About me

My name is Bernd Spyra (中文名字叫徐辨德), I’m a Sinologist and photographer living and working in Hamburg, Germany. After finishing my PhD at Hamburg University in 2020 – researching the history of the CCP-controlled photo network in the People’s Republic of China – I began a postdoc project on the reception of Chinese popular prints (“nianhua”) in a transnational ethnological or folkloristic field during the first half of the 20th century. Broadly speaking, my research interests are the popular visual and material culture of 19th and 20th-century China.

In addition to research, I enjoy to practice photography myself, the results of which I want to present here. I restrict myself to “classic” monochrome film photography (35mm) for a handful of reasons: I like how the photochemical process results in a physical artifact with its own aura, something sorely lacking from purely digital photography; I can’t reasonably process color films in my darkroom/bathroom (and I don’t like the idea of giving an exposed film to someone else for developing) and last but not least I prefer the look of a monochrome image, its way of showing the grit or essence of a scene. Nevertheless, recently I employ a hybrid workflow, meaning I shoot my pictures on film, develop the negatives myself, afterwards scanning them and doing the “darkroom work” on my computer.

Apart from limited social/cultural documentary projects, which depending on the project can be over after a few weeks or continue indefinitely, I especially like to practice reflexive photography, i.e. photography without aims or goals as a spontaneous reaction to a visual or emotional impulse. Most of the single photos seen on this website belong in this category. A list of my more specific, topical (exhibition-)projects is given below, as well as in the menu of this homepage.


at the Nachladen in Sternstraße 17, Hamburg.

96 Photos of Small-Town Japan. Self-published.

at the Nachladen in Sternstraße 17, Hamburg.

at the Nachladen in Sternstraße 17, Hamburg.

at Asien-Afrika-Institut der Universität Hamburg
in cooperation with:
Konfuzius-Institut an der Universität Hamburg e.V.
Hamburger Sinologische Gesellschaft e.V.

with Francoise Le Boulanger, at Künstlerhaus Bergedorf

with Dorothea Ney, at Asien-Afrika-Institut der Universität Hamburg