All pictures taken with: Olympus Pen E-PL3 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH.
Two weeks ago I was shooting for my ‘down below’ project and these pictures are from the first session. As you can see, I had quite a successful session, especially considering that this is the second post on the session. I had several of these sessions and it seems that I will be advancing on the project a lot once I edit the pictures. Since I’ve been considering to make a book project out of it, I will probably continue along these lines when I’m back in Berlin as well.
The last few days I have been so busy with my ‘memory’ project that I hardly had time to edit pictures though. I will have to try to catch up once I’m back in Berlin, although I see myself getting busy developing and scanning film as well. So far this second project is going really well and I will almost have covered all the places that I wanted to capture. I will probably have to go out for another couple of sessions when I’m here in Chemnitz over Christmas, but these will be nice places that should not involve any emotional turmoil. That certainly can’t be said about all the places that I visited so far.
Among the more disturbing places was my primary school, or at least the place where it used to stand. I don’t exactly have happy memories there so I was a bit afraid that it might affect me badly. Already years ago I wanted to try to take pictures there assuming that the school still stands, but when I got there the building was gone and I gave up the idea. After all, how do you capture something that is not there anymore? The school right next to mine still stands though and since it has the same architectural design it was actually almost like seeing the real thing. Also the sports ground and hall as well as the gardening plot still exist pretty much unchanged. Walking across the sports ground was really rather uncomfortable, but despite the fears I had in anticipation of confronting this part of my life, I actually managed to get on quite well and stay relatively unperturbed emotionally.
Today I will go back to the same neighbourhood to look at the spot where our house used to stand. Yes, they did a pretty good job at erasing my past. The house where we lived the first 7 or 8 years of my life, my primary school and my secondary school have all fallen victim to the rather ironic policy of demolishing buildings to improve the city. Sure, they’re right that these buildings were rather bleak and ugly, but somehow it still feels wrong that they are gone. This city has a socialist past and sadly none of the architectural achievements of socialist modernity made it to Chemnitz. Architecturally socialism in Chemnitz produced rather bare and functionalist buildings – and still the city centre would be much nicer if they had reconstructed the existing buildings rather than to build these ugly modern buildings where none of them actually fit together. Albeit somewhat ugly at least the more functional socialist architecture was homogenous. The modern stuff they built instead seems out of place and is ugly nonetheless.
I myself feel rather out of place here at the moment as well because almost all the shops I knew have disappeared along with quite a number of buildings. The other day I wanted to warm up in the market hall when I was out shooting on a very cold day. When I got there I had to realise that it now was a bike shop. Every day I walk past some shop or building that had some meaning to me when I was little but which is now empty and abandoned or gone altogether. I don’t know whether I should read this symbolically. For years I could not even remember my childhood and I have abandoned the city and my old life there as well. Maybe it is only fitting that all signs of my past are gradually being erased. I can’t help finding it rather eerie though that my relationship to my hometown and the state of my memory should be reflected so appropriately by such city planning efforts. No wonder that I keep finding the experiences of re-visiting the places of my childhood so surreal. Maybe in reality I am actually in a padded cell somewhere only imagining my journey to my hometown. This sure would explain the strange resonance between my mental state and my current surroundings, because then the outside world would only be a product of my own making. That said, whenever I face such eerie doubts about reality I remind myself that it might just be my brain having problems to integrate my memories with all the changes that have obviously happened in Chemnitz in the last few years. Considering how much has changed it is rather unsurprising that I would feel rather odd about it. No matter how uncomfortable this feeling of derealisation might be, I have to say that it is at least rather inspiring with regard to my project. I hope that I will somehow manage to convey this feeling in the final images.