• „Plastische Schwingung IV“

Peter Keetman
Life and Work

What photography reveals to me are laws and beauty. The deeper I dive into the matter, the bigger worlds open up.

 Peter Keetman 1951

Peter Keetman (1916-2005) occupies a central place in post-war German photography. As the title of the retrospective from 2016 "Shaping the World" expresses, his work brings together two central currents of contemporary photography. On the one hand the modernist will to form, design, experiment and abstraction, on the other hand a humanistic reference to the world and a turn towards reconstruction, to the city, to nature. Two currents that merge smoothly in Keetman's work.

Keetman's photography and biography are also inseparably linked to German history and the Second World War, from which Keetman returns as an invalid.

At the end of the 1940s, Keetman was one of the young savages of the fotoform group who, inspired by pre-war avant-garde experiments, wanted to develop a new language of photography based on formal reduction, the creative power of light and the subjectivity of individual world experience. Together with Otto Steinert and the other members of fotoform, Peter Keetman stands for the new dawn of photography.

Peter Keetman escapes all formalism by working in many fields of photography - capturing the reconstruction of Munich, working with the hidden structures of landscape and natural appearance, discovering in the smallest details the reflection of the big picture and translating the dynamics of the economic miracle era into abstract images. Particularly noteworthy are his series at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg in 1953 and Keetman's magnificent "Schwingungen" - his bold signature in the history book of experimental photography. At the same time, the exciting intermeshing of free photography and applied commission allows us to discover a central figure of post-war photography in its many facets.

The F.C. Gundlach Foundation holds major parts of the estate and Peter Keetman's picture rights, the Museum Folkwang holds the negative archive, work prints and some early exhibition prints.

Lawfulness and beauty - Peter Keetman's extensive and varied life's work unfolds between these two poles. They define his view of the world and determine his pictorial language: with sensitive, poetic photographs that are at the same time graphically strict and highly modern in design, he became one of the pioneering photographers of the 1950s and 1960s. Keetman's photographs are characterised by his photographic vision, his creative will with which he subdivided the picture surface as a section of reality into line, surface and structure, his analytical view and his technical precision. His formative influence on photography can still be felt today.

Sebastian Lux, in: Peter Keetman - Designed World, Steidl Verlag Göttingen 2016


  • April 1916 Born in Wuppertal-Elberfeld as son of bank director Alfred Keetman
  • Around 1926 first own camera, a Goerz Tenax bellows camera for 6 x 9 cm glass negatives

  • 1932 Moves to Prien am Chiemsee 

  • 1935-37 Studies at the Bayerische Staatslehranstalt für Lichtbildwesen in Munich under Hanna Seewald and Hans Schreiner
  • 1937-38 Assistant to industrial and portrait photographer Gertrud Hesse in Duisburg
  • 1939-40 Assistant in the studio for industrial photography Carl Heinz Schmeck in Aachen
  • 1940 Convocation to military service
  • 1940-1944 Soldier with the railway pioneers
  • June 1944 Severe wounding in Nadworna in present-day Ukraine, loss of left leg
  • 1947-1948 Master class at the Bavarian State School for Photography in Munich
  • 1948 master class with Adolf Lazi in Stuttgart, together with Wolfgang Reisewitz involved in the preparations for the exhibition Die Photographie 1948 in the Stuttgart Landesgewerbemuseum

  • 1948 Appointment as 1st assistant to the Juniors of the Stuttgarter Photographische Gesellschaft 1947 

  • From 1948 freelance photographer
  • August 1949 Admission to the Free Association of Young Photographers (September 17, 1949 renamed fotoform)
  • 1950 Start of the free cooperation with the graphic artists Michael Engelmann and Rainer Michelfelder under the name werbeform
  • Since 1950 Regular publications in all major German photo magazines and in magazines for commercial graphics, participation in numerous group exhibitions, work for advertising and industry
  • 1951 Moves to Breitbrunn am Chiemsee
  • 1952 Certificate for outstanding achievements, World Exhibition of Photography, Lucerne
  • April 7-9, 1953 The series One Week at the Volkswagen plant is created
  • Since 1955 Work on industrial reportages and photography for the cultural-historical illustrated books of Thorbecke Verlag

  • 1956 Awarded a diploma, Photokina, Cologne

  • 1957 Keetman becomes a member of the GDL (Gesellschaft Deutscher Lichtbildner)
  • 1958 Awarded a diploma, Photokina, Cologne
  • End of the 1950s Beginning of the collaboration with the graphic artist Nikolai Borg
  • 1969 Appointment as honorary member of the BFF (Professional Association of Freelance Photo-Designers)
  • 1969-1974 Several photo series of the Karl Orff's school for musical education
  • 1994 Moves to Marquartstein am Chiemsee
  • 1981 David Octavius Hill Medal of the DFA (German Photographic Academy)
  • 1991 Awarded the Culture Prize of the DGPh (German Society for Photography)

  • March 1, 2005 Keetman dies in Marquartstein

Solo Exhibitions / Selection

  • 1961 Staatliche Landesbildstelle, Hamburg

  • 1980 Peter Keetman (fotoform), galerie photo art basel Anita Neugebauer

  • 1981 Peter Keetman GDL, Fotomuseum im Stadtmuseum München

  • 1982 Peter Keetman. Photographien, PPS. Galerie F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg

  • Peter Keetman. Photographien, CCD Galerie Düsseldorf

  • Ausstellung mit Fee Schlapper, Benteler-Galleries, Houston, Texas

  • 1984 Ausstellung mit Toni Schneiders, Riverside, Kalifornien

  • 1986Volkswagen Werk, Galerie voor industriele Vormgeving. Amsterdam

  • 1987Peter Keetman, Lichtbild Galerie, Ingolstadt

  • 1988 Foto – Peter Keetman – Form, Galerie für Kunstphotographie Zur Stockeregg, Zürich

  • Peter Keetman. fotoform, Galerie Fotohof, Salzburg

  • 1989 Fotografien von Peter Keetman, Fotografie Forum Frankfurt (19.8.–24.9.1989)

  • form-verlust form-findung, PPS. Galerie F.C. Gundlach (8.9.–14.10.1989)

  • Harry Callahan. Peter Keetman. Fotografien, Foto-Forum Böttcherstraße, Bremen (3.–29.11.1989)

  • 1990 Spectrum Photogalerie, Sprengel-Museum, Hannover

  • 1991 Peter Keetman. Fotografien 1937–1987, Fotomuseum im Stadtmuseum München

  • 1994 Peter Keetman. Fotografien, Kunst- und Museumsverein im Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal (28.8.–9.10.1994)

  • Peter Keetman, Westfalenbank, Bochum

  • Peter Keetman. fotoform, PPS. Galerie F.C. Gundlach, Hamburg

  • 1995 Peter Keetman and fotoform, Howard Greenberg Gallery, New York

  • 1996 Peter Keetman. Bilder aus dem 1995 erworbenen Archiv, Museum Folkwang, Essen

  • 1998 Structure and Motion, Conolly, London

  • 2003 Peter Keetman. Volkswagenwerk 1953, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg

  • 2005 Peter Keetman. Volkswagenwerk 1953, Automobil Forum, Berlin

  • 2006 Peter Keetman, Kicken, Berlin
  • 2016 Peter Keetman. Gestaltete Welt, Museum Folkwang Essen

  • 2016 Peter Keetman. Gestaltete Welt, Haus der Photographie, Deichtorhallen Hamburg (16. November bis 12. Februar 2017)

  • 2017 Peter Keetman. Gestaltete Welt, Kunstfoyer München (31. Mai bis 10. September 2017)

Early Group Exhibitions /Selection


  •  1948 Die Photographie 1948, Stuttgarter Photographische Gesellschaft, Landesgewerbemuseum Stuttgart

  • Photographic Art. Sixth International Exhibition at the Runcorn County Grammar School

  • 1949 II. Messe Ausstellung der Photo-Kino-Industrie, Bildzentrale Rheinland-Pfalz, Saalbau, Neustadt a.d. Haardt

  • Internationaal Fotosalon ingericht door de Mechelse Fotoring, Festzaal Novelty Bruul, Mechelen

  • Agrupación Fotográfica de Igualda, Premier Salón International de Arte Fotográfico, Igualda

  • 9e Internationale teentonstelling van fotokunst, Focus Salon, Amsterdam

  • The Bristol Salon of Photography, City Museum, Bristol

  • 1950 erste fotoform-Ausstellung, Circolo fotografico Milanese, Mailand

  • 10e Internationale tentonstelling van fotokunst, Focus Salon, Amsterdam

  • III. Internationale Kunstphoto Ausstellung, Österreichischer Lichtbildnerbund Innsbruck, Klagenfurt u. Salzburg

  • fotoform-Ausstellung im Rahmen des Kunstsommers Darmstadt im Amerikahaus

  • fotoform-Ausstellung im Rahmen der Photo-Kino Ausstellung, Köln

  • fotoform-Ausstellung in der Werkkunstschule Wuppertal

  • 1951 fotoform-Ausstellung auf der ersten Photokina, Köln

  • fotoform-Ausstellung im Rahmen der Ausstellung subjektive fotografie in Stuttgart

  • Segunda Exposicao mundial de arle fotografica, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilien

  • Unione Fotografico. Mostra della Fotografia Europea, palazzo di Brera, Mailand

  • subjektive fotografie. Ausstellung moderner Fotografie, Staatliche Schule für Kunst und Handwerk, Saarbrücken

  • 1952 Weltausstellung der Photographie, Luzern

  • 1953 subjektive fotografie 2, auf der Photokina, Köln

  • 1956 Photokina, Köln

  • The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York

  • Photography in the Fine Arts III Collection
  • 1958 subjektive fotografie 3, auf der Photokina, Köln