All pictures taken with: Olympus Pen E-PL3 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm f/1.7 ASPH.
These pictures are from the new set of my ‘down below’ series. Although I was hoping that could finish it soon as well, I think this one will actually still take a while. I also wanted to have an analog part of the series, but so far I’ve been failing at pushing the film correctly in Rodinal stand-development. My only test roll was severely blown and I have since realised that I’ve been over-agitating the roll. Instead of inverting every half hour I should only swirl when pushing. At box-speed my semi-stand method seems to work well, but pushed it just didn’t work at all. I will have to try another roll doing it correctly and maybe test Caffenol as well. This probably won’t be happening this month though, because I am way too busy on another project.
A couple of days ago I arrived back in Berlin after my trip to Chemnitz to shoot for my ‘Memory’ project. Almost every day I went to places that are connected with my past and took pictures. It was a rather strange experience, because almost everything changed or is entirely gone. The apartment building where we lived until I was 7 or 8 is gone, my kindergarten, my primary school and my secondary school as well. The only two places left are the house where we lived until about half a year after I was born and the building where I lived until I was 17. One of these houses I can’t even remember, because I could not even walk when we moved away. It almost doesn’t count at all, since in a project called ‘Memory’ I should actually have a chance to remember. So, in the end only one place is left and I’m not sure whether they will demolish it as well. After all it’s an ugly concrete block and they have demolished so many of them on the other side of the valley. However, I think this one is actually still rather inhabited and even quite central as far as the outskirts of town go. Maybe they will keep it for the time-being. The fact remains that four of five places where I spent my childhood and teenage years are gone. No wonder then that my encounter with the empty lawns or parking garages that took up these spaces instead was rather surreal.
Especially when I walked around the neighbourhood of my childhood I found myself confused and could neither remember in which entrance of the apartment block my best friend lived nor could I be sure whether my kindergarten was an older or a newer building. I think I remember a newer building and that it stood where now a lawn is. The internet confirmed my memories and apparently the kindergarten was demolished in August and September 2012. This happened so recently that Google Maps still shows an aerial view of the building. My primary school already disappeared a few years earlier. I already had the idea for this project several years ago and wanted to take pictures of the exact same places assuming that everything was still standing. I wanted to start with my primary school, but when I got there I had to realise that the building was gone. Since then my brother also had been in the neighbourhood and told me that our house had disappeared as well. Back when I realised that my primary school was gone I saw it as a reason to abandon the idea, but the longer I thought about it the more I grew convinced that I needed to try it anyway. It might be difficult to document something that is already gone, but I believe that this will add to the atmosphere of the project. It is strange that not even ruins remain, but this is what the planning authority of the city council seems to regard as progress. And besides, it helps to keep builders in work.
Although quite a number of places have changed considerably there are also aspects that were completely unchanged. The manhole cover next to the street where my best friend and I sat to count red cars, the hum of the electricity pylon which gives you a slight tingling sensation when you stand underneath, the winding path leading up from the tram stop, all remains the same. Somehow this combination of the familiar and unfamiliar added up to a rather eerie atmosphere. It probably did not help that the area seemed devoid of people, despite the curtains in the windows. Ironically I actually saw more crows than humans in the neighbourhood, which did not improve the atmosphere one bit. I tried to take some pictures of the birds, but when I got too close they all flew up into the air with indignant cawing that kept following me for minutes afterwards. There were so many of them! Let’s just say that I have had nightmares in the past that started in just the same way …!
The crows kept following me even beyond the neighbourhood too, or at least that’s what it seemed like when I was at the other end of town at my secondary school, well, where it used to be. Also there I got indignant caws and a lot of flapping wings at my attempts to take pictures and nevertheless they kept lurking around watching me intently. ‘Surreal’ hardly captures what it was like to be walking around in such eerie surroundings.
By now I almost finished the project. All that is left are precisely those places that are still there, the apartment block where we lived during my teenage years and the building where I only spent a few months. I will have these sessions when I am back in Chemnitz over Christmas and with this I will hopefully manage to finish the shooting part of the project. Next up are film development, scanning and post-processing. Of those I can hopefully manage to finish at least the development and scanning this month so that I can do the post-processing in San Sebastian over the winter. I can also develop and scan later, but I definitely need to finish the shooting part though or else I will have a break in atmosphere if the seasons change in the pictures. So far I only developed one roll. Pretty decent results I have to say at least from what I could gather by just looking at the negatives. I hope the other rolls turn out equally well.