For my project during the Magnum Photos workshop, I had considered focusing on Ludwigshafen – a city that is less than 30 minutes by train from Heidelberg – before eventually deciding on the disused tobacco machines instead.
I spent a few hours on the first afternoon of the workshop taking photos around the city’s infamous central station, Ludwigshafen (Rhein) Hauptbahnhof before walking over to the newer Ludwigshafen (Rhein) Mitte station. Perhaps it was the fatigue from the lack of sleep the previous night or maybe it was because I was in a hurried state of mind, but I wasn’t feeling too inspired when I was in Ludwigshafen. Most of the few photos that I took that afternoon were rather lackluster.
There were however a few that I thought represented my impression of Ludwigshafen.Unlike its neighbouring cities, Ludwigshafen is a relatively young city. Recognised as a town in 1859, Ludwigshafen started out with around 1,500 inhabitants. Its population grew when the chemical company Baden Aniline and Soda Factory, more commonly known as “BASF“, moved its factory here in 1865.
Industralisation made Ludwigshafen: BASF became one of the world’s largest chemical companies and the “worker’s town” became home to more than 60,000 residents in 1899. Ludwigshafen attained its “city” status in 1922 when its population reached 100,000. In spite of the multiple raids on the city and damages inflicted during the World War II, BASF resumed its profit-making days not too long after the war. The city administration was wealthy enough to rebuild Ludwigshafen – and did so, in the architectural style of the 1950s and 1960s. Construction included flyovers and the main train station, Ludwigshafen (Rhein) Hauptbahnhof with its maze of bridges, ramps and stairs.
Financial crisis arrived in Ludwigshafen in the 1970s and escalated through the late 20th century: New tax regulations, huge maintenance costs of the buildings that were built in earlier decades, and the massive staff dismissals in BASF resulted in the city’s downward spiral. Since then, Ludwigshafen has not regained the power nor wealth of its industrial heydays.