Absurd Perspectives – Humour in Photography

Applying for the festival exhibition and the 8th Merck Award

The Darmstadt Photography Days (DTdF) were born out of a photographers’ initiative in 2004 and will be organized by the Art Forum of the Technische Universität Darmstadt from 2019 onwards. The international festival now counts among Germany’s most important photographic events. It sets relevant topics and promotes interdisciplinary discourse in photography.

For ten days, numerous activities shed light on one thematic focus from different perspectives:

Photography exhibitions, expert symposia and debates lend a unique fullness to the examination of photography. A comprehensive catalogue is published to accompany the festival.

New competition concept

The Merck Award, worth 10,000 Euro, is a central element of the festival. The handing over of the Merck Award to kick off the opening evening is one of the festival’s highlights. The competition’s ten finalists are presented at the Designhaus on the Mathildenhöhe, and one work is chosen for the Merck Award from this selection. The new feature is that, for the first time, ten finalists from the competition will be put on show together in a curated exhibition at the Designhaus on the Mathildenhöhe. As was previously the case, one work only will be selected to the Merck Award (10,000 Euro). The announcement and prizegiving will be performed at the festival opening at the Designhaus on 24 April at 6 p.m.

The jury

  • Alexandra Lechner (photographer/DTdF co-founder/RAY curator)
  • Ute Noll (On Photography, image editorial at DU)
  • Marcel Rauschkolb (Chairman DTdF)
  • Julia Reichelt (Director of the Kunstforum at the TU)
  • Prof. Dr. Kris Scholz (University of Darmstadt)
  • Gregor Schuster (photographer/DTdF co-founder)

The topic for 2020:
Absurd Perspectives – Humour in Photography

Humour and photography share more common aspects than is superficially apparent.

Both of them probe the status quo, exaggerate events and process experiences from a specifically selected viewpoint. With pointed precision, photography employs odd perspectives in order to visualize, in concentrated moments or by means of unconventional staging, the world in which we live. Only through captivated contemplation can we gain new insights. Humour charmingly takes a look at the everyday, sketching its opposite with a slightly displaced gaze, playing with superficial associations – and causing things below the surface to flare up. Humour or satire in the image are able to visualize comical situations, surprising turns and unexpected contradictions.

The distanced or displaced mode of contemplation conveys new perspectives to us – and ideally, societal action can be derived from the unexpected findings. At all events, these findings make the gravity of life more bearable and query our attitudes, values and prejudices. We look for images and series that seriously and/or comically reveal to us new viewpoints and positions.

Competition participation

The competition is open to all photographers and artists who work with the medium of photography, along with all students of art, design and photography, for example, and likewise photographic assistants. All genres of photography are permitted and may be submitted as a self-contained series or as single images. An independent, autonomous position needs to be discernible. The Merck Award demands consistently performed, high-quality work up to presentation at the venue.

Closing date for entries

Entries for the fringe programme and the Merck Award at the Darmstadt Photography Days 2020 must have arrived in full (postal delivery) by 15 November 2019.

There is an optional extension until 29 November 2019 (postal delivery), in order to submit works even after the official deadline. An additional 10 EUR will be charged for this extension.

Sending in works/series

Entries must arrive in sealed packaging in conjunction with the fully completed registration form (pdf-file), you will find the form on page 5.

Works/series submitted for application must be reflection copies. Presentation in A4 format is sufficient, but at a maximum, however, of 30 × 40 cm. Approximately 10 reflection copies can be submitted and must be identified on the back with the author’s name and address. A description of the works/series must be enclosed, comprising both the total number of images with definitive dimensions and form of exhibition presentation, along with a brief exposé about the work (max. half an A4 page, or approx.1,000 characters). A brief biography concerning training, exhibitions, fellowships or publications is desired.

Acceptance of jury decisions

The jury’s decisions are binding. The judges’ decision is final. By registering, the participant accepts the terms and conditions described in this call for entries. Participants selected for the competition exhibition at the “Darmstadt Photography Days 2020” indicate their binding agreement to take part in the exhibition.


The festival is a not-for-profit event. The Darmstadt Photography Days are organized and headed by the team of the Kunstforum at the TU Darmstadt. The organizers act as intermediaries between exhibition venue and artist. They take on public relations work, the production of the exhibition catalogue, and the organization of the full festival programme. Appropriate print data must be supplied for catalogue articles. Transportation of the selected works to/from the venue will be assumed, or otherwise assisted, by the organizers in consultation with the nominees. The organizers will install the works. Appropriate hanging will be agreed in advance and adjusted to the existing facilities.

All ten nominees will be the organizers’ guests for the weekend: this comprises two overnight stays, participation in the symposium and artists’ dinner (25 April). Travel costs will be assumed up to an amount of 250 Euro.

Address for entries

Technische Universität Darmstadt
Kunstforum der TU Darmstadt/DTDF
Hochschulstr. 1
64289 Darmstad

Email: info@dtdf.de
Telephone: +49 6151 271608

Consignments from abroad must be declared duty-free (content without value).


Please complete (and send) the online registration form with the relevant details prior to sending the documents by post and additionally enclose it with the shipment as a hand-signed, printed out form. This will save you and us considerable administrative effort. Many thanks!

Participation fee

Applicants from Germany and EU (SEPA):

Closing date for applications is 15 November 2019 (postal delivery). The organizers collect a participation fee of 25 Euro, which is to be enclosed in the form of proof of remittance. For the extension up to 29 November 2019 (postal delivery) a sum of 10 EUR will be charged in addition, therefore 35 EUR in total.

Applicants from other states:

Closing date for applications is 15 November 2019 (postal delivery). The organizers collect a participation fee of 30 Euro, which is to be enclosed in the form of proof of remittance. For the extension up to 29 November 2019 (postal delivery) a sum of 10 EUR will be charged in addition, therefore 40 EUR in total. The consignment of application documents must be declared duty-free (content without value). The organizers will not meet costs that arise due to customs charges.

All required documents must be enclosed with the works. Incomplete application documents will not be submitted to the jury. The organizers are not liable either for damage to the works sent in or for their loss.

One copy of the 2020 exhibition catalogue (sales price 25 EUR) will be sent to all applicants upon request and in return for a nominal fee of 15 EUR, regardless of selection by the jury or participation in the exhibition.

Return of works

The features of the packaging must allow it to be reused for returning the works. Works will be sent back by post. Appropriate return postage payment must be enclosed. If an alternative form of return is desired, an indication should be made to that effect. Regardless of return method, return shipment is performed at the respective participant’s risk following the jury’s meeting by the end of January 2020 at the latest. If you do not require the application documents to be returned, please note this on the registration form. The receipt for the participation fee will be enclosed with the return shipment.


Applicants supply their work(s) at their own risk. From the arrival of the works until the moment of return to the relevant participant, the organizers will not be liable either for damage to works sent in or for their loss. It goes without saying that the organizers provide assurance of careful and proper handling.

Copyright and rights on the artist’s own image

By signing the registration form, every participant provides assurance that he or she is the sole author of the submitted works, is permitted to have free disposal over the works and the rights of use existing on them, and that the images are free of third-party rights. Additionally, participants must vouch that illustrated persons, or the owners of the rights on the illustrated works of fine or applied art, as well as authors of images out of which the submitted works have arisen through editing or redesign, have provably granted consent to publish and exploit the images – including journalistic reviews in the context of the festival. All patent and author rights remain with the participant. It is the task of the participant to monitor these statutory rights.

Rights of use

All submitted works may be used for the festival and its journalistic reviews. The Darmstadt Photography Days particularly have the right to exhibit the works selected by the jury for this purpose, as well as to publish them in newspapers, magazines and other publications and media – solely, however, within the scope of the festival and its journalistic reviews. Participants are unable to assert any right to usage fees for this use.

Call for entries last updated August 2019. The judges’ decision is final.

The jury

Alexandra Lechner (Fotografin/DTdF-Mitbegründerin/RAY-Kuratorin), Ute Noll (On Photography, Bildredaktion DU), Marcel Rauschkolb (Vorstand DTdF), Julia Reichelt (Leiterin des Kunstforum der TU), Prof. Dr. Kris Scholz (Hochschule Darmstadt), Gregor Schuster (Fotograf/DTdF-Mitbegründer)

Team from 2018 – Update will come soon!