BERLIN WALL - November 1989

  • It seems to be almost forgotten now.
    In the evening of 9 November 1989, the Wall was suddenly open – one of the most striking facts of the end of the 20th Century.
    That's how things happen: I was due to arrive in Berlin on the 25th of November 1989, two weeks or so later... because of a traineeship.
    At the last minute I had managed to pack my camera – a Nikon FM2 with its 50 mm 1:1.8 lens – and the few films I could find in the fridge: a mix of Kodachrome 200 and Fuji 100.
    I went to the wall on the 26th. It was Sunday and bitterly cold.
    The exhilaration, the rejoicing and all the agitation seem to be over. I personally saw only one journalist on that day.
    But the wall was still there. And it was a big thing. The chipping of the concrete had damaged it in places – around spots like Brandenburg Gate for instance – but for the most part, it was intact.
    A striking fact was the contrast between its two faces: one was incredibly colourful and you could read or see anything on it. The freedom of expression looked total. The other face was white – or a kind of white – and very clean.
    The land behind the wall looked dull, sad, and dreary – almost a caricature of it: a sterile no man’s land surrounded with concrete and awful buildings.
    You had guards on the wall itself where there was a platform. Some of them looked rigid, others debonair and smiling at you, or just lonely, like lost.
    East Germany still existed of course but it was clear that History had changed for ever. People were strangely quiet. East Berliners – Ossis – were crossing the border as on a Sunday outing, walking quietly, couples hands in hands, along with kids and friends chatting together… I took many pictures of them and regularly asked if I could. They didn’t look worried at all.
    My films were of a good quality. The colours are still vivid and bright on the slides. The events seem to have taken place this week. But I desaturated them – leaving the dust – to congeal them in the past, 26 years ago.
    Actually I never came back to Berlin.