Ursula Schulz-Dornburg (b.1938) is a German photographer and artist known for her architectural photographs. After studying journalism in the early 1960s at the Institut für Bildjournalismus in Munich, she moved to New York in 1967 where she was introduced to the conceptual art developing there at the time. Her extensive travel from 1980s onwards within Europe and Asia has enabled her to capture the ethnology of various people and their relationship with the land during times of significant historical and political change, while offering insight into their lives. Now living and working in Düsseldorf, Ursula’s work is a culmination of these influences – an interesting blend of documented conceptual photography.
One of her most well-known series is Bus Stop in Armenia (1997–2004), wherein Ursula travelled between the start and end terminals on route to document the journeys that many people took and continue to take. The various bus stops were built during the country’s Soviet era under Leonid Breshnev; once considered indicative of the ‘golden age’ of architecture, the unusual, often overbearing structures have been left to decay, now remnants of a political past. Form comes before functionality and what little protection the bus stops offer from the elements is limited, highlighting ongoing conflicts between people and place.
Typically shot in black and white, Ursula manages to highlight this contrast between the past and the present. Her series Art After 1945 continues to reflect upon the ways in which humans forge a relationship with the land. In the series, Ursula explores the caves between Azerbaijan and Georgia; dating back to the 7th century, they were used by the first monks who – while fleeing the Byzantine Empire – created homes, burial sites, and escape routes using nothing more than the earth. Ursula has the ability to find life in the darkness, conveying the stories of those who lived during these times and of those who came after. She often expresses thousands of years of history within a single photograph.
By Sara Riley