Sibylle Bergemann

The Woman Behind the Pictures

In the four episodes of this podcast the culture journalist Anne Waak explores the life, work and personality of one of Germany’s best-known photographers: Sibylle Bergemann.

Anne Waak talks to friends and people who shared her journey, people who were close to her, lived with her, loved her, partied or worked with her. And she visits the places that played an important role in her biography.

An English transcript of all the episodes (which are in German) is available on this website via a subtitled video slideshow.

Episode #1

How a single mother and secretary in the East Berlin of the 1960s and 70s became an established photographer

“Sibylle” looks at Sibylle Bergemann’s everyday life and describes how she began her career in photography and her work for the fashion magazine “Sibylle”

From the archive

The fashion spread with Katharina Thalbach in the GDR fashion and culture magazine "Sibylle"

The fashion series with Katharina Thalbach in the magazine "Sibylle"

Now and then there was trouble but once it was printed, it was printed. Then there was trouble but so what?

Sibylle Bergemann in the film "Take a picture" about her work at the "Sibylle"

Episode #2

Where she and her friends and colleagues ate, drank and debated

Sibylle Bergemann, Hoppenrade, 1975

Sibylle Bergemann, Hoppenrade, 1975

© Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy Loock Galerie, Berlin

“Oases” examines Bergemann’s social life. The photographer as a wife and mother, as a friend and as the host of numerous parties.

Playlist with favourite songs by Sibylle Bergemann

compiled by Lily and Frieda von Wild

From the archive

Legendary parties at Hoppenrade

Original recipe for "Geile Tomaten"

A recipe by Sibylle Bergemann that is still cooked today by her daughter and granddaughter. Here written down by Frieda von Wild:

  • Cut the top off peach-sized tomatoes, hollow them out.
  • Fill the tomatoes with a mixture of breadcrumbs, grated cheese (those ready-made bags of Emmental and Mozzarella), half/half olive oil and soft butter, lots of garlic, relatively large amounts of fresh parsley, dried oregano, salt.
  • Leave in the oven at 180-200° until the mixture is deliciously browned, the cheese melted and the tomatoes but not mega mushy

Folge #3

What distinguished the private person Sibylle Bergemann and her pictures, how she worked and what it was like to stand in front of her camera

Sibylle Bergemann, Selbstporträt, Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin 1986

Sibylle Bergemann, Self-portrait, Schiffbauerdamm, Berlin 1986 (detail)

© Estate Sibylle Bergemann/OSTKREUZ. Courtesy Loock Galerie, Berlin

“Emma” delves deeper into Sibylle Bergemann’s photography: What were her working principles? What was it like to be photographed by Bergemann? What kind of a person was she on the job? What was it like to stand in front of her camera?

She had exactly the right presence for a photographer.

Lily von Wild about her Grandmother Sibylle Bergemann
Sibylle Bergemann, Meret Becker, Berlin 1998


Images of women are crucial to Bergemann’s oeuvre. Many are actors, artists, writers and fashion models, portrayed by the photographer from her own female perspective.

Sibylle Bergemann, Nina und Eva Maria Hagen, Berlin 1976

From the archive

Sibylle Bergemann in front of the camera

Bergemann in the film "Die Märchenhafte" (2006)

MDR, Director and Producer: Pamela Meyer-Arndt

Folge #4

How did she respond to other places – in GDR times and later, when the world literally opened up to her?

“Travel” follows Bergemann’s travels, explaining how the photographer managed to visit (non-socialist) countries in the GDR years and asking what personal significance travelling had for Bergemann

Sibylle Bergemann, Paris, 1982


In 1979, Sibylle Bergemann visited Paris for the first time. In 1982, a second time. Here, Bergemann photographs people on the street, in parks and in cafés.

Sibylle Bergemann, Paris, 1979

Bergemann about her travels in the film "Die Märchenhafte" (2006)

MDR, Director and Producer: Pamela Meyer-Arndt

I didn't want to die until I was in New York.

Sibylle Bergeman in the film "Die Märchenhafte"

From the archive

Dakar, Senegal

In Dakar, Sibylle Bergemann photographed a fashion spread featuring the clothes of Senegalese designer Oumou Sy for GEO instead of the classical reportage which was originally planned.

Über diesen Podcast

Concept, research and moderation: Anne Waak
Recording: Olga Siemons, Art/Beats
Productiom: Art/Beats
Design and technical implementation of the website: 3pc GmbH Neue Kommunikation
Concept and project management: Linus Lütcke, Berlinische Galerie
Assistance: Carolin Wagner and Paulina Weiß, Berlinische Galerie

This project was made possible by the Friends of the Berlinische Galerie.

About the author

Anne Waak (*1982) is a journalist and writer. She contributes articles about cultural and social issues, including to Zeit Online, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Monopol. She recently published the photography book “Aus einem Land vor unserer Zeit – Die Kinder von Kleinwelka” (with Janne Gärtner, berlinartbooks, 2022). “Sibylle Bergemann: The Woman Behind the Pictures” is her first podcast. Anne Waak lives in Berlin.