I first wrote and blogged about Berlin two years ago, almost to the day. And as the title reflects, I'm totally in love with the place. And not for it's hipster identity, or its abundance of polaroid camera shops (I couldn't find a flash card anywhere in the area?! Everyone just smiled at me and kindly remarked, "we don't really do that round here") No. I love it because nothing is tidied away, or shined up. Proper pubs in England are increasingly given stone-grey walled makeovers, and a trendy gastro pub menu. But in Berlin, it feels like the city has no need to scrub up, or simplify, or re-hash. Every thing it ever was, is, and might be, is unapologetically present, in thick layers of peeling stickers on lampposts.
And let's talk about the peeling walls of the city. Because during this visit, as these photos will show you, that textural narrative seemed to be the most intoxicating thing to me. Don't get me wrong, the stereotype of taking photographs of graf isn't lost on me. But these images capture a significant moment for me.. We were rushing back from lunch to hunt out more vintage shops (a weakness of mine) and my feet unconsciously walked me off the street, under an archway and into a strange space that opened up between the buildings. The spaces in between are always the most exciting aren't they? The gaps, the crevices, the things that break up uniformity, are often the places where new life grows; even culturally. In this space, the walls chattered away loudly with layers upon layers of graffiti and mural work; some of the pieces were shouty, bold and huge; others were smaller, quieter and more delicate. But the absolute onslaught of creative unrestraint, and the obvious freedom this space gave to creatives, was exciting to stand in.
It felt organic, because it's growth was entirely that. There was no design plan, no specific layout, no division of space, just freedom to add to the visual conversation. It's like my own idea of heaven- though I'm a photographer, I'm not design-based in my discipline. Even as an illustrator, I'm more fluid and un-structured in the way I compose and visualise. Being in spaces which break down the need for design layout and balance, makes me feel... well.. Balanced. I feel like there is no expectation, no specific direction; nowhere you're meant to stand and look, no desired effect. It feels like it pushes you further into the present moment, into a purer experience of the space. It is unapologetic, and it exists proudly whether you like it or not. It doesn't need your approval. And I absolutely love that. It makes me smile just thinking about it. I feel at home.
Part of me wishes I could live in a city like Berlin for a while, just to be closer to that feeling. I adored my years in London, but this atmosphere only exists in tiny pockets there; it is usually select, and normally already warped by commercial interruption and re-appropriation. In London, it often exists in very close proximity to brand.. And I'm not talking about brand names here, I'm talking about the sophisticated development of branding in the UK; the way that even a soap shop has to feel like a perfectly finished branding exercise on Pinterest.. Berlin felt a little less distracted with this. Yes, it was present, just as it should be in any design / creatively-led community, but it wasn't everything.
Sometimes, we can design things too much, especially from behind the camera. For me at least, I feel like my job at weddings is often to create a balance between catching the moment, and partially creating it. But it's sometimes great, to let it all go, and just search for what is already there. Allow something organic to grow up between the gaps of what is expected, let your creativity take a turn into this space and just go with it. Be messy, don't plan, don't design. In effect.. play like you did as a kid. Because this is usually where we are most creative.
I'd like to close with a quote from the incredible, Pablo Picasso. It feels pretty apt...
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”
Want to read Part I of my Berlin love letter? Click here...
Below: A blurry but lovely pic taken by my other half.. Just to ref my #portraitsnotselfies stance. Seemed too app to miss... And btw, you are so much cuter than your profile pic anyway...