Albert Watson: 14 Days in Benin in the Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum


For decades Albert Watson has been one of the most successful fashion and portrait photographers in the world. Until now cotton farmers in the West African country of Benin had not numbered among his typical models. For the Aid by Trade Foundation and its Cotton made in Africa Initiative, he braved unknown territory to photograph African smallholder farmers and their living environment. The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is showing the “Albert Watson: 14 Days in Benin” exhibit from April 28 to July 28, 2013. The show includes over 40 exclusive and impressive photographs that resulted from this unusual partnership.

The exhibit is a cooperation between the Deichtorhallen/House of Photography and the Aid by Trade Foundation. The show in Cologne was initiated by the Deutsche Investitions- und Entwicklungsgesellschaft (German Investment and Development Society, DEG) and Ernsting’s Family, a Cotton made in Africa Initiative demand partner. Additional support for the show comes from OTTO and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (German Society for International Cooperation, GIZ). “Albert Watson: 14 Days in Benin” is part of the “Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in Africa” retrospective shown in the House of Photography in the Deichtorhallen and curated by Ingo Taubhorn. In addition to the new photos from Benin, the world famous portrait of Alfred Hitchcock is also on display in Cologne. 

CmiA promotes the cultivation of sustainably grown cotton in Africa. The initiative is currently contributing to improving the living conditions of 435,000 smallholder farmers, equal, self-determining initiative partners, who produce the raw material according to high social and environmental standards for the world market. In December 2011, the initiative succeeded in winning internationally famous star photographer Albert Watson for a two-week trip through Benin to photograph the people and their everyday lives. The resulting pictures offer insight into the world of the cotton farmers and communicate a better understanding of Africa and the CmiA’s work. Watson’s photographs impressively portray the project’s social and ecological goals without catering to visual stereotypes of rural Africa. Along with images of people harvesting cotton, Watson also visited Voodoo markets and a regional king to get an impression of the various facets of the people and life in Benin. Watson’s photographs are frozen moments of real time, splinters of reality from the lives of African cotton farmers, silent observations that take the observer on a journey of discovery. 

Admission to the special exhibit costs five euros, three euros reduced price. A combination ticket (permanent exhibit and special show) is ten euros, seven euros reduced price. 

The Rautenstrauch-Joest Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm, Thursdays from 10 am to 8 pm, with extended hours every first Thursday of the month until 10 pm, and closed on Mondays. 

Open tours are offered every Sunday at 3:30 pm. The entire programme along with texts and pictures are available for download at

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