In the early 1970s, Polke travels on the "Hippie Trail" to Afghanistan and Pakistan for several months, always with the camera in his hands. What he does not know then, is that the pictures from this journey will become a milestone in his work – and in photography in general.
Polke is fascinated by the archaic, foreign world and its rituals. With his photographs of bear fights and groups of men, he ties in with 19th-century Oriental photography. But Polke would not be Polke if he did not take the historical, clichéd view of the cosmos into which he immerses himself into account. Particularly in the opium dens of the Pakistani city of Quetta, images emerge, of such intimacy and intensity as no one has ever seen before – certainly not in the way Polke transforms them: A few years after his return, he takes another look at them and begins to work on them with chemicals, scratches and bends them, or paints them with bright colours.
On the occasion of the exhibition Sigmar Polke | Road Trip through the Middle East. Pictorial Photography from Afghanistan and Pakistan, this catalogue has been published.