Photo Exhibition Shows A Much Changed Berlin

Today’s Berlin is one of Europe’s most powerful political capitals with a nightlife and cultural heritage unmatched by many other cities. A new photo exhibition offers a snapshot of the city’s once communist east before the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

For anyone returning to Berlin after an absence since the wall fell almost 30 years ago, the German capital is almost unrecognizable. Now a leading Berlin photographic gallery is launching a new exhibition of photos showing part of the city as it was before a civilian uprising against East Germany’s communist leaders swept away the divide in November 1989.

Using an old-fashioned Box-type camera, Harf Zimmermann spent a year in the mid-1980s documenting his neighbourhood around Hufelandstrasse, which today is part of one of the most fashionable city districts, known as the Boetzow quarter after a former local brewer.

Mounted by C/O Berlin in the western part of the city, the Zimmermann exhibition provides a snapshot of the coal smoke, crumbling facades, World-War-II bullet holes and seemingly endless grey that characterized life in the eastern part of Berlin. Inspired by the images of US photographer Bruce Davidson, Zimmermann went from house to house, resident to resident, shop to shop, workplace to workplace, in a bid to capture the essence of his neighbourhood.

“I would like to be a 19th century photogapher,” Zimmermann told the daily “Tagesspiegel,” referring to the generation of photographers who helped to pioneer modern photography.

Born in the East Germany city of Dresden in 1955, Zimmermann said he had been a nomad until he moved into the street in 1981. After studying in Leipzig, he later became a senior editor atthe Communist Party’s official newspaper, “Neues Deutschland.”

In addition to the area’s streetscape, Zimmermann’s 95 black and white images show photos such as a family gathered around the table in a typical East German living room, a couple on their wedding day as well workers at a local bakery and snack shop. He also documented the craftsmen, artists, musicians, party officials, actors and piano makers who called the neighbourhood their home. However, only a handful of the original residents pictured in Zimmermann’s images continue to live in the area.

A mere one kilometre long and comprising about 50 historic residences, Hufelandstrasse marks out the changes since the fall of the wall, with Berlin’s former communist east having been transformed through a mass renovation programme and fast-paced gentrification. Financed in part by taxpayers’ money, the revamp has transformed the once dowdy and run-down east into some of the city’s most attractive real estate areas.

Dubbed the “Kurfuerstendamm of the East” – a reference to the grand and much longer boulevard that cuts through western Berlin – Hufelandstrasse also stands in marked contrast to the large, often impersonal communist housing blocs that dot other parts of the city. – Berlin (dpa)

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