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.
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.
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.
One way of describing it is, that a Pecha Kucha is a very basic narrated PowerPoint presentation, 20 slides, each 20 seconds in length.
Because it was the latest assignment for the MA in Photography that I’m now doing, and it took such a long time to complete that it seems a waste not to do something with it, so here it is.
From the lecturer:
I would like you to plan a walk through your town, city or local area, perhaps linking creative hubs or places of interest. You should spend time considering your route and planning your journey carefully. Your walk should give an insight into who you are as a creative individual, highlighting some of your key interests. It should also be an exploration of your professional environments and your local creative businesses.
I chose one of my favourite locations in Berlin, the Tiergarten, a huge wooded park right in the center of Berlin.
The background images are from the walk itself and the circular images my thoughts about the walk, the city, and my key interests, particularly in regard to creativity.
It wasn’t easy to cram it all into 400 seconds and still make it coherent, and of everything the narration itself was the most problematic and caused me more stress than everything else put together.
The remnants of a childhood stutter mean that it took me over 12 hours to record just 6 minutes of narration, and even then it was full of mistakes, so I’ve replaced it with a version by Fiona, my Mac’s Scottish English voice.
The stage is empty, having run out of fresh material the headline act has finally left, with the audience gone, peace reigns at last.
But what’s this?
A troupe of wandering urban bit-players has invaded the arena and is putting on an impromptu performance of its latest hit: “Real life is but a shadow of reality”.
It’s a challenging work. dark and mysterious under a contrasting bright sun, a giddying pantomime of movement, posing more questions than it answers.
This is part of a continuing series of photos taken of a wall outside the main entrance to Bahnhof Zoo rail station, Berlin.
From “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
Please excuse the dreadful quality of the images, but for safety’s sake I’ve started using my old iPhone for this project, because despite the belief that they are the world’s most tolerant culture, the people here in Berlin can be quite aggressive sometimes if they believe that their rights have been violated.
Any new technology brings a wealth of challenges for society, as it begins to alter previous behaviours, and the embracement of digital technologies is no different, particularly regarding the ease at which data can now so easily be collected and analysed, searching for patterns, all in the cause of the corporate balance sheet.
It is both a blessing and a curse, as we enjoy the benefits of an App based economy, but often at the cost of our privacy.
This fotomarathon was part of the “Nervous Systems – Quantified Life and the Social Question Exhibition” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, an exhibition concerning itself with these questions.
If you wanted to bake a cake, you wouldn’t just blindly reach into the food cupboard and grab the nearest items, throw them all in a bowl together, stick it in the oven for an indiscriminate amount of time and just hope for the best.
It would almost certainly not even be edible and at worst you could quite easily end up on a murder charge using the above method.
“M’lud, it is a clear case of wilful poisoning . . . ”
Surely a little preparation could avoid a multitude of costly blunders.
And what if it were a cake baking competition?
Surely it would be advisable to do a little research concerning previous years winners first, then pick a good recipe and make sure you had only the best ingredients, andabove all, to do a few practice bakes before the big day?
Well, that’s how I approached the 2016 Fotomarathon Berlin.
So I went to the exhibition just a couple of days after it first opened and immersed myself in it, reading as many of the exhibits as possible, and just before I left I went for a coffee and jotted down a few notes and ideas that had occurred to me.
I now had 2 weeks in which to see what my subconscious came up with.
It’s not only about complying with them, it’s about understanding the limitations they set you and how best to confront that.
For example knowing that the pictures had to be taken in chronological order, but realising that there were only 5 hours in which to take 6 photographs, but that included all travelling and breaks for refreshment, so realistically there were really only 3 photography hours available, so, finding a location where it should be possible to find solutions to the 6 tasks was extremely important.
I spend a week cycling around the area scouting the various possibilities and decided that the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station) almost certainly offered the most promising opportunities.
This was an idea I had planned out, I was reasonably certain that I could use it somewhere because the main theme was digital data and the fact that it is being collected and analysed by other people, so, to incorporate an all seeing eye seemed quite obvious.
But it didn’t actually start like this, originally I’d planned to use a children’s torch and bits of this and that, and project something onto my face – I studied design and I’m a chronic DIYer.
But none of it worked, because it was either too complicated, or not bright enough, or worse still, it just wasn’t interesting.
So I screwed on a macro-conversion-adapter and zoomed right into my eye and suddenly noticed that I could clearly see all the reflected lights in it.
That was my “Eureka” moment, when I thought of using the iPad to project a word into my eye.
I made a rough test in Photoshop to see if it even worked, and then set about finding an App that I could use on the day and practiced using it, until I could do it in my sleep.
But even so, it still didn’t have the quality I was looking for, because of the limitations of the macro-conversion-adapter I was using, so I decided to bite the bullet and buy a dedicated macro lens for the camera, a decision I haven’t regretted, because not only did it solve all the problems I was having with the taking of this photo, but it’s opened up a completely new world of photography for me.
Anyway, upon seeing the list of themes it was clear that I would easily be able to adapt the idea for the first task “we are the product” and just project my start number using my iPad onto my eye.
Unfortunately just as the competition started, I was overcome by an intense hunger which almost prevented any coherent thought, but I was lucky enough to get it quickly under control by clever use of the phrase “Big Mac and Fries please”, and I was also able to use the time productively by simultaneously preparing the graphic I would need.
It all went to plan, and I thought that the final result would look wicked enough to grab everyone’s attention, because who else would have anything like it?
So, I’m extremely pleased with the final photo.
2: Everything to share? (Alles zu teilen)
Even distress and lack of knowledge?
What a bit of luck I’d printed out those Facebook type “Likes” the evening before then.
I thought something like that may come in useful in an emergency.
I had intended maybe asking pedestrians to hold them up against something they either liked or disliked, but upon seeing these two buttons next to each other there, I far preferred the more obscure meaning.
So I stuck my “Likes” quickly to the surface and ignoring the booming metallic voice coming over the station PA ordering me to stop, I quickly took the picture I needed and disappeared into the crowd.
3: Data slingshot (Datenschleuder)
What is a data slingshot?
Something that slings data at you I expect, and a modern rail station is just full of huge amounts of data that have to be collated and displayed in an understandable form so that travellers can find their way from A to B to. . . Z with the minimum of effort.
I had tried taking interesting photos at odd angles of all the modern displays, giant, sterile LED screens, high up on walls and easy to read, but they were always somehow lacking the human dimension.
Modern street photography is often hampered by the very people you are trying to capture, because you need everyone to sign a model release before you even click the shutter, which robs the shot of all its spontaneity, and so much street photography is now just the backs of peoples heads, and it’s very difficult to capture a real moment whereby the face isn’t actually important, and I felt this was one of them, because it’s something we’ve all seen before and done ourselves, leaning into the timetable, and here I loved the reflection of both people in the glass.
4: Movement profile (Bewegungsprofil)
I found this difficult, but I eventually thought that you would only have a profile if you were being watched, so, I had to find a good interesting shot with a camera of some sort in it together with people, and after searching high and low for something suitable I came upon this.
The bright background of the station glass facade I found interesting in itself, certainly better than just a plain surface, it gives it texture and it also puts everything else into silhouette, which I felt gave the whole picture an anonymous feeling, everyone is being watched and that therefore everyone has a profile.
I had to stand there though for about 15 minutes taking different photos from slightly different angles and of different people on the escalator until I got the shot I wanted, and I’m very pleased I did.
5: Flying under the radar (Durchs Raster fallen)
This picture is an excellent example of how important luck can be in a competition like this, and not just the once, but twice.
But you have to be aware of it when it crosses your path, for there is a great truth in the old adage: You make your own luck.
I was on my way to the Hauptbahnhof with all the themes running through my mind, when I cycled past this bridge with all the tents and other vagrant’s belongings under it, and so I made a mental note that it could come in useful if I couldn’t find anything more suitable, because how much further can you fly under the radar than living under a bridge on a bench?
And as it happened I couldn’t find anything better, so I cycled back and went to take the best shot I could of it all, but what I lined up just wasn’t working, so I decided to try zooming right in on something specific, so I changed the lens to a telescopic zoom, but with an initial wider angle, and as I held the camera to my eye I saw the shadows that hadn’t been there earlier in the day, or with lens I’d originally been using, I immediately thought “wow, that’s it !!!” and here it is.
6: Covering tracks (Spuren verwischen)
How do you cover your tracks? and if they are that well covered, is there anything left to photograph anyway?
The point of it all is, that using anything digital will always leave a data trail, so surely the answer would be to use a public means of communication.
There aren’t many of these left now, but there are still some at the Hauptbahnhof, and where better to lose yourself than in a crowd of anonymous travellers?
I took the phone off the hook to give the impression of it just having been used by “the Shadow” and took the shot at an odd angle with a wide aperture using the “expressive” filter to bring out the contrast of the only two colours in an otherwise very grey metallic scene.
And was it all worth it?
Seemingly so, at the end of the event there was a slide show of all the entries, after which all the participants voted for the best photo-series and apparently mine was the clear winner (no, I didn’t vote for my own), mine was judged to be the people’s favourite and I went home with a new camera bag.
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