The S. Fischer-Verlag Series — Gunter Rambow (1976–1979)

Born in 1938 in the Prussian town of Neustrelitz in Mecklenburg, Germany, Gunter Rambow grew up in the postwar communist German Democratic Republic. He was originally trained as a glass painter in 1954, a few years before the Berlin wall was built. However it wasn’t long before he entered the graphic department of the Academy of Art and Design in Kassel. He taught at this university for two decades, as a professor of graphic design and visual communication.

When he was a student, Rambow and his fellow student Gerhard Lienemever, started their own design studio in Kassel. Lienemever left the studio a few years later after they moved to Frankfurt and instead Michael van de Sand joined the studio. It is known that Rambow is the creative member of the team and the main person responsible for the design studio. His work often tackles and confronts the social and political problems of his time, using imagery to confront the myths and fantasy with the problems of contemporary society. His use of documentary styled photography brings to life the abstract ideas behind his designs. When talking about his work, he has stated, ‘I believe that everything I have done in my life has been a response to my environment: to socio-political concerns but also to simple matters with which I have placed myself in a dialogue or a context’. This is made obvious in his S. Fischer — Veriag poster collection.

The S. Fischer-Verlag poster series represents one of Rambow’s most innovative applications of photography due to his use of Surrealistic montage. This series was created in 1976 and 1979 after the design studio’s move to Frankfurt. It consists of eleven black and white posters, each bearing a photograph of a book interwoven with other images. In each poster, Rambow has combined multiple photographs against a plain background of undefined space, to present a single image of which books and other objects are displaced from their normal surroundings. The construction and use of photographic imagery has been used to send a message about books, the objects of our everyday lives which can act as a transmitter of knowledge, opening doors to the world with the power of written language.

Rambow’s use of photomontage and ironic juxtaposition mirrors the methods of Surrealism, particularly the photo collages of German artists Hannah Hoch (as shown to the left) and John Heartfield. It is obvious that experimental photography plays a main role in Rambow’s work. This is more notable in his earlier poster series he created for S.Fischer — Verlag’s centennial in 1986. The images for these posters portray a single book and are coloured with more reduced forms. Personally, I prefer this series of posters, as I believe they are more appealing to the eye with their use of colour. I particularly like the poster I have presented to the right, due to Rambow’s decision to use one main colour, forcing viewers to think about why that particular colour was used. I particularly enjoy how the book is presented in the center of the poster against a plain background, allowing it to stand out. The message of this poster can be interpreted in different ways. For me, it appears as though the open book is a doorway, and past this doorway is a welcoming setting, which has been created with the warm pink tone and deep blue tone. As discussed earlier, this could symbolize the power of books, and how books can open or act as a gateway to something more important in life. Thus, Rambow could possibly be displaying a message that to educate yourself and to have knowledge is power, and those who do this will enter a gateway to something much more compelling than what society has to offer.

In conclusion,it appears that the S. Fischer — Verlag series are one of the most important advertising campaigns of Rambow’s career, as well as the most recognized. These posters represent his understanding of the expressive and symbolic potential of photomontage to create powerful imagery and to convey a message. As well as this, the posters represent an irony, as they are a series of advertisements for books, that have entirely no words or typography included.