Plain City

Photographs of Berlin

Plain City is an attempt to keep hold of something, to retain or preserve a particular vision of Berlin, whose only constant is constant change. Berlin today is deemed the trendsetting city in Europe. Due to clever marketing and low-budget airlines, it is known around the world as “the place to be.” As someone who was born in Berlin, I find it difficult to keep pace emotionally as the city reinvents itself with dizzying speed. I often have the feeling that my own city doesn’t belong to me anymore, but to the forces of the global economy. When photographing Berlin, I am constantly trying to scrutinize and to challenge the popular image of the city. I explore the town beyond the facade, delve into the deeper layers of the metropolis.

Since 2006 I have wandered Berlin with a large format camera, always during the weekend, always at dawn. The reason for getting up that early: the emptiness. Reducing the city to its plain, naked existence is for me a way to approach the essence of the place. Although the streets are devoid of people, traces of everyday life and activity are found everywhere. In the sallow morning light, Berlin’s makeup seems about to crumble, and a transformation happens: things, buildings, places you have seen a thousand times before appear strange and new. In a while, nothing will look the same. The urban landscapes in these photographs are mostly places in transition, waiting for their reshaping. This leaves the chance for a sequel: how will these places look in a conceivable future?

Frank Schirrmeister, “Plain City,” Places Journal, November 2010. Accessed 09 Dec 2022.

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Past Discussions View
  • Neysan

    11.11.2010 at 14:20

    Brilliant photos of the constructural scene of Berlin. A city's 'essence' is not its buildings and streets. It's the people that live in the buildings and walk on the streets that make a city (and most definitely Berlin) to be what it is.

  • Sylee

    11.17.2010 at 00:59

    Frank, I'm so grateful to have you capturing the Berlin I love best. This -- "I find it difficult to keep pace emotionally as the city reinvents itself with dizzying speed" -- captures the emotion I've often sought to describe in recent years.