Langzeitbelichtungen: exploring Berlin’s water.
The photographic work-in-progress presented here addresses the wealth of urban green and open spaces in Berlin, and that city’s historical and present connection to its abundant and inseparable water. At the same time, it is a personal exploration into the city’s multiple* urban green spaces, essential to its identity.
Berlin is located in an area of swamp forests of low altitude, with a predominantly flat topography. During the last glacial period, the water that melted formed a large valley in this area. The Spree River that runs through the city -the river around which originated Berlin- follows the course of this ancient valley.
I grew up in Mexico City. As most people born and raised in the Mexican megalopolis, I have a picture in my mind of a formidable city founded by the Mexica on an island in the center of a giant lake. However, I was never able to witness that image. I grew up learning (and yearning for) the history of the old vanished lake, but today there are practically no surviving bodies of water there; the lacustrine system was intentionally dried during the colonial era, its rivers were tubed as part of the modernization of the city, and the urban sprawl eventually completely covered the lake.
For several years, Mexico has faced a serious public security crisis. Without getting into hypotheses for why this happens, I admit that during my years there I felt uneasy when photographing in public spaces. In 2009 I re-located to the German capital. I was quickly struck by the large amount of water that surrounds Berlin, and the integral role it played in its history. A change in my perception, in the sense of security in public spaces, was also remarkable.
First as a game, and later as a personal challenge, I started doing in Berlin what I would have wanted to do during my years in Mexico City: go out at night to isolated locations with a bicycle, a camera and a tripod, and photograph in places of historical value to the city. Or sometimes just randomly pick a spot because of its appeal to me. The experiment led to the production of hour-long exposures, which yield a version of the world that the naked eye normally sees. Incorporated into a single still image, lies a space of time in the open spaces of the city of Berlin. With this work I also welcome the simple but important changes that I experience since I became an inhabitant of this city.
*According to the head of the Berlin Senate’s Open Space Planning unit: “forty-six percent of the whole area is green or water”. From “In gritty Berlin, green space plays a surprisingly large role”. DW-World.de April-12-2011. http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,14983881,00.html
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