Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Up Against the Berlin Wall

My first sighting of the Berlin Wall was from the East German Reichsbahn train as it crept towards the city through the former German Democratic Republic. It was 1982 and I was 17-years-old.

I was in transit through the GDR from Holland and as we stopped at the border crossing, I thumbed my passport nervously. Getting from West Germany to East Germany required passes, visas and stamps, followed by questions and examination of luggage and personal belongings. From the time the Wall was built in 1961 until it was torn down by the citizens of both sides of the divided city, getting into West Berlin was not easy.

Over the following three decades I became fascinated by the structure which came to symbolise the Cold War division of post-World War II Europe. I made successive trips to the city, often crossing over from the western sector to the east. When the Wall finally came down, I became equally fascinated by its legacy: the destruction of the barrier and what sprang up in its place. In some locations, development was almost instantaneous. In other, outlying areas of the city, it took years before almost every trace of the course of the Wall was eradicated. Today, the Wall is represented by the Mauerweg, a tarmacked trail which brings the visitor into collision with the city’s turbulent past.

These photographs represent some of the images I made along the Berlin Wall during a decade from 1985. I wasn’t present in the city during the dramatic and well-documented events of November 1989. But my interest in the city and the Wall has continued long after the chisels and bulldozers fell silent and the city was re-united.

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2 Responses to “Up Against the Berlin Wall”

  1. Alex Anderson

    Phenomenal gallery. Been to Berlin only for two separate week-long holidays – 2003 and 2009. Absolutely loved it. A momentous place. And so much more chilled than other parts of the country. But looking at these pictures of Potsdamer Platz and comparing them to how it looked when I visited, it’s clear I was already getting a very watered-down, touristic version. And that’s what I deserved when expecting a city that’s been through so much to make me feel as if I was in a Wim Wenders film. Would go back to Berlin tomorrow – but I wish I’d been there when these photographs were taken. Brilliant.

    Reply
  2. Colin McPherson

    Many thanks for your kind comment, Alex. Despite my family connections I don’t get to go back very often now. It’s an ever-changing and vibrant city, a place I feel very much at home in whenever I go.

    Reply

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