Cold War Stories & The Berlin Wall | Germany 1980s

Rotgerberstrasse, Greifswald
East Germany
1987

 

Architecture Photographer Robert Conrad/Albumen Gallery is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.

To see Albumen Gallery online exhibition ‘Memories of the Wall’ featuring photos by Robert, click on any photograph.

 

Corner of Saarbrücker Strasse and Straßburger Strasse
East Berlin
1985

 

Corner of Stargarder Strasse and Dunckerstrasse
1988

 

Petrol station in courtyard on Kastanienallee
East Berlin
1984

 

Fischstrasse, Greifswald
East Germany
1986

 

 

Albumen Gallery / Robert Conrad

online exhibition ‘Memories of the Wall

 

Death strip with watchtower on Hänselstrasse in Treptow (East-Berlin), on the background apartment buildings on Gretelstrasse in Neukölln (West-Berlin),
1989

 

30 years ago on November 9th the Berlin Wall came down – an event which rang in the end of the East German communist GDR, led to the reunification of German and – above all – marked the end of the Cold War.

From the late 80s and 1990 Robert Conrad extensively photographed the Berlin Wall. In the broadest – bordering on the cynical – sense, the Wall, a brutal manifestation of urban architecture, conformed to Conrad’s chosen field of architecture photography.

Conrad’s undertaking to document the Wall carried considerable personal risk. In order to get close to a chosen location he would illegally enter abandoned buildings adjacent to the Wall and the death strip. Capture by the GDR border police would have invariably led to a lengthy prison sentence.

Uniquely, ‘Memories of the Wall’ will revisit and explore the most memorable symbol of the Cold War not only above but also below ground by incorporating Conrad’ photos of the so called Berlin ghost stations.

After the war the Berlin underground U-Bahn and S-Bahn was run by West Berlin and only served West Berlin.

Trains didn’t stop at stations that were situated under East Berlin territory and those stations were simply sealed off at the time when the division of Berlin was completed with the Wall above ground.  Heavily patrolled by East German border police the mothballed stations served the same purpose as the Wall above ground.

Robert Conrad’s photos are a haunting expression of architecture deployed by an authoritative state to divide, isolate and suppress. 30 years after they were taken Robert Conrad’s photos don’t just take us back to  a momentous episode of 20th century history. They also take on an awkward topicality at a time when across the Western world the post war liberal values we have grown up with are increasingly undermined and called into question by populist movements at both ends of the political spectrum.

 

 

Lottumstrasse, East
Berlin
1987

 

Window in Rotgerberstrasse, Greifswald
East Germany
1984

 

Pfefferberg Nr. 3 on Schönhauser Allee
East Berlin
1986

 

Courtyard in Buchholzer Strasse
East Berlin
1987

 

Feldstrasse, Greifswald
East Germany
1988

 

Artist Statement

My interest in photography was influenced and shaped by growing up in the authoritarian socialist  GDR, and a passion for architecture.  Concern for neglected historical architecture and a growing regime critical attitude coalesced and found expression in photography.

In the 80s the medieval centre of my hometown, the Hanse Town Greifswald was destroyed through extensive deconstruction. I started using the camera to document old buildings. Photographing old buildings became a mission to at least pass on two-dimensional representations of the lost architecture. The camera became an instrument of protest against the irreplaceable loss of  historical town centres.

These photographic activities were seen as unwelcome and regime critical and consequently the authorities systematically barred me from going to university. Eventually, after the collapse of the GDR I studied architecture at Berlin University.

For me, photographing buildings isn’t merely an exercise of aesthetic expression or visual documentation of architects’ work. Particularly, photographing historical public buildings, industrial or military installations that may have outlived their purpose is a form of reflection on how we deal with the past in the context of our time and the future.  Questions of state security, surveillance and prosecution of suspected criminals are as relevant for democracy today as ever – particularly in our time of international terrorism and big data.

For me, photography becomes a tool for ‘forensic observation’. It is more about changing political and aesthetic perspectives than one-dimensional positions on ‘Good’ or ‘Evil’. But looking at the recurring images of walls, barriers, checkpoints, prisons and army barracks I realise of course that there is a general message that I would like to convey; and that is: People, appreciate that many types of state repression are a thing of the past and that the barriers are gone! Protect this hard won freedom; maintain solidarity and keep a critical watch on governments – in Europe and all over the world!

 

All images © Robert Conrad

 

 

 

Memories of the Wall

Book By Robert Conrad

 

 

 

 

Edge of Humanity Magazine is an independent nondiscriminatory platform that has no religious, political, financial, or social affiliations.

We are committed to publishing the human condition, the raw diverse global entanglement, with total impartiality.

 

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