Raritan Valley Community College
Faculty Show 2017
A certain mythology and mystique had always coalesced around Berlin, especially for those of us who had grown up through out the cold war. The place of the last great battle (and massacres) of the second world war European theater. This was the event that shaped the American zeitgeist of the subsequent 50 years. And Berlin, with its wall, was the epicenter. They city came to symbolize the psycho-geographical symbol of the division of ‘the east’ and ‘the west’. It was the epitome of Soviet era oppression and austerity in the wake of Nazi authoritarian terror and perversity. But it was also about regrowth, perseverance in the face of horror, and the human capacity for not only surviving but thriving.
But there was an older layer beneath that. There was an interwar decade of decadence. The city was known to be a merging of cultures equal to Paris, London and New York. Much like New York City is not “America”, but instead its own cultural sphere, Berlin is not Germany.
But it is also quintessentially German. It embodies the German creative and innovative energies that fuel the avant garde, the underground, and progressive.
Seeing Berlin for the first time in July 2017, it was completely fresh yet uncannily familiar. I wasn’t sure what to expect, yet at the same time felt the place instantly navigable and relatable. Perhaps it was the overlay of modern American media, or the continuous parallel underground cultures. The graffiti, the sex shops, the seedy bars once common in most of Manhattan lay next to monumental historical points, along medieval era roadways. Or perhaps the images of the place had been so ingrained and largely visually unaltered in reality, since my childhood.
Perhaps more than most cities, the streets of Berlin have gone unsanitized. The hip, the freak, the dirty are allowed to stand alongside the monumental and historic. It is reminiscent of New York or Washington DC in the 1980s and 1990s. Yet somehow peeking through is the antique pre-war splendor and charm of the city. I spent a lot of time around streets, many not landmarked or commonly tread. As was my original interest in photography, I wanted to collect momentary passages of time and place. And in this case capture the strange fluidity between tense history and the modern common place.
I returned to my original medium of choice, black and white photography. I wanted to capture immediate impressions of my wanderings. Flashes of the street that represent the familiarity and difference of the city. I relied entirely on an Iphone 6 to take these photos. And much like polaroid shots, I did little to them except to filter out the color once they were downloaded. The presentation was not meant to objectify each individual vision. But to create a flow: a nonlinear impression of local and transportation.
Furthermore the reference to the poster, when hung flat with tacks on a gallery wall is implicit. The end presentation mimics the often text, often immediate graffiti and flyer art that dominates Berlin's streetscape. Perhaps at some point I will more intentionally photograph specific scenes.
But at this time what was important to me was an untreated impression of the often disregarded aspects of Berlin streets. Thus they are immediate: Sofort Berlin.