Taking an interest in structural prerequisites as well as in social and political implications of racism, colonialism and migration, Leitolf devotes her work Postcards from Europe to how migrants are treated and administered at the European Union’s external borders, as well as to the associated internal conflicts. Without showing any people or situations, her images present places, beaches, border crossings, petrol stations or farms, with no apparent clue as to what has happened. A short, factual text-postcard – researched and written by the artist – accompanies each photograph and describes incidents of protests, demonstrations and violence.
In Leitolf’s view, the medium of photography is not universally comprehensible without context, be it additional information or prior knowledge. By contrasting a peaceful scenery with the viewer’s imagination of a verbally described incident, she challenges the objectivity of the medium. With the interplay of image and text the artist explores aspects of perception, representation and of the processes of formation of meaning. Leitolf also refutes the common media dramaturgy that reporting has to be graphic to raise interest.
Her ongoing series Postcards from Europe started in 2006 and has been exhibited at Pinakothek der Moderne Munich (2017), Hamburger Kunsthalle (2015), Kunst Haus Wien (2015) and Sprengel Museum Hannover (2013) and many other venues. The work explores the border regions in Spain, Hungary, Italy and Greece as well as places and incidents in Germany.
In Deutsche Bilder – eine Spurensuche (German Images – Looking for Evidence) (1992–94, 2006–08) Leitolf turns her attention to racist crimes in Germany and the way those are discussed in society. The images from the early 1990s contain crime scenes, victims, perpetrators, and uninvolved bystanders. Returning to the subject in 2006–08, she reduced the visual content of her photographs to the places only and begins to work with image text combinations for the first time.
Since 2019 Eva Leitolf is full professor at Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.