On their first Christmas as a married couple in 1900, Richard and Anna Wagner began a tradition of posing for a photograph in front of their Christmas tree. For 42 years, the Berlin couple made these stereoscopic photographs into Christmas cards to send to their friends and relatives, and inadvertently created a visual record of Germany’s changing times. The last photograph was made in 1942, a few years before Anna’s death. In those years, the Wagners saw two wars, economic turmoil, and innumerable changes in fashion and technology, all of which can be seen in the images, such as the map of Germany, the vacuum cleaner, and the overcoats worn indoors due to lack of coal for heating.
Fairly new in 1900, amateur photography had changed dramatically by 1942. Yet each photograph maintains consistency in compositional style and technical quality. Richard, a passionate photography enthusiast, always purchased the latest cameras. In their first Christmas photograph, the gifts displayed on the table include an album that holds 200 postcard photographs, a gift from Anna to Richard. It was in that album that he collected their annual Christmas cards, which were discovered nearly half a century after the last photograph was made in an attic in former East Berlin, and are now stored in the Heimatmuseum in Berlin.
Kat Kiernan is the Editor-in-Chief of Don't Take Pictures.