December 31, 1969
After The Wall
A photographer walks the length of Berlin’s urban scar.
German photographer Thomas Meyer was visiting Berlin on the historic day in 1989 when the Iron Curtain fell. “I remember going out into the street,” he says, “and seeing people streaming over the border.” Eight years later he moved to the bustling new capital and began photographing the area where the wall had stood. As physical traces of the boundary gradually disappeared, a kind of no-man’s-land emerged. “It was amazing,” Meyer says. “There was all this free space in the middle of the city, and it wasn’t developed yet.”
In 2001 Meyer decided to document the path of the former wall at various points in a six-kilometer stretch. Whenever he found dramatic juxtapositions between formally divided halves of the city, he captured two views: one pointing east, the other west. “First I went to the wall area and took layout pictures with a small-format camera,” he explains. “From those I decided what views I should photograph. Then I took images with a large-format camera. I have to take a picture first, before taking the picture.”
The photographer currently lives in the former East Berlin, where rents are low and a burgeoning creative scene is taking shape. “A lot of artists from France, England, and America have moved here to live and work,” he says. “It’s like Prague in the early nineties.” And though the pace of redevelopment in the city has slowed considerably due to a stagnant German economy, changes near the site of the wall are inevitable. “You can see it in the pictures,” Meyer says. “The image of the Potsdamer Platz, with the small skyscrapers? When the wall came down there was nothing there. It was like a desert.” Eventually, Meyer predicts, all traces of this great urban scar will disappear. Think of it now as a slowly healing wound.