The German phrase, Berlin Tut Gut, is seen on a banner in one of my 1988 photographs of the old Olympic Stadium in Berlin. This simple and widely used advertising slogan was circulated by the Berlin tourist office in the 1980s. Translated, Berlin is good for you, its frame of reference is found in this ongoing project to represent hopefulness for a once-celebrated city burdened to rebuild from a tragic past.
To commemorate the upcoming 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 2019), this collection expresses an era of change in Berlin between 1988-2000. Remnants of Nazism and the Cold War are evident in the images as is the Wall itself, reflecting the mood of the city as seen through its changing landscape. Depictions range from neo-nazis to an exuberant runner in Berlin’s first unified marathon.
Perhaps one of the most defining statements is expressed in “Changing of the Guard” – photographed seven months after the border opening. Alone and looking rather dejected, a former east German guard stands on top of the Wall appearing reluctant to serve as peacemaker. Clothed in his dull military uniform and cap, he embodies the consciousness of an emerging new world order. A defeated, outdated old regime held captive in its own barricade, if you will. His elevated gesture is emblematic of repression and war, teetering undeniably to crumble and fall.
Yes, the concrete dust has long settled. Only small sections of the Wall remain and are preserved as a memorial for freedom. However, it gives me greater satisfaction to regard the importance of the fall of the Wall as a recognition for hope.
Building for a peaceful future is easier – and more sensible – than building walls.
(I’m also one of the so-called “wall peckers” who helped take down the wall. See story: Building Hope, Not Walls)