Detritus: Signs of Uneasy Cohabitation

Over the past 12 months, I shot a  series of photographs throughout the Berlin districts of Kreuzberg and Neukoelln, two traditionally working-class districts that are now being gentrified. The series focuses on items – furniture, cloths, shoes, electronic appliances – placed outside on the pavements by local residents.

Berliners always had a tendency to get rid of unwanted items by simply disposing of them in the public space. However, in Neukoelln and Kreuzberg, this phenomenon has become increasingly more prominent as gentrification increases, and as the old working-class (or unemployed) tenants have to make way for the hipsters and the young professionals. Disposing of trash by simply putting it out on pavements and in parks is against the law, of course, and as such constitutes an act of defiance against Germany’s much loved sense of order. This act of defiance may simply be down to lazy nests or economic reasons (you have to pay money to get bulky items properly disposed of), but it can also be seen as a defiant gesture, the departing locals giving the finger to the new arrivals before they leave the neighborhood; or a sign of protests against the prettification and increasing orderliness of the neighborhood – in the same way that graffiti is used as a protest against law and order. Be that as it may, it is this act of defiance that I chose to document with this series.

The series owes some inspiration to Stephen Shore and his photographs of banal everyday objects. I initially concentrated on photographing isolated objects as they had been placed outside, but after showing the original series to people, the feedback was that the original message of defiance was lost as there was not enough context. So I started shooting objects in such a way that the context of the neighbourhood where it happened was retained. This proved a bit of a challenge: getting the picture right despite noisy and diverting backgrounds while shooting on cramped pavements was not always easy. Moreover, I found out that I had to get the shots nailed down right then and there: there was no going back later to take another shot – by then the items would have been removed or kicked over or destroyed. Nothing stays the same for long on the streets of Berlin.

When putting the series together, I alternated between close-ups of objects and images which show the context.

I used a variety of cameras, whatever I happened to have with me when I passed objects: Fujifilm X30, X-T10 and X-E2 as well as a Leica X2.

And here is the link: Detritus – Signs of Uneasy Cohabitation.

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