Facing the Balkans. South-East Europe in photographs by Harald Schmitt

Annual exhibition 2021
11 November 2021 – 4 March 2022
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, grand staircase and Fürstensaal

Exhibition poster | © BSB

Exhibition poster | © BSB

Albania: Birthday celebration | © BSB/Harald Schmitt

Albania: Birthday celebration | © BSB/Harald Schmitt

Northern Macedonia: Border fence to Greece | © BSB/Harald Schmitt

Northern Macedonia: Border fence to Greece | © BSB/Harald Schmitt

The exhibition

The Balkans. The term alone already sparks associations. Admittedly, our perception is dominated above all by preconceptions and stereotypes. But what do the Balkans look like beyond all the clichés? And who actually belongs to them?

The annual exhibition 2021 of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek addresses these questions. It features photographs of the former STERN photographer Harald Schmitt, which have been incorporated newly into the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek.

In the course of his career of over 30 years at the journal STERN, Harald Schmitt left his mark on the visual memory of Germany. He worked as a photographic journalist in the GDR for six years, documenting the changes in Europe’s socialist states. He received a total of six World Press Photo Awards for his work. Since 2015, Schmitt has been interested in regions which attract relatively little interest in our country: East and South-East Europe. The photo reporter undertook five journeys together with his wife Annette Stams-Schmitt. His declared goal: a scrutiny of his own preconceptions.

Thus, photographs were created which cast a light on known stereotypes of the Balkans. Schmitt shows South-East Europe as a region undergoing change, its population being characterized by religious diversity, strong cohesion and a complicated past. He takes an interest in innovative founding activities and traditional agriculture alike. However, his images also reveal the ambivalent attitude of the West towards South-East Europe: For people from rich parts of the world, the Balkans are an inexpensive and putatively exotic holiday destination. For the refugees stranding on the EU’s militarised outer boundaries, in contrast, the Balkans are a terminal stop.

The photographic exhibition invites visitors to take a new perspective on South-East Europe. In the end, this will lead to the insight that the Balkans are more than the preconceptions in our heads.


Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Phone:  +49 89 28638-2115/-2980


Information overview

Conditions of access
Bayerische Staatsbibliothek
Ludwigstrasse 16, 80539 Munich
Grand staircase and Fürstensaal, 1st floor

Proof of vaccination, recovery or testing (3G) is currently required for access to the building.
FAQ on the current situation
Opening hours11 November 2021 – 4 March 2022
Monday through Friday 11:00 – 19:00
Closed on weekends and bank holidays, on 24 and 31 December 2021
and on Shrove Tuesday, 1 March 2022.
Please consult our website or phone +49 89 28638-2115 or -2980
prior to your visit to obtain information about possible COVID-related changes of the opening hours and the current access conditions.
AdmissionAdmission is free.
Public transportUnderground lines U3/U6, bus lines 58/68/153/154, station/bus stop Universität
Bus line 100/153, bus stop Von-der-Tann-Strasse
CatalogueOn the occasion of the exhibition a richly illustrated catalogue will be published.
Guided toursGuided tours are planned every Wednesday at 17:00. More information will follow.