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Jörg Lehmann is a photographer. Plates, platters and bowls are piled high in his Berlin studio. They are devoted to the artistic dishes that he photographs for cookery books. But Jörg Lehmann is also a car buff. Just like Philip Rosenthal, he adores VW Beetles and VW Buses. So much so that he would love to open a car museum.
Jörg Lehmann is a jack-of-all-trades. He has lived in Africa, New York and Paris. He travelled the world for twenty years as a fashion photographer. He has amassed 3,000 plates and 2,000 pieces of cutlery, which he uses as props in his photo studio. And he has developed a passion for VW Buses and VW Beetles. This all started three years ago and since then Jörg Lehmann has become a keen collector. His collection includes four vintage VW Beetles and 2,000 photos of VW Buses and VW Beetles.
Philip Rosenthal, too, is infatuated with the VW Bus. He owns a number of models including the Volkswagen T1 and T2, all in white featuring a canopy roof and extravagantly kept in two colours. For the head of Rosenthal, the VW Bus was more than just a way of getting around. It represented an attitude towards life, encompassing a very unique universe. So, Philip Rosenthal did not just go on holiday in his VW Bus with his rowing boat strapped onto the roof rack. No, one of his VW Buses was unceremoniously converted into a functional office, where he sat with his secretary in an extremely confined space while she used a typewriter as he dictated. He also met with business partners and entertained the director of the company in his favourite vehicle.
Jörg Lehmann can easily see what Philip Rosenthal found so fascinating about the VW Bus. After all, he is completely mad about it himself. In fact, the very first car he bought in the early seventies was a VW Beetle. It was an amazing shade of purple, cost DM 150 and only did a single journey: from Olpe to Husum. When he was living in Paris the photographer drove an old Mercedes, and when he moved to Berlin four years ago he bought himself a Ford Thunderbird – but he was not happy with it. „Buy yourself a Beetle,“ a friend told him. No sooner said than done. The very same day, he bought a Brezel Beetle manufactured in 1957 on eBay.
Since then, he has acquired four of the heart-warming vehicles. And that‘s not all. Jörg Lehmann regularly goes to flea markets and is always on the hunt for photos featuring VW Buses and VW Beetles. He looks for private and not promotional photographs. He has already amassed 2,000 of them, which constitute an exciting journey back in time through photography and society. The photos show a number of images including a VW Bus being used as a rolling advertisement for fresh fruit, a little girl cheekily hanging onto the driver‘s door of a VW Beetle, looking in the wing mirror and sticking her tongue out, and a newly married couple proudly displaying their happiness in front of a VW Bus.
So how did he get the idea of collecting historic photos of VW Buses and VW Beetles? “I was leafing through an old photo album and suddenly came across a photo of my mother sitting in a VW Beetle with me in her arms.” That was the initial spark of the idea, as “it was shortly after that I bought my first five VW Beetle photos at a flea market in Berlin for €9”. That was three years ago and in the intervening years Jörg Lehmann has built up a virtual VW Beetle museum on Facebook with his treasured photos. But he still has a grand dream that he wants to fulfil. He is convinced that, at some point in the future, he will open the world‘s smallest car museum in Berlin. The exhibit will feature just one car and his photo collection will be on display around it. “I would like my museum to tell stories about people rather than technology,” he says. Love, travel, economic miracle, my first car – these are the subjects that interest him and that he wants to talk about. This is why he almost exclusively collects amateur photographs. “You don‘t have to explain VW Buses and VW Beetles to anyone. They strike a chord with 99% of people,” he states happily.
Jörg Lehmann is passionate about the things he does. This is also evident in his 170-square-metre studio in Berlin‘s Friedrichshain district. Here, the shelves are stacked four metres high with 3,000 plates and bowls. Rosenthal‘s Mesh design is a prominent piece, the colourful version being Jörg Lehmann’s favourite. The studio also contains countless drawers filled with 2,000 spoons, knives and forks – from all the countries of the world, in various designs and materials, spanning across the century – that he has routed out at flea markets, in vintage shops and at trade fairs. Jörg Lehmann has photographed over fifty cookery books so far – for award-winning chefs such as Tim Raue, Cornelia Poletto and Tim Lohse.
Jörg Lehmann tells stories. As a photographer, when he single-handedly arranges the cooked dishes on a laid table in his studio. As a collector of automobiles, when he places VW Buses and VW Beetles in the context of the history of everyday life, creating scope for nostalgia. Given his passion for storytelling, it‘s no wonder that Jörg Lehmann sees himself as a “driver” rather than a “mechanic”. “I like opening the door of a VW Beetle or VW Bus and having nothing bleeping at me. I like the convenience of not having to do anything at all. Windscreen wipers, indicators – on, off.” And Jörg Lehmann also likes the shape of the cars. He has this in common with Philip Rosenthal.