Bonn. In a new publication, author Josef Niesen presents photos of Bonn from the 19th and 20th centuries. Many of them are being published for the first time.
For some long-established Bonners there will probably be a happy reunion when they open the new book by Josef Niesen. His new publication “Historic Bonn” takes the reader on a photographic tour, as the title promises. The observer may recognise familiar locations.
However, many of the photographs will be new to him, as they are being published for the first time and are explained in detail by plenty of text.
Right at the start, the book awakens the unattainable desire to stroll past the imposing office buildings on Brückenstraße (today Berliner Freiheit) and over the richly ornamented Rhine Bridge, destroyed in 1945, towards Beuel.
The observer learns clearly that the hustle and bustle at the foot of the Old Town Hall today is hardly different to that of 150 years ago – unless someone wants to enjoy the film “Return to Paradise” in the Metropol cinema again.
A glance into Gangolfstraße (1924) awakens feelings of nostalgia. Flames also robbed the apartment buildings and department stores of their imposing facades during the war.
Niesen began to research his family history at the age of 15. “So my interest in the city came through the family,” explains the man in his mid-fifties. He wanted to know more about the history of the people of Bonn.
The result was a passion for collecting books about Bonn’s city history, comprehensive reading matter and finally his own publishing activities. Niesen, who studied art and graphics and whose main job today is in the university hospital, spends his free time in archives, with folders, at flea markets and with books.
Earliest images from the start of photography
Niesen has been collecting photos and copper etchings, coins and also tableware from Bonn for 35 years. Niesen estimates he has 500 images in his photo collection alone. The book contains 118 photos from Niesen’s private collection, which cover the time from around 1870 to 1970. Niesen found them in flea markets or through private contacts over many years and many are being published for the first time.
“In the last 150 years, Bonn’s social structure has changed significantly through societal change, which is reflected not least in the urban architecture. In addition there were huge interventions in the cityscape through wars, modernisation efforts, demolitions and new buildings,” says Niesen. And for just as long there have been people who have recorded these changes in their photographs.
The earliest photographs stem from the start of photography and the latest images from the time when Willy Brandt worked as the Federal Chancellor in Bonn and all texts are by Niesen.
“Historisches Bonn (Historic Bonn). A photographic tour with pictures over 200 years. Josef Niesen, Bonn-Buch-Verlag, 128 pages, 118 images, 24,40 Euro. ISBN 978-3-9818821-0-0.
(Original text: Rüdiger Franz / Translated by Kate Carey)