BERLIN, GERMANY 13
My Berlin Project: It always seemed to me that time is accelerated in Berlin. I arrived in Schoneberg in 1985 when the city was split into East and West and even then there was (depending on which part of the city you were in) a funk of the 1930s, 40’s or 50’s about. Very ethereal and very exciting - but on the quiet. Of course the city (both cities, actually) has changed radically since then and every time I return I find that architects and city planners have seen fit to re-arranged my memories.
I struck up a conversation with an elderly couple from Prenzlauer Berg over coffee one afternoon and found that they had experienced the same phenomenon in Berlin, continuously over the last seven decades beginning with their earliest memories as children. They called it - the attempt at a proper translation and as near as I could make of it - is “the spilling over of the years on each other”.
Since that splendid conversation I have been thinking about how to convey this visually and planned my next trip to Berlin with this experiment in mind.
Like all experiments, it didn’t turn out exactly as I envisioned. I shot hundreds of photos and ended up with less than twenty finished pieces. But I learned a lot when theory met practice on the street. In many cases it was impossible to stand where the original photographer had taken their photo – the spot no longer existed or was taken while standing on a pile of rubble or the steps of a building that had been bulldozed away in reconstruction. In many cases I couldn’t fit in enough of the contemporary landscape to make the time displacement work through the lens., and I was often interrupted by tourists and Berliners (sometimes entire groups on tour!) who were interested in what I was about; Plenty of enjoyable conversations, to be sure, but distracting from the work and the days flew by.
While compiling my shoots I found that there were too many post war photos of destruction. Berlin for me was always a very up-beat place (even when divided) and I was able to find some wonderful fashion photo shoots from the 1950’s and 60’s to lighten the collection. If anyone knows the photographer's attribution for these shots, I’d be very obliged if you sent me an email.
Lastly, I want to Thank and draw appreciation to the work of two photographers of grit and genius: The great U.S. photo journalist and war correspondent Robert Capa and the Ukrainian-born Red Army photojournalist Yevgeny Khaldei. Titans of the visual arts!