What does Angela Merkel’s Germany look like today? As TIME selected the Chancellor as Person of the Year, we asked Harf Zimmermann to answer these questions in a photographic survey of what makes Germany the country it is today.
The result is a series of large-format, landscapes that paint the picture of a diverse Germany, with its engineering expertise and its complex past.
“Everybody is more or less into details, backgrounds, close-ups, TIME decided to go for the bigger picture, linked to Merkel’s regency through 10 years,” he says. “And for that hired a large-format photographer, the slowest shooter in the West, with an East German background. I found that unique and an interesting setup altogether.”
Zimmermann has made his reputation with his photographs of architectural and industrial sites, murals and interiors, in Germany but also across the world from Russia to Italy, Yemen, France and the U.S. His work has been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine and Vanity Fair.
For this two-week assignment, Zimmermann, assisted by TIME’s deputy director of photography Paul Moakley and TIME’s Berlin bureau chief Simon Shuster, telescoped 25 years of German history into a handful of iconic images that “would tell the story including past, present and future,” Zimmerman says. “The first challenge was to distill the essence to pick the most significant locations and facts of a longer-lasting meaning and to eliminate the temporary ones. Second was to see what was accessible to us.”
Zimmermann's photographs showcase Germany's power, from its offshore wind farms built as part of the country's commitment to clean energy, to Hamburg's sprawling freight port, which has become the country's "GateWay to the World."
Contrasting with these, Zimmermann also captured an anti-Islamic march – one organized each Monday evening by Pegida, the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident movement. “[The photograph] reminds me of the imagery of Nazi Germany, only the torches have been replaced with the flash lights of their cellphones,” says Zimmermann.
The photographer, who is from Dresden says he and his countrymen are marked by Germany’s past. But, these days, he adds, he is excited by Germany’s future. “I embrace modern Germany. I like seeing it successful, proud and confident.”