Postcards from Berlin
Old 07-17-2017   #1
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Postcards from Berlin

So last month I went to Berlin for a few days. It was my first time there, so I was excited to see a new city, especially one that has been center-stage for the last 150 years of European history. The genesis of the plan for and conduct of the trip are complicated and don't need to be explained, except to say that my hosts were both gracious and generous with their time and hospitality. And that being driven around in a car with diplomatic plates also has certain advantages.

As a direct consequence of these factors, I was able to cover a lot of ground - far more than I ever would have managed in five days in an unfamiliar city, especially considering my sketchy German. This will be apparent in the photos to anyone who knows Berlin, but even if you don't, take my word for it. I was able to experience several neighborhoods, and even got out to Potsdam for most of a day. I also did some exploring on my own, naturally, revisiting some locations I had spotted in passing earlier. It was a whirlwind tour, but quite satisfying.

Because I knew the trip would be short, and having no clear idea of what the photographic opportunities would be, I decided to go full-on minimalist with my gear. Being that I was going to Germany, a Leica seemed the obvious choice. I took one of my IIIcs with the classic collapsible Elmar 50/3.5 and SBOOI auxiliary viewfinder. To further simplify matters, I brought a stock of HP5+ with the plan to push all of it to 1600, using filters (deep yellow and light red, as it turned out) to make it manageable in daylight. It's the least gear I've brought on a trip in years, and I have to say it really worked well.

I shot eight rolls of film in five days. The photos I'll post in this thread are best of the lot, at least as they look to me right now. I have some very specific thoughts and feelings about the way I shot Berlin, but I'll keep them to myself so I don't impose my ideas about the photos on the viewer. I am, of course, happy to hear comments, positive, negative, or indifferent.

This is the first of an indeterminate number of posts. I'll keep going until I'm done (or enough people tell me to stop).











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Old 07-17-2017   #2
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Here's the second batch for your perusal.













More to come.
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Old 07-17-2017   #3
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Please keep these coming. I'm a big history fan of both WW2 and the Cold War. Your photos have really captured the mood of those times.
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Old 07-17-2017   #4
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Berlin at it's cleanest, very nice.

In less than a week from today, I'll be there again. Not decided on what camera to bring yet, if I bring one at all.
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Old 07-17-2017   #5
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Terry, I teach history, and my specific research area when I was studying was the early Cold War in Europe, so getting to some of the sites involved was high on my list of things to do in my limited time there.

Here's another batch, including a couple from Potsdam. Still clean, but a bit away from the iconic monuments and such.















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Old 07-17-2017   #6
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Neat.
I thought "if pilot didn't say where he went, would we know from the pics?"

I think so, but not if you had left out maybe one photo.

I love a mystery.
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Old 07-18-2017   #7
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I feel a strong sense of a Bauhaus design aesthetic in the composition of your photos that really appeals to me. The rigid and static nature of many of your pictures along with a juxtaposition to a moving, modern, or transient element speaks to me in how Berlin has played a role in European history for the past 150 years, as you mention, but also how far the city has progressed/is progressing and how alive and dynamic it feels today. Not sure if this is what you intended to do, but I certainly see it as a cohesive element from the set.

I also enjoyed the ones you shared from Potsdam, but they speak differently to me than the Berlin shots. It's wonderful, I think, to shoot in a place that is not only interesting and new in general but one in which you have a personal interest and emotional attachment to like it sounds like you may have with Berlin and teaching history.

Really well done. I've enjoyed these a lot and I hope you post more.

Also, bravo on simplifying your travel kit down. The less you take the less you realize you need...at least that's been my experience.
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Old 07-18-2017   #8
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Interesting points of view. There is a sort of anonymity to many of them, though I hadn't really thought of them that way. I certainly had a sense of Berlin's history, and I found that much of what I saw there suited my tendencies regarding composition; I don't know that the specific association with Bauhaus came to me at the time, but it seems clear that it influenced what I did. Glad you're enjoying them.

Winding down now - this will be the penultimate post. It would be unthinkable to show a series of photos of Berlin without a wall shot or two, so you'll find those here. The difficulty was trying to figure out a way to show something that's been endlessly photographed in a different way, but then the same could be said for many of the iconic subjects in the city. I was much more interested in the DDR-era architecture along the Karl-Marx Allee, which was every bit as self-consciously imposing as one would expect.











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Old 07-18-2017   #9
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You certainly did cover a lot of ground. I feel like I recognize most of those places. While I know in the other thread, one of the Berlin locals naysay'd a lot of my suggestions, but looks like you still went anyway.

Also, regarding the DDR era, I forget if I mentioned it in that other thread, but if you're very interested in it, and havent already, do pickup a copy of Thomas Hoepker's DDR Ansichten. The photos are great and the captions really insightful. Also a great way to brush up on your German since it's all bilingual. One of my favorite tidbits was learning about the name for the mesh bags they all used to carry in the DDR days.
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Old 07-18-2017   #10
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I found some of Hoepker's photos from that book online before I went. I'd like to get hold of the book at some point.

As I said, my time was somewhat constrained, so I couldn't devote large chunks to getting to some of the less central locations that were suggested. For a first visit, I feel like I got a good overall feel, even if it was more focused on the more commonly-visited locations.
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Old 07-18-2017   #11
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Amazing! Black and white lives! A great eye! Congratulations.
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Old 07-18-2017   #12
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Some really fantastic compositions there - a lovely set.
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Old 07-19-2017   #13
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Thanks for the kind words. We're arriving at the end of this little excursion. Not much more to say, really. Hope you've enjoyed the set.















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Old 07-19-2017   #14
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Thanks for these photos! It seems me you really managed to get the sense of this special city. I was in Berlin a week a few years ago and your photos really remind me the feeling I had. And are a clear demonstration that we do not need a large bag full of lenses and other paraphernalia when we are able to see bravo!
robert
PS: I specially love N° 5 in the first series, a certain amount of mystery is really appropriate!
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Old 07-20-2017   #15
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Thanks, Robert. I really like how that shot came out - I knew what I wanted (sort of), but it was a split-second opportunity. The striped shirt was an unexpected bonus - I didn't even notice it until I scanned the negatives.
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Old 07-20-2017   #16
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Quite wonderful. I really love that very first image-the flare, the grain, the design add up delightfully. Keep em coming!
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Old 07-21-2017   #17
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Glad you enjoyed them. Unfortunately, I've posted the complete set, so what you've seen is all there is (well, all there is that I feel is worth showing).
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Old 07-29-2017   #18
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Absolutely amazing pictures!

I am from Berlin and I am really pleased to see the genuine "Berlin style" of your perspective. Frankly, I never saw the Oberbaumbrücke in such an arrangement - it looks like it would be on an open place and not like the old bridge/checkpoint of the past.

You perfectly matched the motives and the grain/flare of the film material. I can't recall that I have ever seen the eagle in my life, but it looks like a witness of a very dark chapter of our history. Probably it's our Bundesadler and quite new, but the style of your pictures transformed it to a glance into the past.

A really stunning set of pictures! Thanks for sharing!

Cheers,
Stefan
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Old 07-29-2017   #19
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Thanks for the kind words, Stefan. I'm pleased that you found the photos interesting, especially considering that Berlin is your home. I enjoyed my first visit and hope to return someday.
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Old 07-29-2017   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 02Pilot View Post

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Excellent work! This one stands out. The frivolity of the McDonalds sign - especially the McCafe - behind Checkpoint Charlie.
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Old 07-29-2017   #21
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Wonderful. I agree with C Poulton on the fine compositions; and sepiaverb on that first one, very much a 50 Elmar shot. Very enjoyable series. It's a very fine lens the old Elmar.
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Old 07-30-2017   #22
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Thanks folks - nice to read that so many people are enjoying these.
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Old 07-30-2017   #23
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Excellent. I just left Berlin after living there for a year. You did a wonderful job with these photos. Love the style. Plesse post more if you have them.

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Old 07-30-2017   #24
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Great work!

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