The museum presents two Berlin series in an exhibition where the visions of their authors confront each other to deliver a profound and fascinating autopsy of the German capital.
Berlin, 4,000 inhabitants per square kilometer and almost as many ways to look at it. Berliner Kontraste combines two visual worlds sharing black and white but with very distinct materials and contours. These photographs, taken between 2004 and 2015, explore the contrasts and contradictions that make this city so unique. Both urban and rural, upscale and outdated, wealth rubs shoulders with poverty, chaos, calm – and everywhere, Berlin recounts its past while looking to the future. The juxtaposition of the works of Silberbach and Safft is striking: the first sign of the panoramic photographs from his series Berlin 140° (2004-2015). A Berlin with a bubbling heart where ambiguities respond to each other in images tinged with humor and finesse. The second presents Rundgang (2004-2008) for which he set out to (re)discover the borders that separate the Land of Berlin and that of Brandenburg. A dive into this Berlin of the periphery with shots thought of as archives, fixing social evolutions and linking eras together.
Nikolas von Safft, born in 1941, is from West Berlin. A few years later, he found himself cut off from the eastern part of the city as well as from all the surrounding countryside. 1989, the erected wall fell and a few years later, the photographer decided to follow the effects of the shift on this area which links Berlin to Brandenburg. From his rundgang – his tour in German – of 320 kilometers, emerged 2,000 negatives that resonate as witnesses of a time that changed and moved us. It is an infinitely meticulous work, with an equal distance between each shot and without ever a human trace. The bourgeois residences adjoin the pavilions, the shop windows of the hairdressers look out over the Spree, nature embraces the tar. This tour of Berlin, in the literal sense therefore, reveals a completely new outlook and constitutes exceptional documentary material.
Franck Silberbach, born in 1958, made his debut as a photo reporter in East Germany. In 1984, he moved to the West, went freelance and traveled the world. These images plunge us into a cinematic Berlin where several scenes appear at the same time. Moving photographs that not only transcribe everyday moments but that animate them to bring them to life right up to the present. This signature panoramic effect originally resulted from the use of a 35mm. From 2004, Silberbach fixed a pivoting lens to his film camera, thus producing this fully assumed fish-eye effect. The tables of trendy restaurants run shoulder to shoulder with those of popular bistros, the bourgeois brush against the homeless, youth share the same benches as old people and there are those whose suitcases are dragged when others carry around their lives in a shopping cart. Each photograph is a story in itself and taking the time to observe it is worth all the stories.
Noémie de Bellaigue
“Berliner Kontraste” at the Ephraim Palace until September 10, 2023.