Having lived in Berlin for three years now, I still haven´t decided wether I have fallen in love with this city or not. So I recently stumled over Pieces of Berlin – a project done by Florian Reischauer, a Berlin based Austrian photographer – where he shows the daily life of this changing city, snapping sometimes unnoticed locations and details and different people on the street provided with witty, thought-provoking anecdotes. “I am not just looking for the fancy ones, or only for the Urberliner. Everybody who is living in Berlin is a piece of the whole city, everybody is the same and creating the city in its way.” To me he creates a magical urge to go out and explore the city on your own, I was really intrigued by his work and it made me kind of fall in love with Berlin…
I think Pieces of Berlin is such a wonderful and cool project. And it was most enjoyable for me to read your little texts about the people you photograph. How do most people here in Berlin react when you approach them to ask if you can take a picture?
All in all I would say that half of the people I ask are willing to have a photo of them taken and to have a little chat. Most of the people are curious and just say, “let’s go for it” – but of course it always depends on the person itself, or if she or he is in a hurry. Some Berliner´s start telling you their whole life, especially older women. They give you the feeling that they really appreciate that a young person is taking some time and is interested in them, in their life and their stories. Only one person, out of maybe thousands I asked, was rude…like “piss off”.
I am sure you have a lot of stories to tell about people. Is there any really funny anecdote that you can tell us?
Getting to know Bine for example was hilarious. She nearly freaked out, she was so excited about telling me how much she loves Berlin! She was full of energy, lovely, and she introduced me into real Berlin humour.
How do you choose the people you approach – do you go for specific features or you just go with your feeling?
There are no specific features I go for. The only thing which is important for me when choosing people is that I take photos of half of women, half of men. The goal of the project is to show the daily life of whole Berlin, so I try to go to every Kiez and ask people. I am not looking just for the fancy ones, or only for the Urberliner. Everybody who is living in Berlin is a piece of the whole city, everybody is the same and creating the city in its way.
So your project is about showing the colourful going-ons in the city and about its change- what has changed since you first moved here? What were your expectations to the city before you came and what is your picture of it now?
I came to Berlin in 2007, and although that’s a short period I have seen Berlin changing a lot, unfortunately in a bad way I think. Gentrification is a big topic these days. Rents are rising like hell, living is getting more and more expensive. Berlin is in danger of becoming a normal, boring city. It’s a place where everybody can find his or her place and there’s a lot of alternative lifestyle like Wagenburgen or squats. These things are disappearing more and more. The city tries to sell off every free space and make money out of it. That makes me sad. Besides showing Berliner´s, and their ideas, opinions about their city, it’s important for me to document those changes.
And what do you like most about Berlin?
I love many things about Berlin. For example every Kiez is kind of different, has a different charm, atmosphere and demography. It feels like Berlin is a conglomerate of many, many little villages which form a metropole. Berlin is very spacious and green, you can find a lot of parks in the city but plenty of urban wastelands too, which I love, though these are critically endangered. Of course the people are one of my favourite thing too. The whole world is gathered in Berlin, it’s great!
You also have extended this project to images taken of people in London, Vienna, Geneva, California and even Senegal – also showing images of people and telling a bit about their life and what they think of Berlin – how was the reaction of people in each place? Could you feel a difference in attitudes such as politeness, suspicion, friendliness etc?
Actually there haven’t been big differences. Everywhere you can find friendly or open-minded people who will be into it. So in all that places it worked out. The only thing that maybe I can mention or that was more complicated than somewhere else, was in Senegal to find women willing to have their photo taken.
As the Dalai Lama would say: “The essence of all humans is the same” Is that also something that you want to show with Pieces in Berlin?
I am not so into religiouse leaders hehe, but yes u can say so. And as I said before, for me everybody who is living here is the same and a part, a “piece”. All together we form the place we are living in.
5 things you cannot live without?
family and friends, photography, Berlin, beer and unfortunately I think my laptop…
Your philosophy in life is?
Ehm, I think I hate questions like this, and I don’t have a monumental quote I am living for. I think I dig stuff like “to live and let live”.
All images by Florian Reischauer