Munich-based photographer Robert Goetzfried has traveled all over Germany to document the country’s beautiful bowling alleys – before they disappear.
The German version of bowling is called kegeln. It’s a nine-pin game held in festive alleys referred to as kegelbahnen. It’s a place where family and friends gather to play bowling, as well as have a rowdy, fun time.
For his series, Goetzfried went to various kegelbahnen, long after the crowds have left. “I like to show places in ways people don’t usually see them,’ Goetzfried said.
It’s in this isolation that the photographer captures beauty hiding in plain sight. Alleys with stunning interiors, some rocking that vintage aesthetic, others redesigned to look like something that came from the future.
“Kegeln was a big deal when I was a child,” he added. “These days, the bowling alleys are becoming rare and traditional ones are about to die.”
Goetzfried continues to capture these places before they completely disappear, hoping that his photos would one day remind future generations of what was lost.
We interviewed Goetzfried recent to find out more about his series.
Why bowling alleys?
“I remember when I took my first photo of a bowling alley (or Kegelbahnen in Germany). I was working on a job to shoot photos of a building that had a bowling alley in it. It was like time traveling back to my childhood.
“Kegeln was a big thing in 1980s Germany. It’s a bit like in Big Lebowski. Behind the alley, people were drinking, smoking, and all kinds of things. I liked the clean look of these places while having in mind all the things that happened behind them.”
How many places did you visit to create the series?
“I guess something around 40. I didn’t really count them. Some were nice and made it in the series, and others simply didn’t quite make it in the end.”
Are all bowling alleys essentially the same?
“There’s a slight difference between bowling alleys and Kegelbahnen. In Kegeln, there are only nine pins and the balls are smaller. They have to be a certain length and width. The pins have to be a certain kind of weight and make and so on. I actually didn’t do a deep dive here because I was more focused on the architecture of the places.”
Any challenges in creating this photo series?
“It wasn’t always easy to get access. I’m working full time as a designer during the week, and on evenings when I have time, people are busy bowling.”
What next for you?
“Right now I’m working on a church organ series called PIPES. I drove around southern Germany with my motorbike to find the right places. It’s again a very graphical series.”