Who or what, ultimately, is Berlin? 1000 villages forming a metropolis – or actually the whole world in one city? An attempt to explain Berlin is doomed from the start, because it is simply not possible.
Nevertheless, I’m interested to know who hangs around the different neighborhoods and contributes their bit to make this city what it is. About once I week I choose one of these little villages, always a different one, and talk to my fellow residents on the street, asking them whether they have the time and inclination to have their photo taken and chat a little.
Xiaofan; 25; student;
Xiaofan is currently doing an exchange semester in Berlin.
The native Chinese has adapted to the city
quickly; he found the public transport system
somewhat confusing in the beginning,
but if he got lost, he received help straightaway.
He likes the lifestyle here, jogging in the Tiergarten park,
and the people: “I feel very welcome!”
It wasn’t easy in the beginning and I had to really push to get out of my comfort zone, maybe the whole thing was a type of self therapy 😉
In any case, I have quickly learned to enjoy talking to strangers spontaneously and also the opportunity this presents to get to know people who are often not part of one’s personal social environment.
But it does take a little bit of courage to go out and do it.
One thing that is really important to consider is obviously the light. Different atmospheric conditions do not promise the same photographic results, of course.
Personally, I prefer diffuse light conditions, as then a slightly overcast sky more or less changes into a giant softbox which still lets through enough sunlight. In this way, one ends up with finely lit up faces.
Bogomil; 69; old-age pensioner;
“I am 100% happy in Berlin! There are people here
from many countries, sometimes it’s quiet and sometimes loud,
and there is no crime, not yet.”
The native Bulgarian has been a citizen of Berlin since 1987.
He has one piece of advice he is keen to give to
young people coming here: “Learning the language
is the most important thing!”
When the sun is shining I would recommend that you go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon to take portrays of people on the street, because when the sun has reached its zenith around lunch time and the sun lights up people vertically, in a manner of speaking, unflattering shadows form on faces and moreover seem to hide the eyes.
Ingrid; 73; old-age pensioner;
Ingrid is born and bred in Berlin at Prenzlauer Berg and very early on in our chat, the conversation turns to ‘die Wende’, the political turning point which eventually led to the reunification of a divided Germany.
“It was definitely better afterwards, because here they only had ugly high rises,
and the Ku’damm, the Memorial Church and the many museums
are really wonderful! That was fantastic! Theater, however, is out of the question now. During GDR times I had an annual subscription, but now I can only afford it once a year, if that!”
But she has a great affection for Berlin, vacation – that’s all good as far as it goes,
but once she’s been away for three weeks, Ingrid has to come back home!
“That’s a particular kind of feeling, it’s impossible to describe, people from Berlin are special, they might have a big mouth, but a big heart, too, and they are always willing to help. …and, well, on vacation it’s easy to feel ashamed because of others, because it doesn’t do to adapt too much!”
Have fun out on the street!!!
Matthias; 28; student;
The thing Matthias likes about Berlin is its pulse and flow, its playful attitude
and the honest masquerade. What he likes less is the raging
gentrification, but he qualifies this immediately, because he is,
he says, only one of those who moved here from somewhere else.
And still, he always feels that he is warmly welcomed here. “That’s just the way it is.”
Florian Reischauer has been living and working as a photographer in Berlin since 2007. Pieces of Berlin, a blog about everyday life in Berlin, is one of his main projects.