day 17: taking the plunge
The other day I read in a book by David Hurn and Bill Jay called “On being a photographer” the tip that your camera is the best excuse to go to places where you’d feel uncomfortable without it. Hurn describes the situation of a ballroom dancing competition where he’d feel very out of place if he’d just walk in there without his camera. He wouldn’t know the culturally appropriate things to do or to say; he wouldn’t know any people and someone might ask him what he was doing there and all of this would disconcert him greatly. With his camera however, he can be out of place and be accepted easily by people.
Yesterday I had the perfect opportunity to put this tip into action when I was taking pictures of the building housing a public indoor swimming pool in Berlin Wedding. The building had lots of really strange and creepy graffiti on it, so I was walking around the building taking pictures of it. Then I noticed quite a few young people standing in front of the building and they didn’t exactly look like the usual swimming pool crowd. They were trendy kids with piercings and strange alternative clothes, smoking cigarettes with a certain “cool”. And since when is it cool to hang out at a public swimming pool in a city like Berlin? My curiosity was aroused.
Still, I was hesitant to go inside since I didn’t know anyone. I just stood outside near the entrance taking pictures of a door that was marked with the sign of a space travel agency – another indicator that this was no ordinary swimming pool – and listened to the conversations of these kids to find out what was going on. Apparently there was some sort of exhibition. And then the penny dropped: the building is now used for exhibitions and young artists have their studios in there! Indeed, my camera was my ticket to get in. I just walked in there as if it was the most normal thing, looked around as if I was looking for someone I knew and then (still slightly hesitantly) walked past some people following my instincts. I didn’t look at the exhibition and just took pictures of the building, walked around and even looked at the studios of some artists. It all felt very adventurous and if anyone had asked me what I was doing there I would have had an excuse “Oh, I’m just taking some pictures, do you mind?”
Keep in mind though: if you want to take the plunge, check whether the pool has water first! Especially if you want to do things like venturing into abandoned buildings. You don’t want to end up all alone in a building that is unsafe!