Berlin 17: Alexanderplatz

March 18th, 2019

We had to go to the Alexanderplatz, not just because it was only five minutes walk from the flat we were staying in. But also it seemed to be a good place to go to for an ice cream.

Ices were no problem, but otherwise the place was depressing. A wide open space with people lost and wandering, surrounded with architecture largely of little interest.

The only real exception was the Teacher’s House, again architecturally bland, but enlivened by a band of mural with a Mexican feel.

I took far too many pictures of that mural, mainly with the 35mm equiv on the Fuji X100. The light was getting a little low.

To its side was a row of tents, with a rather more  interesting shape.

I moved in closer and angled the camera up

and photographed the other side

and the back.

But it remained an awkward subject, a long thin strip, unsuited to my 1.5:1 aspect ratio.

I stepped back and took a final frame of the whole building then went to photograph the other feature of the area featured in the tourist guides, the World Clock.

I thought it looked more impressive if I combined it with the TV tower, but perhaps this was rather misleading.

and I moved to see it from another viewpoint, before going in closer.


and closer still

Underneath the clock a woman was playing a guitar

And there was a proper clock so I could tell what time it really was.

There were some fountains too, but by now  I was getting hungry and gave up taking photographs.Our walks around Berlin continue in later posts.

Previous Berlin post
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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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Saint Patrick’s People

March 17th, 2019

Just published by Cafe Royal Books is Saint Patrick’s People, with 27 black and white images by John Benton-Harris, from his many years of photographing St Patrick’s Day events in America and Ireland. He has also photographed them extensively in the UK and I’m fairly sure he is out there now in London continuing his work on the subject.

Born in New York, Benton-Harris came to the UK to photograph Churchill’s funeral and has lived here since, contributing greatly to photography in this country, both through his own photography, some of which you can also see in another CRB book, The English, and also as a lecturer and curator.

It was his vision and contacts that lay behind the major Barbican show introducing those who were not long-term readers of Creative Camera (they published his pictures in two features in 1971 and many other now well-known US names) to post-war American photography, ‘American Images – Photography 1945-1980‘ in 1985, though most of the credit went unfairly to his British collaborators, and later shows included the 1986 ‘Let Truth Be the Prejudice‘ and 1989 ‘Through the Looking Glass‘ Photography Art in Britain 1945-1980.

You can see more of John Benton-Harris’s work, both pictures and a little writing on his web site.

Published at the same time on CRB is another fine book, Chris Killip — Huddersfield 1974 and other recent volumes include Wolverhampton 1978 by Chris Steele-Perkins. All worth a trip to your favourite photographic bookshop or you can order them on the web at Cafe Royal Books.

Berlin 16: Around the Spree

March 16th, 2019

I took a few more pictures, mainly of the Spree Canal and the River Spree as we walked around Fischerinsel and made our way back towards the flat. Above is Grünstrassenbrücke.

This is I think the view towards Roßstraßenbrücke from Grünstraßenbrücke, originally the site of another early wooden bascule bridge across the Spree Canal with a 7m wide opening for boats, certainly present in the 18th century. In 1904-5 the rather delicate lifting bridge then in place was replaced by a solid stone bridge designed by Berlin architect Richard Wolffenstein and decorated with reliefs by sculptor Ernst Westphal. The bridge was blown up by the the  German Wehrmacht in 1945, and reconstructed by the East Berlin authorities in 1951, with further restoration after unification in 1994-5.

Along the bank of the Spree Canal is Märkisches Ufer, rebuilt by the East German regime in the 1960s using various buildings from elsewhere in the city.

At right is the Ermelerhaus on Märkisches Ufer, orignally built in the 17th century at Breite Strasse but taken down and rebuilt here in the 1960s. It was named after Ferdinand-Wilhelm Ermeler, the co-founder of the tobacco industry in Berlin, who purchased the house in 1824.  The building at centre has the dates 1740 and 1969 above the door and was taken down and rebuilt here from the Friedrichsgracht. The rather ornate building at left dates from 1890, and has an interesting doorway supported by two young topless maidens (they are also bottomless, as their bodies end around waist level); it once housed a bath house.

I think this is a school building on Fischerinsel.

The moorings here at Märkisches Ufer houuse a collection of historic vessels.

Lions beside the Spree outside a cafe on Spreeufer.

The Spree and Berlin Cathedral from Spreeufer.

This large and impressive statue of St George slaying the Dragon by August Kiss was made for the courtyard of the  Hof des Stadtschlosses in 1853; when the East German government demolished this in the 1950s it was moved  to the Volkspark Friedrichshain. It is now on the banks of the Spree in the recreated Nikolai quarter. It went missing in 2010, taken away for extensive restoration at a cost of 120,000 € and had only recently been returned to its plinth (with a 3-day festival) when I took a series of pictures.

The Kurfürstenhaus (Prince-elector’s House) on Spreeufer is the home of the Stiftung der Deutschen Wirtschaft (German Business Foundation.) It was built in 1895 to 1896 for wool merchant Gustav Ebell by architect Carl Gause.

Elector Johann Sigismund (1572-1619), Elector of Brandenburg from 1608 to 1619, fled to this site from the Berlin Palace convinced that the ‘White Woman’ announcing death haunted his castle; he died here a few days later.  The figure in the picture is thought to be his wife, Duchess Anna of Prussia and Jülich-Cleves-Berg, apparently a temperamental and strong-willed woman who undermined his reputation by throwing plates at glasses at his head when he was drunk.

Our walks around Berlin continue in later posts.

Previous Berlin post

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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Berlin 15: St. Marienkirche & some bridges

March 15th, 2019

After paying our respects to Marx and Engels we headed for a church. There was a large one just across the river,  the Berlin Cathedral Church – Berliner Dom, but we spurned that in favour of the Protestant Evangelical St. Marienkirche further north on Karl-Liebknecht-Str.  Although it dates back in part 700 years, and is one of the two oldest churchis in Berlin there was extensive rebuilding in the nineteenth century. It was also very badly damaged in the war, and was rebuilt by the East German authorities in the 1950s.

My pictures give an impression of the interior, but don’t show the main reason it is worth visiting, for its art collection, which includes the 22m long 22m long ‘Totentanz’ (Dance of Death)  medieval wall painting from around 1420.

Close to the church is the Neptunbrunnen fountain with the Roman God in the middle and 4 women depicting the 4 main rivers of Prussia around the edge of the pool; behind it you can see the imposing town hall from 1869, the Rotes Rathaus.

The bronze Bronze ‘ Die Allegorie der Wissenschaft ‘ (The Allegory of Science), a man holding an open book and a globe by Albert Wolff is in front of the Nikolaikirche. It was one of the statues around his 1871 monument to King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The king was melted down as a part of the war effort in 1944, but this and another of the figures from around it survive in the church garden.

Ephraim-Palais museum in Poststrasse; we admired its steps and elegant facade but didn’t go in.  Originally built in 1766, it was destroyed by the Nazis in 1936, but many of the sculptures and details were kept in store, and the building was reconstructed by East Germany in 1985.

Looking north along the Spree.


Further across the bridge we could see Berlin Cathedral.

The Jungfernbrücke (Maidens bridge) on Friedrichsgracht. A wooden drawbridge was first built here across the Spree Canal (furthr north called the Kupfergraben) around 1688-9 and was replaced by a wood and iron bridge similar to the current bridge in 1798. There were once nine bridges like this. The canal was widened and the bridge extended in 1939, and has undergone several renovations in 1954, 1967 and 1979. The oldest bridge in Berlin, the origin of its name is uncertain, but possibly refers to a nearby shop run by two French women.

We wandered around a bit, looking at buildings and shop windows, including this one for wedding dresses.

A fine building on the corner by the old bridge on Gertraudenstrasse, the Jewel House built in 1896-8  at huge expense for the gold merchant Wilhelm Müller. It has also over the years housed a clothing store, a music publisher, the offices of the German Gymnastics and Sports Federation and many other things including a wedding shop, still present on the ground floor. The building was extensively renovated in 2002. I took several pictures in the area but will spare you the rest. A bridge is supposed to have existed here since the 13th century but only got its present name after the hospital and the chapel of Saint Gertrude was built next to it in the 15th century. In 1739 it was replaced by a wooden lifting bridge which in turn was replace by the current stone Gertraudenbrücke in 1896.  There is now an adjacent modern rather plain steel bridge which carries the traffic and the old one is a historical monument.

This statue by Rudolf Siemering (1896) at the centre of the old Gertraudenbrücke shows St Gertrude. There are at least two St Gertrudes who are often confused. St Gerturde the Great, (1256-1302) was  a German Benedictine nun, mystic, and theologian who wrote many books and was an early devotee of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. and is often thought to be the subejct of this sculpture. But it was St Gertrude of of Nivelles, a 7th century Belgian abbess who was venerated as a protector against mice and rats at the time of the Black Death in the 15th century (she was said to have banished them with a prayer), and those at the base of the statue have been rubbed shiny by people touching for protection and good luck.  Long a patron saint of travellers she has in recent years also been adopted at the patron saint of cats. The bridge got its name form a nearby convent of St Gerturde, though I don’t know which one.

The statue was saved from being melted down in the Second World War as it was hidden by  the brass founder, but it disappeared mysteriously in 2017 according to newspaper reports, but was officially taken away for the restoration of the bridge. It had not been replaced by June 2018.

Our walks around Berlin continue in later posts.

Previous Berlin post
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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

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Shame on Debenhams

March 14th, 2019

It was rapidly approaching the time of year when most sentient activities close down for the holidays. For what used to be Christmas but has now developed into a rahter longer holiday apparently stretching for most until some time in the New Year. Except of course for people who work in shops, who endure the last minute rush to get provisions and presents and then return for the frenzy of the Boxing Day and New Year sales.

Unsung and under-appreciated among these workers are the cleaners, who keep the shops fit to shop in. Most of them come from London’s migrant communities, and many work for wages that keep them in poverty and working conditions that are shameful. Some employers event try to withold or evade the statutory minimums, and arbitrary and repressive management with disregard for worker’s health and safety seems to be  more or less routine.

With a few honorable exceptions, mainly down to union activists in particular branches, the problems of these low paid migrant workers have tended to be ignored by the larger established trade unions. Low paid workers who joined them  too often found the people who were meant to represent them had little interest in those at the bottom in organisations and were more concerned with keeping differentials and promoting the cause of the better paid – and left to set up their own grass roots unions.


A passing bus has a suitable message; cleaners want to be recognised and treated with dignity and respect

I’ve photographed a number of actions by these unions over the years and almost all have ended with significant gains for the workers, both in terms of pay and conditions. The difference between the current minimum wage (the Government misleadingly call the minimum rate for over 25s the ‘National Living Wage’, though it is well under the  UK Living Wage) of £7.83 and the London Living Wage, currently £10.55 per hour is a huge one for low paid workers, perhaps best appreciated by the calculation that to earn the minimum the Living Wage Foundation calculates is needed to live in London at the lower rate would mean a worker doing an extra 14 hours on top of their 40 hour working week.

For some, getting the higher rate means they can afford to travel to work by tube instead of by bus, and for those who can only afford rents in the outer areas but work in the city centre this may cut travel times to and from work by a couple of hours each day. Buses are cheap but longer journeys can take an age.

Like many companies, Debenhams does not directly employ the workers who clean its shops. It saves money by paying another company, Interserve, to employ them. Interserve cuts costs by paying low wages, giving them the minimum conditions of service, and increasing workloads to an intolerable extent, employing them under conditions that a more responsible company like Debenhams would be ashamed to offer.

Back in May 2018, the workers asked Interserve to pay them the London Living Wage, but the company have refused to discuss the situation, saying that it will not recognise the trade union, CAIWU, the Cleaners and Allied Independent Workers Union that the cleaners belong to.  So today the workers were on strike, protesting on the pavement outside the Oxford Street store along with other CAIWU members and trade unionists, making a great deal of noise, dancing to Latin-American music, making short speeches about why they were on strike and handing out leaflets to the passing shoppers. Those who stopped to find out what the dispute was about almost all expressed their support, and some stopped for a few minutes to join in the dancing.

Debenhams so far have I think said the cleaners pay and conditions are nothing to do with them. They claim to have no responsiblity for this people who work in their store. But usually in disputes like these once the shop’s operations are disrupted they start to take an interest and put pressure on the outsourcing company, even if only behind the scenes, and a succesful conclusion is reached.

Unfortunately with some workplaces, the gains made are only temporary. Outsourcing contracts come to an end and a new round of bidding leads to a new employer whose low bid (and shareholder profits) again depends on screwing the workers, either by reneging on the earlier settlements or by cutting the number of workers, increasing their workloads.  The only real solution is to end out-sourcing, something which various Labour shadow ministers have promised they will do when they get into office.

More pictures at Debenhams Pay Your Cleaners

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

BBC and Climate Crisis

March 13th, 2019

I used to think the BBC was a fine example of broadcasting, and in some ways it still is, with some excellent reporters around the world, and programmes on radio and TV with high production levels. But in recent years I’ve been very disappointed, even apalled, at a general failure to address some important issue, and with a consistent bias in favour of the status quo and the upholding of some widely held but cleary fallacious views. And with its often slavish following of what our overwhemling right-wing press decides is news and what the view on it should be, most evident in recent years over its assault on Jeremy Corbyn. Academic studies have confirmed the anecdotal impression that his views and actions have been consistently misrepresented, often even falsified.

The BBC employs people who mainly come from a limited section of society; middle-class, university educated, well-off and conservative with a small c – and for its political commentators, usually with a large C too. The board that oversees it comes from the same type of people, part of a metropolitan elite. Perhaps we need quotas to slim out the Oxbridge and Eton mobs and other over-represented groups.

Perhaps most damning has been its failure to properly address the crisis of climate change, potentially the most disastrous issue we all face (though too many still have their backs turned), with the potential to make our own species extinct, along with most others. While the BBC hasn’t entirely ignored it, it has generally failed to recognise the huge amount of sceintific interest and studies, and has often given the views of fossil fuel investors and the flat-earthers of climate studies the same importance as those of climate scientists in the pursuit of a false impartiality.

Climate campaigners from Extinction Rebellion came to protest at the BBC calling it to stop ignoring the climate emergency & mass extinctions of species already taking place and to end its promotion of destructive high-carbon living through programmes such as Top Gear and those on fashion, travel, makeovers etc. Virtually every programme the BBC broadcasts displays a high resource high pollution lifestyle as the norm and is an aspiration for the great majority of viewers in the UK to live beyond their means and well beyond what our planet can support for the great majority of its population.

I’m not sure we can expect TV ever to come real. I gave up regular watching of television back in 1968 for variouis reasons, largely because I saw the time sitting in front a screen as preventing me from doing things I felt both more interesting and more important – like forming and illustrating my own view of the world. It seemed to me to be too passive, allowing others to write my agenda and discouraging of critical thought. And while there have been programmes since which I have watched and admired, the great mass of output from the BBC and commercial channels which I’ve occasionally and rather randomly seen since have fairly definitively confirmed my views.

Every time I’ve come awake in a hotel room to TV’s breakfast shows I ask myself ‘How can anyone watch this drivel?’ which makes even Radio 4’s often infuriating Today programme seem remarkably adult. We truly need a cultural revolution, and I don’t mean red books and Chairman Mao.

The protest outside the BBC was organised by the Climate Media Coalition (CMC) and its director Donnachadh McCarthy; they brought mannequins wrapped in white cloth to the BBC representing the bodies of a Greek village killed by fire, increasingly common as global warming brings higher temperatures and greater instability to the world’s weather systems.

It was a protest directed both at the BBC to live up to the terms of its charter and agreement, and to the mass media in general to wake up and realise and report the real problems the planet faces. We don’t need to know celebrity trivia but we do need to have a future for life on Earth, both human life and that of other species. The current extinction rate from man-made causes, according to the WWF “is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate,” and is rapidly increasing.

Taking place on their doorstep – and with crowds and security barriers through which those working at the BBC had to cross and a volume of noise that they could not ignore even though they chose as usual not to report it, following their policy of not reporting dissent unless it fits a particular agenda (or involves one of their favourite celebrities, political or otherwise) and above all of not rocking the boat.

You can read more about it and see the pictures at Extinction Rebellion at the BBC.

Unfortunately I missed the most newsworthy part of the action, as when the protest organiser deliberately got himself arrested climbing over the barriers I was making pictures at the barrier on the other side of the plaza.

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

________________________________________________________

Yellow Pests – and Soubry

March 12th, 2019

After the protesters in yellow hi-viz jackets had spent some time harassing SODEM and the police on duty in Old Palace Yard, opposite the House of Lords, they moved off to protest outside the vehicle entrance in front of the House of Commons

By now the other photographers who had been photographing the harassment had walked away to file their pictures, but I’d stayed on, wondering if there might be other things happening, and went over to photograph the protesters crowding around and blocking the vehicle entrance, with police trying to clear them to one side. In the crowd watching them there I met an oddly dressed youngish man with CHristmas Pudding glasses who I photographed and exchanged a few words with; I couldn’t disagree with his assessment of the protesters as nutters.

I went back briefly to Old Palace Yard and photographed him rather better as he came to talk with Steven Bray of SODEM, and was filmed by a two man camera team who were accompanying him. I’ve no idea who he was, perhaps a vlogger (perhaps someone will enlighten me), but was amused by his appearance, and when I saw him going with his team to photograph the yellow jacketed protesters who were now outside the public entrance to Parliament, I followed to watch.

The protesters were upset that they were not being allowed into Parliament and complaining loudly, though

Filmed by his crew he did a rather jokey kind of interview, to which they responded fairly warmly. At the end I heard him say to his crew how relieved he was that was over, and was going to talk with him when I heard one of the men in yellow vests point out Ann Soubry, who was talking to a couple of people a few yards away and as the people she was talking left, he up to her and started accusing her loudly over her opposition to Brexit.

She obviously recognised him, calling him by his name ‘James’ (which I remembered wrongly) and then turned and walked away, with him and 3 or 4 others following. It wasn’t easy to keep in a position where I could keep her in view as apart from the small group following her, and by now shouting at her, there were other people around in a fairly restricted space. A couple of the protesters were also filming her on their phones and did rather get in my way.

As she got close to a police officer she stopped and turned loudly towards the protesters shouting that she would not be called a ‘f**king traitor’ and that that was an offence, then calling over the officer to assist her. He seemed to come rather slowly and reluctantly.

The argument continued with the protesters getting close to her and filming her and continuing to accuse her of betraying them over Brexit.

Eventually a police officer did come around to our side ot the barriers and she was escorted away, but no action was taken against the protesters. I was rather surprised at what seemed their lack of interest in what was going on. Perhaps they felt, as I admit I did, that the MP was rather playing up the incident for publicity. It was no more serious than the behaviour of these protesters earlier against Steve Bray and SODEM, if anything rather less threatening.

Later Ms Soubry raised the harassment with the Speaker of the House of Commons. I’d realised when taking the pictures of the incident that, apart from the protesters I was the only person with pictures of it, and that it was the kind of fairly trivial incident that could be excite the media that has little interest in real news. I rushed home to be rather faster than usual to get the pictures into the agency and was pleased to see one of my pictures used in several newspapers.

More at
Extremist Brexiteers at parliament
Anna Soubry MP harassed by extremists

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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Berlin 14: Women’s protest, Marx & Engels

March 11th, 2019

Perhaps the most moving of all Berlin’s memorials about the Nazi period is in Rosenstrasse, a sculptural ensemble commemorating the week of protests in 1943 by around 600 German women, wives and mothers of Jewish men, to have the men released by the Gestapo.

It was a desperate and brave protest, one of very few by German civilians against the Nazi authorities, and those women taking part risked their lives to get their men released. Their action saved the lives of the men, and many managed to live until the end of the war. The women’s protest was peaceful and surprisingly none of those involved were punished.

The group of red stone blocks by sculptor Ingeborg Huntzinger (1915-2009) is close to the site of the former Jewish Welfare Administration building where the men were held prisoner, and has an inscription:

1943
Die Kraft des zivilen Ungehorsams
die Kraft der Liebe
bezwingen die Gewalt der Diktatur

Gebt uns unsere Männer wieder
Frauen standen hier
Tod besiegen
Jüdische Männer waren frei

[1943
The power of civil disobidience
the power of love
overcomes the violence of dictatorship

Give us our men again
Women stood here
to overcome Death
Jewish men were free]

Also as a memorial to the event are two 1930s style advertising columns (Litfass columns) with text and photographs giving details about the women’s protest.

Huntziger designed the Rosenstrasse memorial in the 1980s, but the GDR had no interest in a memorial about the event, and it was only after the unification of Germany that in 1995 it was erected following a vote by the new Berlin senate. It is a work which powerfully expresses the desperation of the situation, the determination of the women and the anger of the sculptor at the violence of the Nazi regime. The protest took place during the final roundup of Berlin’s Jews by the Gestapo and SS at the end of February 1943, and though the bravery of the women’s protest saved their men, around 6,000 other Jews were deported.

A short distance away was something which rather lightened our mood, a Berlin Bear, the second of these large decorated figures we had met – later we were to find many more.

The area to the east of Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse near the centre of Berlin was heavily bombed in 1944/5 and parts more or less reduced to rubble. In 1977 a part of the area was redeveloped as a wooded park, the Marx-Engels Forum, a tribute to Marx and Engels with a larger than life bronze of the two men at its centre by Ludwig Engelhardt, (1924-2001), the overall designer of the project. It was finally completed in 1986. After reunification the sculpture became controversial, with many wanting its removal, but it was kept for its artistic and historical significance.

When we were there the sculpture had been removed from the centre of the forum to a wooded corner, possibly for the building of a new underground line, but perhaps as a more convenient down-playing of a period of history many want forgotten. It no longer dominates the area as it was planned to do.

Although some dislike it, and it does seem to be a rather hidden in most of the tourist web sites, and rather denigrated in the guides it remains a popular tourist attraction, with parts polished to a shine by people climbing up on it to have their photographs taken. The statues – Marx seated and Engels standing  – are at ground level, enabling interaction with the people, and appear very successful in that respect. While Socialist Realism may not be to everyone’s taste, they seem to be a very succesful example of it, and considerably better than most late 20th public statues for example those in our own Parliament Square in London.

Marx and Engels are not isolated, both interacting with the public and part of an ensemble of other sculptural works, with two double-sided bronze panels depicting the struggle of humanity to emerge into the bright new world of communism, ‘Die Würde und Schönheit freier Menschen’ (The Dignity and Beauty of Free People)
1985-1986 by Margret Middell (b.1940).


The five panel marble relief “Alte Welt” (Old World) (1985) by Werner Stötzer (1931-2010) forms a backdrop to the two figures.  Also in the ensemble but not in my pictures are are four tall slim double-sided stainless steel columns (stelae) engraved with 144 small photographs illustrating ‘Der weltrevolutionäre Prozess seit Karl Marx und Friedrich Engels bis in die Gegenwart’ (The World Revolutionary Process, from Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to the Present), a team effort led by Arno Fischer and Peter Voigt, with Friedrich Nostritz creating the stelae and Norbert Blum, Jürgen Frenkel and Hans Gutheil the photographic etchings.

Our walks around Berlin continue in later posts.

Previous Berlin post
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There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

To order prints or reproduce images

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Blind Spot for Pictorialism?

March 10th, 2019

Andy Romanoff‘s article,  ‘Even Ansel Adams Had a Blind Spot‘ looks at the continuation of pictorialism in photography after the emergence of straight photography around 1920, which he says ““disappeared” some very important and wonderful photographers from the history of photography“, chief among them William Mortensen and his ‘disciple’ Robert Balcomb.

While it’s true that Mortensen gets little mention in most histories of photography, the contention that Pictorialism is neglected is certainly untrue. Nor was Mortensen really forgotten, but perhaps for good reason ignored. I have a copy of ‘The New Projection Control‘ by William Mortensen, which by 1945 was in its third edition and third printing, one of 8 books by Mortensen then on sale, and when I joined a photographic club in the mid-1970s the great majority or work on display there and in the international salons could stil broadly be described as Pictorialism, still alive if not particularly well.

Although Mortensen was undoubtedly a great technician this did not make him into a particularly interesting photographer, and as Romanoff states:

“In retrospect, although Mortensen’s subject matter was often grotesque and sometimes fell into the kitschy, his mastery of craft was and is astounding. Most people seeing a Mortensen print for the first time find it hard to believe it is a photograph.”

Pictorialism had its great heyday in the years around 1900, and in particular under the curation of Alfred Stieglitz, who established an international movement called the the Photo-Secession and published his magnificently produced Camera Work, from 1903-1917. It is a movement and an age which gets extensively and sympathetically treated by Beaumont Newhall (and I think Ansel Adams) and others in their histories of photography. Perhaps suprisingly Stieglitz doesn’t get a mention in Romanoff’s post, though Edward Steichen, who designed the cover for Camera Work does. It could perhaps be described as a movement which attempted to legitimise photography as art by showing it could produce images that mimicked those produced by accepted artistic printing printing processes using only the manual skills of artists, and which concentrated on the qualities and surface of the print, often involving considerable manual intervention in its production. The object was perhaps to make it hard for people ‘to believe it is a photograph.’

Romanoff’s list of photographers who began as pictorialists but moved on to straight photography is short, and perhaps significantly omits the names of some of its greatest exponents, notably both Paul Strand and Edward Weston. These and others wanted to make work that was purely photographic, some thinking that this was how photography could truly become art, while others felt that photography was a development of the modern age, a replacement, a kind of post-art.  They certainly wanted ot make photographs that really did look like photographs.

Weston’s own struggles with the impact of modernism on photography have been extensively documented by himself and others. His work, and that of other straight photographers, both in the USA and in Europe and elsewhere was new and exciting, while pictorialism remained producing the same old tropes but with less and less creativity.

I’m not a huge fan of Ansel Adams either, but again – as with Mortensen – there is no denying his technical mastery, again encapsulated in his books. His Basic Photo Series, though by then somewhat out of date (and later editions were never quite as good), was the foundation for my own technical education in the medium, though it never led me to try and remake my version of “Moonrise Hernandez, New Mexico.”

To some extent the illustrations to Romanoff’s article speak for themselves. William Porterfield‘s image was made during the heyday of pictorialism and neglected only because it isn’t a particularly interesting picture, and the four later examples do little for me. Mortensen (as did Adams) provided the images for  ‘The New Projection Control’, and a pretty dire collection they are, with the before ‘straight’ version he prints of some images often seeming to me very much preferable to his variously pimped version.

I guess it is a matter of taste, and as Mortensen says in his concluding chapter, “Unhappily, there is no known method of teaching taste, good sense and discretion. To such readers as lack these valuable qualities this book will merely discover new ways of making bad pictures.” And it did in spades. As he continues, “Babies will be butchered and ingenues outraged in the name of Projection Control“. And pictorialism.

Berlin 13: Old Garrison Cemetery

March 9th, 2019

Alter Berliner Garnisonfriedhof, the listed  Old Garrison Cemetery on  the Kleine Rosenthaler Strasse at the corner of Linienstrasse is one of the oldest burial grounds in Berlin, founded around 1706, although I think the oldest graves still here date from the early 19th century.


Wilhelm Alfred von Buddenbrock (1796-1863) and his wife Julie (1796-1872)
The name is a variant of Buddenbrook, a common North German name used by Thomas Mann.

Initially it was only used for the burial of sodiers from regiments actually quartered in the city, but from 1804 burials were allowed for all regiments stationed in Berlin. The cemetery was much larger, and was in two distinct parts, the larger for men and this remaining smaller part for officers.

While most of Berlin’s cemeteries were relocated to the suburbs, this continued in use with burials up to the end of the Second World War. As well as for officers, war victims were also buried in it, including some in mass graves.  The cemetery was finally closed for burials in 1951, though some later burials took place in family graves.  At the insistence of the Institute for Preservation of Monuments and the Cultural League of the GDR the cemetery became a public park and many of the existing 489 graves were levelled, leaving only around 180 standing.

Most of the 180 which remain date from the first half on the 19th century, and are of historic interest with some fine iron castings with clear details and lettering.  There are also some fine examples of later romantic, neo-gothic and art nouveau work and some which are just plain curious.


Gustav Adolf Zeigler (1808=82)


Leutnant Curt Kruge (1889-1914)


One of several mass graves with a long list of names ending with 195 Unknown, all killed in 1945


Monument to the victims of Berlin street fights in spring 1945


An unusual cast zinc monument for Ernst Ludwig von Tippelskirch (1774-1840)

It was time for lunch and I made my way back to our flat in Rosa Luxemburg Strasse.

More from my walk around Berlin to follow shortly.

Previous Berlin post
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