Rolf von Bergmann

Untitled (Self-portrait with Salomé), 1977

Rolf von Bergmann (1953–1988) and Salomé (* 1954) style themselves in salacious poses: Salomé in a blond wig and long fake eyelashes, von Bergmann with expressive makeup and a feather boa. Standing on a pile of fur coats in glittering heels, they hold court like statues atop marble pedestals. The camera position chosen by the photographer, Rolf von Bergmann, forces the viewers to look upward at the two subjects. This extravagant duo of artists looks boldly and coquettishly into the lens. What resembles a snapshot at first glance has in fact been deliberately staged.

Von Bergmann uses photography to fortify his own queer identity. Portrayals of himself in drag are a running theme across his early photographs. His self-portraits attest to a queer self-confidence that was far more unusual at the time and required a difficult struggle to achieve. With the lesbian and gay liberation movement, associations such as Homosexual Action of West Berlin (HAW) and the first Berlin Pride March in 1979, West Berlin too showed signs of a queer emancipation that was starting to assert itself in the 1970s.

Rolf von Bergmann’s "Self-Portrait with Salomé" was taken in 1977 at the Galerie am Moritzplatz. This “self-help gallery”, co-founded by Salomé, Rainer Fetting (* 1949), Rolf von Bergmann, Helmut Middendorf (* 1953) and Bernd Zimmer (* 1948), not only hosted the beginnings of German neo-expressionist painting (also known in German as "heftige Malerei"). Artists working in the factory turned studio space also explicitly addressed themes of homosexuality in their work. More than anyone, Rolf von Bergmann and Salomé subverted prescribed gender constructs both through their visual art and through their performances as the drag duo Transformer Company.


Hanna Vogel
Former Trainee
Pronoun: none, she/her

Further works from the project

Tabea Blumenschein

Dixie Marine, 1995


Otto Dix

Eldorado, 1927


Rainer Fetting

Self as Gustaf Gründgens, 1974


Nan Goldin

Siobhan in my mirror, 1992


Werner Heldt

Meeting (Parade of the Zeros), 1933–1935


Hannah Höch

Til Brugman´s Portrait , 1927


Gertrude Sandmann

Gruppe IX, 1922


Herbert Tobias

Untitled (Self-Portrait), 1952


Klaus Vogelgesang

Hairy Underarm, 1971


Ming Wong

Kontakthope, 2010