being. Also growing up in Dusseldorf I felt I had a better understanding of the city as a general idea and how my personal family was connected to it even with some uncomfortable history facts.

 

At the Kunstakademie I met my ex-boyfriend and after finishing our studies we moved to Berlin together. I lived there for 7 years working as an assistant for a fashion photographer and a photo editor in a documentary production firm. After breaking up with him I did some more traveling - this time to the far east: Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. After a year abroad I came back to Düsseldorf and began working as an event photographer, specializing in weddings, while looking for opportunities to display my personal work in different galleries throughout the city. 

 

I never planned on taking photos of couples on their special day for a living, but it was a way to earn good money. As a matter of fact, I do enjoy my work and enjoy meeting many happy people. In my work I am always looking for new angles and ideas so that I can express my artistic ideas. When Covid-19 hit things became financially difficult. My main income source disappeared. Nowadays I do more studio photography, business portraiture, interior and product photography for large companies etc.

 

In recent years I allowed myself to learn more about my family’s history. I was born and grew up in Oberkassel. I lived in Schorlemerstraße 26, where my mother still lives today. This was the house of my great grandparents Janna and Joachim Herrmann. We moved there when I was 6. I have a faint memory of my great grandmother, she died when she was 95. But my great grandfather died before I was born, also at a very old age. There are many photographs of him in my old family albums in his uniform, unfortunately SS uniform, no doubt about it. The attitude by my mother towards this was very open. I was aware of that from a young age, I was very chatty and asked a lot of questions to which my mother answered very patiently and honestly.

While being a student at the kunstpalast I started looking for information about the neighbourhood and its Jewish population, at a later stage the Stolperstein were installed so it became easier to see. I was surprised at how little information I could find about individuals, especially women. Very short general descriptions, nothing else to be found. 

Years later after coming back to Düsseldorf  I started looking again, thinking about a new art project about this topic. At that point I discovered the Lindemeyer family. 

Frieda and Georg were converted to christianity as children. They lived at Salierstraße 4, exactly 12 minutes walk from my home in Schorlemerstraße 26. I discovered a book that collected the letters they wrote to their children who managed to escape to the UK, between the years 1937-1941. I learned a lot about their characters, interests, and their parenthood, but, surprisingly not a lot about their difficulties during these terrible times. They hid it all away from their children. There are clues here and there but that's it. I wanted to do something with the letters to include the residents of this neighbourhood. 

I try to imagine how my family and theirs must have seen each other on different occasions, in the market, on the tram, their faces must have been familiar to each other.

I am using time lapses to convey the distances of time and space and the feel of the neighbourhood. This technology lets me show very modern video features that are made in a fast pace that also characterizes films from the beginning of the previous century.  

The letters are read by strangers on Salierstraße that happen to pass by when I am there with my camera.

I am trying to contact the current owners of the Lindemeyer’s apartment. Will they let me in?

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