Living in Berlin is a unique experience, especially if you’ve made that experience last 37 years.
You get to see changes, and then, just when you think Berlin is again changing, dramatically, you see the veneer of trends that cover the real Berlin with their flimsy net of ideas.
If you are a creative person, a photographer or an artist, the streets of Berlin offers a wide palette of feeling and ideas to begin working your magic.
Berlin has always been a city for creative people. Creativity is the sole reason that Berlin has a place on the world map, the people who populate Berlin have always been aware of the possibilities that Berlin offers an artistic person, whether it be music, painting, photography, or writing – I’m pretty sure there are another half-dozen or so artistic pursuits that I could mention, Berlin is a multifaceted city of people doing things, trying things, and succeeding as much as failing.
Art and creativity are deeply rooted in human need. A city must breathe, and its life blood must always flow for it to be worth living in.
As a photographer and writer, trained as a painter, I can only look at the streets of Berlin with an artist’s eye.
Everything you see on the streets is a part of a big jigsaw puzzle that makes up Berlin city.
If you are living in Berlin, learning about it, the best you could do is get out and walk. Exploring the avenues that always lead to something visually stunning, or odd, or something weird – Berlin has a lot of weird hidden away in dark corners. Its diversity makes it colourful.
Taking Photos on the Streets, and Thinking while Seeing
A photographer can walk and see, take a few photos and then stop and think about the shots. Each shot that you see in the LCD Monitor of your digital camera, prompts a new idea. You walk on and keep looking, looking and feeling is better than just thinking up an idea.
Too much intellectualizing about what you see while out walking can block the creative flow.
Real flow happens when you forget yourself and allow the deeper mind to take over – in a photographer, that requires that you have trust in your own way of seeing.
Take shots that are well balanced with light and darkness, watch for the dark lines that create compositions in the street. They are everywhere, they can be big and overwhelming, difficult to fathom or connect, or they can be small nitty-gritty little corners of Berlin, where you saw something that nobody else noticed. That’s taking photographs on the street, looking for the big obvious things that move too quickly, or seem to be stopped and dead, but aren’t. Your creative mind will find them. trust in your mind and the way you see, forget what the latest gurus said about “how to take photos on the street”, just watch and shoot.
Try and photograph and frame a composition so that when you return home, you won’t have much work to do. Photoshop is a great tool, and highly creative one that all photographers can benefit from, but when you are working with a camera on the street, your camera is the tool and Photoshop is for later in post-processing. This means, don’t shoot and think to yourself that you can be sloppy about how you frame a shot and light a shot. You should work hard and push your mind to work well with the camera that you have in your hand.
One of the most popular places for street photographers to go to in Berlin is Potsdamer Platz. Why?
Potsdamer Platz is an island of activities, it offers a photographer human interest shots mixed with great architecture.
If you visit Potsdamer platz you’ll immediately see the great lines of structures that create wonderful framing opportunities. Shadows that sit like slabs of darkness, brightly lit angles that allow a human body to pass between shadow and light in a step or two, give a photography constant opportunities to practise light and darkness shots that can go to the extremes.
Potsdamer Platz is mainly about shopping and cafes, followed by an evening watching the latest movies, or 3D films and documentaries.
When people go shopping their mood is different to when they are on the way to work. You’ll notice the slow steps of a local Berliner who wants to wander around Potsdamer Platz and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of not being at work. Mix that in with Miss Busy Body who is rushing across the platz to get to work, or a date with coffee and croissants, and you have thge type of action that creates conflicting scenes of human activity. Conflict is good, it creates sparks.
Imagine the face of a person headed to work mixed into a crowd of tourists enjoying themselves on a platz, or crossing a traffic light.
The results can be a lovely look into human emotions, stressed faces mixed with nonchalant, don’t give a care smiles of people chilling out.
When you take photos on the street, it’s up to you what your theme is. You may prefer to look at buildings and architecture, or just individuals moving through the crowds, or really get complex and mix it all up into a statement that confirms your theme or subject.
There’s nothing better than getting home after a few hours shooting a camera on the streets and discovering that, without much conscious thought, you sought out a specific type of person, or type of composition that reflects your ideas about human beings in public places.
Street Photography is an ongoing practice that requires success and failure experiences to get better. A photographer can learn a lot about themself, as well as about taking shots that require quick thinking.