The purchase of the August Sander Archive in 1992 by the then Stadtsparkasse Köln – now Sparkasse KölnBonn – laid the foundation for Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur. Sander's work is associated with the factual-documentary approach to photography, which forms the focus of the collection. Thus, since 1996, the Bernd and Hilla Becher Archive, another essential collection, has been continuously developed. Already during the lifetime of the artist couple, they cooperated with regard to the processing of their archive holdings. This cooperation is now being continued with their son Max Becher.
The focus on objective photography is expanded by a long-term loan of original prints by Karl Blossfeldt from the Berlin University of the Arts. The collection of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (German Society for Photography), which was established between the 1950s and 1980s and acquired for the foundation's holdings in 1993, also forms an extensive addition. There is close cooperation with many artists,
Particularly associated with Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur is the American artist Jim Dine, who has gradually handed over a large part of his photographic oeuvre since 2004. The collection comprises over 1,500 works, which form a multifaceted spectrum in terms of technique and motifs and in many cases refer to his painterly, sculptural, and graphic oeuvre.
Since the founding of the institution, the strategy has been to collect in larger work complexes in order to plausibly present individual methodological approaches and to be able to relate them to one another. The collection has been continuously expanded, primarily through permanent loans and generous donations. For the care of the collection there are depots and workshops suitable for conservation.
The activities of Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur focus on the scholarly care of the holdings, which now comprise more than 40,000 works of photography by historical and contemporary photographers of various nationalities. Exhibition activities and the issuing of publications are central media. In particular, the presentations, which change twice a year, contribute to regional, national and international art and culture with a corresponding reception.
The goal of Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur is to further strengthen photography and, in particular, the documentary approach with a conceptual bias in an artistic and cultural context. The care of historical collections as well as the support of contemporary positions are equally important. A comprehensive mediation program is implemented on an individual basis.
Cooperation with regional, national and international museums and cultural institutions is an important factor for Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur in the realization of projects and has already been implemented many times. Over the decades, a network has been established that also appeals to artists with whom Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur has also repeatedly cooperated.
The SK Stiftung Kultur, the cultural foundation of Sparkasse KölnBonn, was founded in the 1970s and, with its various cultural offerings, is an integral part of Cologne's cultural scene.