If there is one thing Berlin has a lot of, it’s old graveyards (granted, any old city does, but still…). On Sunday I decided to take my polaroid camera to another one of these old places, the “Mehringdamm” cemeteries. Situated in the heart of a residential district, the area comprises in fact several distinct cemeteries, with the older ones situated within the newer ones. The oldest places are therefore located in the heart of sprawling area, cut off from the rest by a cordon of crumbling, ivy covered walls. By the time you get to that inner place, you feel like you have entered a lost world. The nearby residential buildings are barely visible, and you find yourself in a place that seems to be a world removed from the city. All around are overgrown tombs, crumbling walls, crooked, ivy covered crosses and weather worn statues of angels and saints. On a sunny summer day such as this one, the place is awash with bird song and the buzzing of insects. Trees and tall shrubs provide shelter from the sun, and the place is a playground for moving dapples of shadow and light. The whole place feels like a forbidden garden, a refuge from the hectic city life beyond its walls. In short: it is a very peaceful place.
It is a cemetery after all. Peaceful it may be, but the tombs, crucifixes, and the statues depicting grieving figures remind you that this is a place of “eternal peace”. On a sunny day like this, it might be a very joyful place…. yet the place reminds you of death – yours, everyone’s… .
This place is very old, the oldest graves I found date back to the early 1700s. Some famous people are buried here, the composer Felix Mendelsson-Bartholdy and the author E.T.A. Hoffmann for example. In an old place such as this, death seems a bit more – remote than it would be in a new cemetery, where fresh flowers and newly dug graves remind you that behind each one of those graves, there is grief; there are relatives and friends missing a dear one. Here, you know that the grief has passed, because the grievers have also passed away. So, for me at least, this seems more bearable – death does not quite appear as imminent as it does elsewhere.
I found the Polaroid camera and the Impossible Project film, which delivers somewhat off-colour results, to be the perfect instrument for capturing the slightly unreal mood of the cemetery. The resulting images, with their muted colours, perfectly capture the idea of a sunny, dreamy, peaceful, forgotten place. In these photographs, the cemetery truly looks to be “another time, another place.”
I have put together a set of photos taken at this graveyard as well as at the one which I visited earlier, which reflects this idea of “Peace Eternal”. I also included photos taken with the Fuji Instax camera. [Click here to view.]
Additionally, I photographed more of the statues to add to the Postures of Grief set. This time around I used Impossible Project’s Silver Shade film, so some of the new pics are in black and white-ish, highlighting the more sombre side of the depicted figures. [Click here to view the updated version.]