Photography observes. It observes what is being photographed just as much as the person behind the viewfinder interprets what is being photographed. During my time in Berlin, I have taken thousands of photographs of monuments, architecture, random people, the sky…some of which I have shared on Facebook and this blog, but all of which will shape my memory of quintessential Berlin when I leave.
The other day I was looking through the photos I have uploaded of Berlin on my Facebook, and realized how the progression of what and how I choose to photograph has reflected how I experienced Berlin, and how that changed between August and now. My first few photos look a little something like this:
All taken within the first day of being in Berlin, these photos are nothing really special, if not the blank gaze of a stranger that only scrapes the surface of Berlin, much like the highlighted attractions of a hop on, hop off tour. Most photos are for the sake of taking photos, proof that you have seen something.
Gradually, as I dug deeper into Berlin, my photographs began to change. They began to take on Berlin’s character and not just how it appears to the naked eye. The more I delved into Berlin’s districts – Kreuzberg, Friedrichshain, Neukölln – and the more I interacted with the city’s pulsing culture did this begin to change. Random doors, graffiti, moss, and broken windows became the subjects of my photos. Seemingly ordinary things that capture a certain moment or experience more than the thing itself.
In a way, these photographs won’t only function as observations and documentations of what I saw. But as a whole will become a remembered observation of the character and pulse of Berlin in my own eyes, and a visual memory of the Berlin I grew so attached to as a study abroad student.