According to Christian Reister, Berlin is “a 35mm city”. He is alluding to the once ubiquitous form of photographic film—the former lifeblood of analogue compact cameras—that produces thick strains of textured light and blurred figures when the chosen subjects are in motion, and precision detail when perfectly focused. It is a form perfectly suited to the rough romance of the metropolis, one that is defined by conflict and concrete as opposed to florid architecture and Bohemian sensibilities.
The monochromatic images found in Reister’s new book Berlin Nights depict lost and forgotten corners of the city, featuring revellers, performers and lovers in secret bars or out on the streets. Elsewhere, he captures lonely urban objects, such as a broken chair impaled on a bollard, or a row of defunct funfair carriages.
The latter is evocative of the dreamlike shots found in Wim Wenders’s 1980s film Wings of Desire, where angels descend upon the still-divided city. Although Reister’s photographs were taken decades after the wall had fallen, they share the same dreamlike vision Wenders articulated, where desire is found in the urban underbelly, not a picture-perfect postcard.
“Liquid visions of packed nightclubs and underground gigs are filled with a fevered, and sometimes queasy, energy.”
Throughout this collection, the throb of the city is palpable, and the harsh glow of a ceiling strip light is elevated to something of beauty, as opposed to utilitarian necessity. Meanwhile, his liquid visions of packed nightclubs and underground gigs are filled with a fevered, and sometimes queasy, energy that evokes the spirit of a truly twenty-four-hour city. In the shadowy darkness, you are never entirely sure what or who it is you are looking at. A figure in a cat mask appears as two separate felines, and a single, crowned partier sits on a bench, surrounded by discarded bottles as if the entire celebration simply evaporated.
These are all visions of a city that has, until recently, resisted the high-octane gentrification found in other European locations, but now it would seem that even Berlin cannot escape the wrath of luxury flats and chain coffee stores. Tom Seymour distils the emotion perfectly in his introduction: “Many of the places Reister photographed have already disappeared. A new generation is emerging, one whom never knew the wall and has always known the web. And so the party continues, and long may it last.”
Published by Hoxton Mini PressBUY NOW