Exterior Night: Berlin

Winter is now truly behind us, so it is time to finish up an urban photography project which I undertook this winter. Taking advantage of the short day, or rather the long nights of Berlin’s winter season, I set out to shoot different aspects of night in the city. I tried to catch the glittering lights of the glass towers, the surreal effects of reflections within reflections when shooting from inside out, the stark, gritty and sometimes surreal sights of industrial sites, and more intimate views of empty, lit interiors, looking in from the outside.

Most of the photos were captured on my Fujifilm X-E2, which is the camera I tend to carry around with me every day. Some were shot on the X-T20, and a few using the iPhone X, whose capacity to shoot in low light is amazing and served the project well.

All this I gathered in a selection which I entitled Exterior Night: Berlin, which can now be found on my web site. Enjoy, and as always, feedback is welcome….

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Exterior/Interior Night

There is something about cities at night when the streets empty, the shops close down and the lights from inside shine out. The night hides but it also reveals. Interiors and entrances light up as the night swallows the outside. Buildings appear differently, warmer, colder, stranger, depending on the light. Glimpses of lives that stay unnoticed during the day are suddenly revealed, while other sides of life hide away.

Glimpses of urban Berlin, inside out.

Camera: Fujifilm X-E2

Tales of Strangers #5: Flieger

Along the river Spree in Berlin, tugged in between newly built posh riverside residencies, lies a squatter’s camp called Teepee Land. It has been founded by and is run by this man, who calls himself “Flieger”, which may be translated either as flyer or as aircraft. I walked through the camp last Saturday and asked Flieger if I could take a few photos, and I also spent some time chatting with him. While now, in winter, there aren’t that many people living here, he says they have some five hundred people pass through every year. People come from all over the world, many Europeans of course but also people from Africa and Asia. They live, as the name implies, mostly in teepees (so does Flieger), or in makeshift huts. Some pass through, but others seem to have settled on a more permanent basis. The coloured hut in the background is where a Japanese man is staying, one tent was occupied by a gay couple from Eastern Europe who fled repercussions in their home country; there is a also a Turkish man living there who became homeless after being forced from his flat by unscrupulous landlords who want to cash in on Berlin’s steep increase in rents. The camp also features a stage where they hold concerts in the summer, and a café where you pay as much as you like for your drink.

Flieger seems to choose the people who can live here, and he seems to choose them on the basis of whether they can contribute in maintaining not only their own teepee or hut, but the camp as well, as all inhabitants are expected to help keep the camp clean and functioning.Apparently the camp’s inhabitants have a good working relationship with the city government, and despite the fact that more apartment buildings are going up around them, Flieger has been assured that they can remain for the ‘foreseeable future’ (the camp is on public land). That is some measure of good news I guess.

The Photos below show Teepee Land. The colour photos were taken this past weekend while the black and white ones were taken in the summer.

Interior: Art Deco

Following up on my earlier blog post about photographing urban interiors, here are a series of photographs from an interesting Art Deco hallway and stairwell which I captured here in Berlin.

Interior: Bar

For a change of pace, and in order to hone my eye for formatting photos, I decided to step away from people photography for a bit and embark on something which I have never really attempted before: photographing interiors. By this I was inspired by some of the photos I took inside some of Sevilla’s historic buildings. The challenge is to capture the elegance and beauty of a room while working within a confined space.

These images are from my first attempt. I shot them in a club here in Berlin which was empty at the time, a club in a historic 19th century building that used to house craftspeople’s workshops. It’s a first attempt, more to follow…

Sevilla: Textures and Colours

Here are more photos which I brought back from Sevilla. This time not people-centric, but exploring the details that make a city, the colours, the grit, the imperfections…. which to me say more about a city, it’s history and its culture than any panorama shot out there van convey. Well, that’s my opinion…

To see the full set on my website, [click here]

All photos taken with a Fujifilm X-T20 camera.

“No Photo”

dscf9249Saturday was not a good day for street portraits. I found three people who I thought were interesting, got my courage up to ask them if I could take their photo, and all three said no…. Well, you have days like that. I couldn’t help wondering, though, whether it was the fact that Saturday I had mounted the rather big 56mm lens, instead of the rather unobtrusive 27mm pancake lens I normally favour… who knows?

The story with the guy depicted above, though, was different… He was hanging out on Admiralsbrücke, a bridge in the Berlin area of Kreuzberg, a spot where people (locals, expats and many tourists) just love to hang out and drink beer. He was with friends drinking beer, and at some point started playing the guitar and signing in Spanish. I took these two photos and was just about to approach him when he noticed the camera and very energetically told me “no photos”, and a bunch of other stuff in Spanish which I didn’t understand. I nodded yes and that was that, but I didn’t delete the photos I’ve taken earlier.

Now, normally if people tell or show me that they don’t want their picture taken, I respect that. But in this case, I thought, if you’re playing guitar and singing in the middle of a street in the middle of a bridge in the middle of a city, you’re not exactly minding you’re own business, are you? So, whether you like it or not, being photographed is part and and parcel of making yourself a public spectacle… Hence, I decided to publish these pics.

I don’t know why he so vehemently refused to have his photo taken…. but maybe the clue lies in his tattoos…?

 

Camera: Fujifilm X-T20

City Scape: Potsdamer Platz

Potsdamer Platz, Berlin. Camera: Fujifilm X-T10

Almost 20 years after it was built, Potsdamer Platz still divides opinions. Some hate it, some shrug it off, some like it. For some, it’s a symbol of Berlin’s post-reunion megolamania, a failed wanna-be Disney-Manhattan. However, for a city that does not take many chances on cutting-edge, innovative architecture, Potsdamer Platz is remarkable in that here at least are a few designs which did not originate in a Lego box. Personnaly, I like it.

Potsdam – Old Market

Not even an hour away from Berlin, Potsdam is a city that feels very different from Berlin. It’s always fun to play the tourist in a place so close to home.

All photos taken with the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone. Hipstamatic is still my favourite camera app, and actually by now the only one I use. 


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. Continue reading “Detritus: Signs of Uneasy Cohabitation”