While I have been to Berlin thrice (to be exact), I never really ventured into the Eastern part. Well, I did cross Checkpoint Charlie at one time. So at the photography workshop, when Thorsten von Overgaard suggested we explore and photograph this part of town, I abided with great excitement.
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Personally, being in East Berlin felt like roaming the streets of Riga, that is, outside of the old town. I’ve been to many cities in Eastern Europe but I found a close juxtaposition between these two particular cities. Could be the graffiti, the state of disarray of the buildings, or just the atmosphere. Though one thing is certain, East Berlin definitely felt “groovier,” especially with the mushrooming of galleries and trendy cafes around.
But this image below is how I would truly describe East Berlin in its historic and current state. Before the construction of the Berlin Wall, it was right here at Bernauer Strasse that an East German soldier named Conrad Schumann, with the aid of West German soldiers, deflected to West Germany by leaping over a barbed wire fence. His escape was photographed by Peter Leibing and has since become an iconic image of the Cold War era.
But what’s so special about my picture? I’m not simply capturing Leibing’s photo painted on the building’s wall, but the coincidental passing of an airplane signifies for me an escape to freedom. Heading towards the West, I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere there’s someone on a plane seeking asylum or exile in another country to avoid unjust political persecution or evade the ravishes of war. Or, perhaps, more realistically, emigrating in search of a better life … just like Schumann.
In addition, the gap between the smoke trail of the airplane and the top of the building, which start off as one and then slowly separate, represents the lingering gulf between the East and the West, more than two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Though united, there are still major differences between the two, both politically and culturally.
Until my next post … take care!