A photographic perspective on the 1950s in Europe

The consortium involved in the project Fifties in Europe Kaleidoscope, that is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, dived into collections of libraries, archives and commercial agencies across Europe, to trace the tracks of the 1950s in photography, and to create an exhibition about the emergence of modern-day Europe, taking into account that political situations and living standards were very different across the continent.

The 1950s in Europe were a decade of transition and (re-)construction, modernisation and change. This change was fundamental and reached all Europeans who longed for the normality of everyday life after decades of war with new designs, new consumer products, new media, music and fashion. Glamour, “sweet home” and prosperity: these are well-known stereotypes that characterize the myth of an iconic age.

exhibition posterBut this is just one side of the coin. This era was shaped by contradictions: many in Europe still suffered from the consequences of the Second World War such as hunger, poverty, lack of housing and displacement. The formation of interstate relations, which on the one hand led to rapprochement and cooperation between formerly hostile nations, but on the other hand was determined by hegemonic foreign policy and domestic repression, strengthened the already existing division of Europe into East and West and intensified Cold War tensions to the brink of a nuclear conflict.

The photographic exhibition “Blue Skies, Red Panic” highlights an era that marked a social and political new beginning in Europe. Through the selection of works from photographers including Paolo Monti (IT), UA Saarinen (FI), George Douglas (UK), and Siegfried Pilz (DE) the exhibition reflects on historical developments and events in eleven different social, cultural and political areas in eight different European countries. The narratives that emerge from the black-and-white images are far from rendering simplified pictures of the past. Quite the contrary, many different facets and nuances, differences and similarities become visible. With a kaleidoscope of visual impressions, the exhibition aims to evoke memories that are familiar to us or invite us to a completely new discovery. Looking back on the iconic era of the 1950s in Europe, the exhibition offers a photographic retrospective, without falling into mere nostalgia, and promotes a critical understanding of the creation of the European Union in which we live today.


Exhibition online

exhibition poster

The exhibition “Blue skies, Red panic” with an exciting story about the 1950s in Europe can be visited online. Re-edited and adapted  to the digital environment in which it was placed the virtual versions of the analogue exhibition can be accessed on Europeana Collections and on the project website.

Visit the online exhibition and learn more about the history of the 1950s in Europe!


 Interactive exhibition

exhibition posterAdditionally, an interactive version of the exhibition made with the MuPop app has been created for dedicated events and physical setups, among others in Leuven on the Day of Science (November 24th) and in Coventry at the Kaleidoscope workshop (December 3rd). This interactive version can be displayed on any television or computer screen.

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Exhibition on the move

exhibition posterThe exhibition “Blue Skies, Red Panic” created by the PHOTOCONSORTIUM and the partners of the project “Fifties in Europe Kaleidoscope” travels through Europe.  It is a multilingual exhibition, presented in English and/or the language of the country where it is shown. An accompanying catalogue documents comprehensively the exhibition and can be downloaded from the Photoconsortium’s website. The tour started in Italy where the exhibition was shown from 6th until 20th September 2019 in the Museo della Grafica, Palazzo Lanfranchi in Pisa. The next stations of the exhibition are in Girona (Spain), in Antwerp (Belgium) and in Berlin (Germany) where the exhibition will be shown during the final conference of the project organized by the Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.