My friend Liam and I, both living in Berlin for more than 20 years decided on Sunday to do the monthly round of our private art walk through the city. Heading for the premier league, not Renaldo, but the many beautiful art photographies our city has to offer. Liam is a graduate of „Ostkreuz Schule,“ and he makes his living in the advertising business. We met first on one of their senior class final exhibits which do make up for a fun night out. Crowded but many hungry young artists who step out into their new world of making an image. The School is quite distinctive and follows the close-knit pattern of photography, making sure their „niche“ is recognized around the world. My thought on this is that you can see the handwriting of Professors who have been teaching there for a long time and so I always wonder if they let in a new look eventually. Interestingly enough you can see similarities in every senior class exhibits.
First, the weather check
It’s Winter, so the primary question is public transport or bikes? Then, how many layers? If you’d asked TripAdvisor, I think that’s the first thing you should check in Berlin before heading anywhere: Museum or Bar.
Berlin temperatures can get quite frosty especially when you are out and try to discover things to do in Berlin. The reason why we do these walks more in the Winter is that the weather here is just made for this. It gets cold October 3rd, and the sun doesn’t come back until April 15th. Most of the time you get up in the dark, walk through the dark, and fall to bed like a vampire. To avoid any further downward spiral is to get up and out. Visit the multitude of Art spaces, shows, museums, and galleries.
Our Private Art-Map
Over the years we have created our own art map. It’s simple but effective and always ends with a cold beer at „Hotel Berlin.“ It’s just called "Hotel," but we add our city. Maybe that’s our main incentive; three beers and one fine discussion over all the great images we were out to see. "Noch ein Bier bitte!" Liam and I have been passionate photographers; Him specializing in Advertising and fine art Landscape photography and me going after different themes. However, since we are in Berlin and spending our days under former Mayor Klaus Wowereits’ slogan „Poor but sexy,“ I've picked up on male nude photography. Men here are more open to this art form. Besides that, my travels take me to different countries around the world letting me engage in Landscape, people and urban image-making. We share a mutual taste for Irving Penn, Robert Frank, Wolfgang Tillmans - for us they share a collective eye. The primary foci are people and the different situation they are caught in a split second creating a lasting image full of detail and leaving an open outcome to whatever happens next.
Building up strength
Since we live in Kreuzberg, Berlins former working-class district and as red as they get, as well as nearly gentrified to the max - except us, we head to Südblock which is a cute queer bar filled with all kinds of characters. Gay, punk, hetero, artist, hipster, newcomers and old-timers sit next to each other.
We choose hot tees to warm up, or whiskey when temperatures drop below 0 and discuss the new findings on PIB (Photography in Berlin) which is our local guide for the Photographer enthusiast. Sometimes we pick something out of their booklet to incorporate in our Foto-tour. All in all, it is always a fast walk of at least 4 hours but never more than 6. Yep, we got time for that.
We start off riding our bikes to „Berlinische Galerie.“ Almost my favorite since it is tucked away in our neighborhood. Never crowded. We found Raphaela Vogel's work quite surprising and enjoyed her first solo show. Even though Video Art is something, I’m still in the process of getting my mind around.
„Hamburger Bahnhof“ - Here it depends who’s on right now. Sometimes the artist is not photographers. „Otto Mueller and his Network in Wrocław“ was the show that we did see since we just had been to Wrocław last October. The picturesque town in Poland just about a three-hour car drive from Berlin.
The „Me collectors Room“ is our next destination the ride is easy since it takes us in a straight line right through Tiergarten and past the Martin Gropius Bau. The last show I’ve seen there was the „Bestandsaufnahme“ - the show of Cornelius Gurlitt. The man behind keeping his Apartment in Munich filled with stolen Art from the Third Reich. Strangely enough, in the eighties when I lived in Munich as a very young man my best friend lived in the same building and believe it or not, Gurlitt was her Neighbour. ... if we would just had known then what we know today.
Once you get to „Johann König“ you kinda have to look around first since the gallery located in a church building. Their exhibits are mixed, and we go only for photo art or installations. The gallery is fairly big but it does not take the two hours we usually spend at „C/O Berlin“ - we love this place which we both have visited ever since they opened their spot in Oranienburger Strasse within the strained walls of the „Postfuhramt.“ A grand looking Corner Building which used to be the central distribution center for Berlins postal-service in the 19th century. Now, many years later, they have chosen a new Location: The „America House“ in Charlottenburg. The double opening which we didn’t miss was „Will McBride“ and „The Magnum Photographers.“ The line was endless, but fortunately, we landed on the Guestlist and had fast and easy entry. What a party and what night.
What would be a tour without our tools for making great images? Liam is the happy owner of a Leica M7, and I just recently bought a Fujifilm TX-20 to learn a new way of photography. My original companion was a Nikon f5 which I use to this day. We both load up at Foto Impex, which is the best dealer for anything analog. They carry 35 mm film from the leading producers like Ilford, Kodak, Adox and many more. The CMS 20 from Adox is my favorite. Since I’m addicted to fine, excellent grain - this film is my number one choice. And there is the HP5 which gives me more flexibility and the Silvermax which is a joy to use.
But, as I said, I’ve put the analog aside - just for a little bit and enjoy the digital ways too. Adobe Creative Suite does an excellent job supporting me and like everything in the www these days I've got an account with them to make use of all the goodies they offer.
Having a friend
Liam and I have been best buddies for a very long time, and we have appreciated each others company and these walks very much. We encourage others to do the same since artists need the exchanging of thoughts like birds need the sky to fly. Besides all of that, it is great to share fun moments with a friend.
Finding a friend
A big challenge when coming to Berlin is to find the perfect location for a great image. We all know how easy it is to click away with a mobile device. The fate of these images is that they will land on your hard drive unnoticed.
A great way to diminish the number of images is using an analog camera which only gives you 36 exposures at a time. Even I don’t manage more than shooting three films in a day which leaves me with 108 images, still less than what you usually ends up with the digital device.
To avoid image graveyards let me recommend you a great idea: Photo Walks. There is a multitude of them offered in the city, and some of them are very good. They are set up professionally by real photographers, and they have a range of walks with cool destinations, some even offer a little workshop during the tour. These include ISO, film speed, aperture or then the digital versions. I've personally taken two of such workshops on the run in the past and must say, have been a wonderful experience. The great thing is the one-on-one exchange where you can enjoy 100% of the attention, bringing the best out of your images.
Here are some of my all time favorites
Aperture Tours offers professionally guided tours. These folks work around the globe and have all it takes to make every minute of your trip worthwhile. High standards meet high art, and you will be surprised how great of a Photographer you can become only in three hours. Berlin private Photo walk: Fading colors: This guy is local and knows just the right places where to take you. Local charm mixed with local friendliness and know-how. Penta Prisma: This is another excellent way to get to learn your digital camera. Especially for those who take photography as a hobby to get out and using the best of one's free time, this course can help you with just that. We all buy great cameras, the newest in stock with the most technical advancements; But do we understand it all? Only speaking for myself, but sometimes I’m stunned at what I do not know about my Fuji TX. It can’t hurt to ask someone who knows it all and learn more about how to make a great shot while walking through the city of Berlin.
Hopefully, I could give you some good inspiration before coming to Berlin for your next adventure. This city is ever-changing, and we are getting closer to an even more bustling metropolis with tens of thousands of new things to see. The diversity of people, the brand new architecture, the nightlife (super great to shoot) mixed with endless opportunities to create your own story is what makes Berlin such a Fantastic place to be.