Call me a nut-head, but as I shuffled through the Berlin streets, somehow I constantly had this image of harsh street battles that took place here in the spring of 1945, by the end of WWII. Seems that growing in Soviet Union took its toll, and the images that we were poured on us from the very childhood, have imprinted in my brain forever.
The walk led me to Tiergarten, one of the largest parks in Berlin, from where I saw the scene of Reichstag. On the broad field stretching in front of it people sat on the grass, talked, played, slept and did yoga. It was my first time in Berlin, but this area looked familiar since I’ve seen it on the photos many times.
I was less interested in taking photos of modern-days Reichstag. Instead, I was looking for something that would point at the battles that raged around it. I walked along the building. The building wall was dappled by little, half-a-hand-palm-wide patches. They would thicken around the windows. Honestly, it took me a couple of minutes to realize what they were. Bullet-hit spots were accurately, German-style, evened up. But nevertheless they didn’t camouflage the war pattern. Similar patches of war could be found on many and many buildings around. I took a few non-artistic photos of the Reichstag patches, called them The Portrait of Reichstag in my head, and went on to the nearest book store, where a couple of buskers were masterly playing something from Mendelssohn.
The reason I am telling this, is to share a thought I had as I approached Reichstag and was thinking about the kind of photos I wanted to take if it. The imagination immediately painted the cliche picture general view of the old scarred building clamped by modern peaceful reality. But to me, the eventual photos of the patches, even though visually not too appealing, were a deeper representation of the building, than its wide-angle shot.
Actually, this reminded me of a not-too-well-know photo by Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon. This, a snapshot kind of photo of a cafeteria by Auschwitz, is in fact a very moving portrait of the notorious concentration camp. While we are used to photos of Auschwitz’s concrete walls, much more emotional representation of it was in a calm and clean cafeteria nearby. You just have to look for it.
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Cafeteria. © Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos