A steel bridge carrying the U-Bahn-Linie U2 on its way between Bülowstraße and Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg, Berlin.
Although the location appears to have changed drastically since the photo was first taken in 1902, the house situated directly behind the train in the more recent photo can be seen to be the original building, minus its gabled roof and ornate exterior.
Out of interest, many of these type of old postcards are actually photo/painting hybrids, a photo was taken of the scene and figures were later added for visual interest, as can be seen in this example, these idyllic scenes of aristocrats dressed in the latest high fashions of the day, wandering around crime ridden industrial working class districts are all a figment of the artists imagination – yes, the PhotoShop of its day.
An old legend, apparently still recounted by the locals, tells of how the Lietzensee gets its name, for in times long past a village called Lietzow was situated near where the scythe shaped lake stands, and one day, for some unknown reason, it sank down to the depths of the lake, never to be seen again, and that fishermen thereafter always told of how their nets would catch on the old church spire.
And even today the area is reputedly haunted.
Is it true?
But one thing is certain, that it’s a very picturesque park designed by Erwin Barth in the early 20th century.
The park is divided into north and south halves by the Kaiserdamm, but joined together by a pedestrian tunnel underneath.
A walk around this park is very relaxing experience, due to the scenic lake, various sculptures and the listed gardens.
This is one of my favourite places in Berlin, translated literally it means “The Animal Garden”, but it’s one of those confusing compound German words that actually just means “Zoo”, although this “Tiergarten” actually refers to the massive public park in zentral Berlin.
Berlin is located on the European plain, and over one third of the city comprises of forests, parks, gardens, rivers and lakes, much of which is the result of the last ice age, sheets of ice grinding the area flat, the subsequent thaw leaving bare a very sandy soil and thousands of lakes, around which forests have grown..
And all this can be observed in microcosm in the Tiergarten.
This is a series of winter images, mostly capturing the reflections of these trees in the surface lake water.
The Jewish Memorial in central Berlin, can there be a more somber reminder that 6+ Million Jews were murdered during WW II?
In an area of 19,000 square meters the architect, Peter Eisenman, has placed 2711 concrete slabs of differing heights to create a very thought-provoking experience for any visitor to the site.
For any photographer the site offers challenges not usually present at a memorial, as its deliberate blandness quite rightly creates an atmosphere of gloom, the monotonous grey gnawing relentlessly away at the spirit.
Over the years I’ve been there many times to see whether I can discover anything new there, this is a collection of some of my favourites.
The Postcard from c. 1910 shows what appears to be a colourised photograph of the areas as it was at the turn of the last century, before it was almost totally destroyed during the bombing raids of WWII.
This largely accounts for the slight change in the proportion of the buildings, as they were not always rebuilt as was.
The area has undergone major change recently, the old Berlin Palace has been largely rebuild, part of which, the Humboldt forum, a cultural centre, can be seen on the left.
This scene captures the fate that has befallen many modern cities and it seems to know no end, nests of scaffolding adorn every street corner and important building, and cranes, like giant one-legged metal birds feeding their offspring, promising little but an ever changing skyline.
Enter the flat and the first thing you see is a painting.
Once upon a life ago I led a completely different existence to the one I do now, I had studied 3D furniture design at the Kingston-Upon-Thames School of Art and Design and had worked my way up and eventually was successful enough to be able to finance a workshop with a friend designing and making built-in furniture for the rich and famous – London is full of them.
They were exciting times, among others we worked for: the Rolling Stone’s management, including Bill Wyman himself, Paul McCartney’s management, Anna Ghomi interiors, Tina Turner even personally cooked us a full English breakfast one Sunday morning, she didn’t have to, she had servants to do that sort of thing for her,she stood there frying eggs and bacon chatting with us, it was surreal, and it left a huge impression on me, the character of the woman, because since moving to Germany, many people I’ve met here who in a similar situation feel it beneath them to even offer a cheap cup of coffee, in fact I even had the experience here in Berlin that a client ,who was feeling peckish, decided to eat my lunch for me, and was incensed when I complained about it, because obviously I then had nothing to eat all day – fat fucker.
Anyway, I digress . . . I had shared a house in Kingston with someone on the fine art course, Jack Hicks and we had somehow kept in touch, and one evening he invited us all to an exhibition of his work at a local wine bar or somewhere similar.
I liked his work, I still do,and as it was all for sale and I was flush with money at the time, I bought this painting.
No. 11 “LOVERS” (Pastel Painting) £140
It’s been on one of my walls ever since.
It reminds me of everything I loved about living in London, of friends, of the work I so enjoyed, and yet the subject matter itself has curiously evaded me, I am now close to no-one.
During the whole of this Covid pandemic no one has contacted me, not even family, not a single call all year.
The Lovers. hanging there, it’s the longest relationship I’ve ever been in, and like losing a limb, I would be devastated if anything ever happened to it.
Excerpt from the exhibition catalogue – c. 1987:
PAINTINGS AND ETCHINGS
These are some of the paintings and prints I have produced over the past three years. The style of most of them is derived from cubist painting, which I still find one of the most interesting of modern “isms”.
Some of the prints are based on Bronze Age art, which has some surprisingly modern ways of representing the world.
Most of the landscapes are of Salisbury Plain, near which I was born and grew up, and the figures are explained below where necessary.
I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing that can’t become the subject of a photo-project, it’s only as mundane as the photographer makes it.
But now during lockdown. with the fear of arrest, coupled with a lack of suitable subject matter, it will curtail the activities of most street photographers, so, what to do instead?
Now that going out has become rather difficult, why not turn our attention inwards instead, and study ourselves?
The time capsule: The flat
Who would have thought that it would come to this, everyone on the planet unexpectedly given a front row seat to observe at close quarters how evolution plays its deadly game of survival, that of natural selection.
The only defence against which, being a global lockdown, is social distancing, which means everyone stuck at home binge watching TV-series on Netflix, or for those requiring a more challenging pastime, reading perhaps, finally time to brush up on those forgotten classics of modern literature: Darwin’s Origin of the Species.
Confinement on this scale brings its own problems, mental issues caused by prolonged social isolation, an economic downturn of truly epic proportions, but what other choice is there?
Although there are tragically casualties, most do survive, but it’s similar to a huge lottery, and everyone has a ticket, there are winners and losers, and it’s all a perverse accident of genetics, and while vaccines are hurriedly developed to aid a return to normalcy, the virus starts to mutate, almost certainly a result of the lockdown itself, because even the virus is slave to the same evolutionary pressures, and as transmission becomes more difficult, it too will probably evolve into ever more virulent strains.
This virus will almost certainly never be totally eradicated, and just like the common cold or flu, it’s here to stay.
But now, sitting in our own four walls, what is this box called home we’re all living in?
A flat, a house, it’s not just an assemblage of rooms, because just like a museum, it houses a collection of items that defines our life up to this present point in time, it’s a time capsule, where objects and their associated memories lie in wait with every turn of the head.
Every object says something about its owner, or is the gateway to private memories, by their very definition always a reminder of the past, some good, some bad, an object can at best encapsulate our hopes for the future.
Furniture, pictures, odd pieces of junk, everything has a tale to tell.
This is a COVID lockdown ramble through my own time capsule, but first, some background, the flat itself…
Home, sweet home
I’ve been extremely lucky, I live in a gorgeous old house in Wilmersdorf, just a short walk away from the Ku’damm in the center of Berlin.
The flat is on the ground floor, so, no climbing nasty flights of stairs every time I need a loaf of bread, and the flat also has a 50m garden front and back to look over – does living in a major city get any more rural?
Berlin is full of such constructions, heavy steel beams riveted together to form an industrial flavoured urban infrastructure upon which the local public transport system flows.
This is the section between U-Bahn Station Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Park and U-Bahn Station Gleisdreieck, and although the “U” in U-Bahn stands for Untergrund – Underground – as much as 20% of it in Berlin travels above on these monuments to a bygone age, it’s what gives parts of Berlin it’s urban texture.
On another note, although street photography in Germany is legal, it’s becoming increasingly difficult as I once again discovered when out taking these images, although there is the panorama law in effect, I was approached by a police officer and told to stop photographing.
This is increasingly a problem in Germany, one Saturday afternoon last year while I was sitting on a public bench, on the Ku’damm, a main shopping-street in central Berlin, innocently adjusting the colour balance on my camera, the camera pointing down between my knees, I was approached by 5 different people, who all demanded that I immediately stop what I was doing, because they were of the opinion that whatever it was I was up to, that it was illegal, and I was threatened with the police and/or physical violence if I didn’t do as I was told, and my British accent only seemed to inflame the situation still further.
And it’s becoming ever more usual that when I’m out in a public space with the camera, that I’m approached by a complete stranger, who demands to know what I’m doing and then insists that I delete all the images on my SD-Card, whether I have taken any photos or not.
The natives here certainly have a peculiar sense of tolerance.
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