SERIES | LINES ARE BLURRED, EVIDENCE FADES, OLD BREATH REMAINS

Berlin Hauptbahnhof

This series presents the blurring of the lines between East and West Berlin  :  the layering of Old and New.

After dropping off a roll of film at a small 1-Hour Film Developer in the former East Berlin, I returned the next day, hoping to retrieve my prints. Instead, I was met by an irritated shop clerk, who threw my role of unprotected negatives on the counter and said, "...they are all ruined - none of it is any good". 

 

I took a loop, went to the light table, and observed a beautiful mosaic of light, forms, shadows, blurs, - exciting juxtapositions of imagery, shapes, colors and non colors - many presented as simple black and white imagery with suggestions of color. These photos of the Hauptbahnhof, presented as an unexpected suspension of captured imagery, of speed, blur, complexity, indicative of the masses of people moving quickly through the station, and of the speed of the trains. I asked if they might consider printing my negatives.  The result was a magnificent series of abstract diptychs.

 

My experimental and faulty camera subsequently broke and refused to take any further photographs.  In retrospect, it's fitting that this little camera, whose brand originated in Russia under its Communist regime, should find its way back to its final resting place in the former East Berlin, also once under Russia's communist control. The camera, stripped of any luxuries or excesses, is much like the people and the city of East Berlin, since the onset of its siege. In its "defectiveness", the camera is in itself a tribute to the former East Berlin, where very little was maintained, the buildings and streets were allowed to decay and deconstruct, and the workmanship was questionable. 

 

 

This is a Photographic Essay of "low tech" photographs shot with a small, defective camera, sporting 4 lenses; each of which shot an image a split second apart. The camera's defects produced unexpected results, such as motion blurs and light flares. The camera viewfinder was non-existent - a mere plastic frame sitting atop the camera body.

 

Once the film was developed, these "low tech" film images were printed using "high tech" digital imaging techniques. They were printed onto 2'-0" x 6'-0" aluminum surfaces, creating a kind of digital painting. From beginning to end, no digital manipulation of the actual image has taken place. These images seen are exactly as they appeared on the film negative - small captures of the stunning architecture and spatial design of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof- fleeting moments, blurred impressions; brief expanses of Western Europe's advanced technology, blown up to large expanses. 

Situated in the former East Berlin, lies unified Berlin's new 
Hauptbahnhof; a monument to the massive reconstruction that has happened in East Berlin since the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. Made completely of glass, no two panes alike, one senses the connection of the "Old World" to the "New Modern World", whilst navigating connections to the high-speed, high-tech trains that take one throughout Europe. This juxtaposition of Old East Berlin and the New Modern World i.e. West Berlin, is a common recurring theme wherever one walks throughout former East Berlin; the evidence of a devastating, crumbling past, merged with the new hope of the Modern World.

In unified Berlin today, we see a juxtaposition and layering of the New Modern Berlin with the former East Berlin - new structures built on former East Berlin sites, newly restored, and newly renovated structures and systems, and newly constructed monuments bring the hope of a bright new future, gradually extinguishing the devastating memories and crumbling buildings of the past; all the while captured with a faulty, failing camera, made with outdated technology; and finally, presented as images using hi-tech processes to bring them to life. 

 

As an outsider, as a visitor, one sees with fresh eyes, and sees this point in time only; we don't see the progression of the former East Berlin up to this point, nor the progression that will take place in the future - simply on this day of photography. A fleeting glimpse.

 

As a child of German immigrants and a West Prussian refugee during the second World War, I see these images in the context of past stories, and past memories.