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The GDR from the air: aerial photography by Lothar Willmann

Until a few years ago, aerial photography was strictly regulated in almost all countries for military reasons. This was certainly also the case in the GDR: any use of topographic maps and aerial photographs had to be approved. One of the few private aerial photographers in the GDR was Lothar Willmann, who flew with his camera over the territory between the Baltic Sea and the Ore Mountains since the mid-1960s. The first costumer was the airline Interflug, which used Willmann's images for its international advertising. Later, Willmann travelled as a freelance journalist through many countries, took photographs for magazines and published illustrated books. During his 40 years as a photojournalist, he produced several thousand aerial photographs from various heights, mostly as oblique aerial photographs, in black and white or in colour.

The Archive for Geography has digitised and catalogued the Willmann collection of almost 3,000 aerial photographs. The images show natural and cultural landscapes, castles and palaces, but above all medium and large cities as well as motifs of the technical infrastructure. In many early photographs, the war destructions are still clearly visible. Later, new large housing estates and transport infrastructure are in the focus. Willmann's aerial photographs provide exciting insights into urban development and the socialist transformation of the cultural landscapes in the GDR.

open selection