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Instagram Talks: @christopherhall in 1980s Berlin

Instagram is all about selfies, sunsets, breakfast and pets, Instagram filter hell and wellness heaven. The prejudices stick. But anyone who looks a little further will find Instagrammers, that found their way to photography via the app and its social network. On a regular basis, we talk to them.

Words & Photos: Christopher Hall from San Francisco. He recently posted a very old photo he took in West Berlin in the 1980’s, and we very kindly asked if he wouldn’t like to show us more shots from that era.

I came to Berlin in 1980 as an American soldier, after a year long detour at a military language school where I was being taught German. I can’t even start to say how much I loved being in Berlin at that time -  I’d go out late nights to clubs until the early morning hours, wander the streets with a camera in the day time, and felt like I had all the freedom in the world – really strange, since I was in the army, but it didn’t really seem confining to me.  I don’t know that I had any particular photographic inspiration then, I simply shot things that appealed to me, or that looked different from the life I knew growing up in a suburb of Los Angeles. I saved all the film I shot back then. I think my one regret is that I didn’t shoot more then – but film was expensive.

S Bhf Charlottenburg. This was the shot that got the ball rolling on Instagram. I mostly shot black and white back then, color was much more expensive. This would have been about 1982 or so, shot on the platform at S Bahnhof Charlottenburg. I had seen #welovecharlottenburg and #bahnsteiginstagram  and then remembered that I had a shot that fit both categories. The woman knew I was shooting, she just looked up and smiled after spotting me.

Lichterfelde West. Early 80’s. The S Bahn at that time was used by almost no one in the West, since it was controlled by the East German Reichsbahn. Most stations in the West were ghost stations, this one looked like everyone had walked away in 1962 and never came back.

Woman in window. Probably the very first time I attempted to take a portrait of a stranger. This woman had her dog with her looking out at the street. The dog turned just at the moment I pushed the shutter, so you can only see his tail next to her arm.

Two women. This was in Friedenau, if I remember correctly. The ad for the glass shop in the Gosslerstrasse reinforces my memory a bit.

Stadtbad Krummestrasse. Another pair of older women in heavy winter coats with hats, this time near the Stadtbad Krummestrasse in Charlottenburg. Two women walking down a street seems to be a frequent theme in my photos from the time. I’m not sure who I might blame for that.

Wir bauen eine neue Stadt. Thanks to Palais Schaumberg for the title. This was in Wedding in the Bernauerstrasse, in July 1980. These GDR Border Guards were watching as the (then) new pre-fab concrete wall was being installed. The wall in the Bernauerstrasse had previously been empty apartment houses with bricked up windows, those had been torn down to make way for the new wall.

Um den Maibaum herum. My full title for this photo: “Um den Maibaum herum führen die Dorfbewohner oftmals traditionelle Volkstänze auf”; in English “The village inhabitants often perform traditional folk dances around the May pole”. I always thought my title slightly more humorous than “Changing of the guard at the Neue Wache, East Berlin”. Perhaps you had to be there.

Leuschnerdamm, Kreuzberg. Maybe one of the first photos I’ve done with cars, there’s the back end of a VW Golf hiding in the curve. The brutality of a wall cutting through through what had been neighborhoods, or streets with friends on either side was fascinating to me.

Herr Kolucolak. I can’t remember exactly where this was, I have a vague sense it was near the Bergmannkiez. I do remember this man used to often be asleep on a chair on front of his coal and wood shop.

Follow @christopherhall on Instagram

2 Kommentare

  1. solveig sagt

    This last picture looks a lot like Cheruskestr. 16. THere’s an extra door, but that could have been added later. Check it out on Street view! It even stil says „Kohlen“. Then again, there may have been lots of Kohl sellers at the time.

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