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Hundekopf: Exploring Berlin by Camera

published on 2014-07-24 by Sara
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My own process of photography is simple. I like to walk and take photographs of what I find interesting.

The problem with my method of photography is that unless you approach things in a semi-systematic fashion it is easy to end up walking the same streets repetitively, getting stuck within your own ego/geo-spaces. On the other hand if I am too systematic in the way I approach things – walking carefully through the city in a grid-like fashion – I feel constrained and lose the pleasures that come with a semi-random walk through the city’s back streets.

My own geo-space for Berlin falls to the south-west of the city. I live near the canal in Neukölln, and my psychological boundaries go as far as the top end of Tempelhofer Feld to the south, a much shorter distance just beyond the Ringbahn in the east, all the way to Kottbusser Tor in the West, and down to the banks of the Spree and Treptower Park. Beyond that I have a familiarity with—but am definitely outside ‘home’ territory—for Mitte, for that part of Friedrichshain below Karl-Marx-Allee, and the part of Prenzlauer Berg below the Ring. The west of the city remains foreign territory to me.


Looking at a map of Berlin, it’s clear that my ego-space for the city falls within the SE corner of Ringbahn. So unless I am careful my photowalks could rightly be called the hipster photowalks of the city.

While much of Berlin falls outside the Ringbahn, its 37.5 kilometers of tracks are often treated, however unreasonably, as the outer-limits of the city, with desirability and prices for property falling correspondingly in areas outside the Ring’s boundaries.

In a sense the Ringbahn—also known as the Hundekopf (“dog’s head”) because of its shape—can be imagined as a sort of modern-day medieval wall to the city, with each of it’s 27 stations as gateways into the city proper.

This suggested a natural structure for a personal photo-project systematically exploring the part of Berlin within the Ring. This is not to say that there aren’t interesting parts outside the Ring—Grunewald and Marzahn spring to mind—but all projects need some limits, and the area within the Ring, much of it unknown to me, offers a broad enough palette to get a sense of the city and to get me outside my comfort zone.

While photowalks are by their nature semi-random explorations of spaces unknown, their beginnings and ends should be more constrained to ensure that the space is adequately explored. To that end I use the natural structure of the ring as a starting point: traveling along it to each of its twenty-seven stations in turn, and then walking into the city.

As the end point for each walk I chose Alexanderplatz—the ‘eye’ of the dog—with the Fernsehturm as a visible goal close to the heart of the old medieval town.

Potentially all the walks could be completed in a busy month, but weather, work, and the urgency of improving my German have all slowed down my progress over last six months, and I have so far only completed seven of the twenty-seven walks. Now that things are a bit more relaxed I intend to continue with a weekly “hundekopf” walk through the city and slowly complete the project over the coming months.

A selection of the photographs from previous walks can be found below:

MG_6320MG_6198MG_6167_cropMG_6193MG_5744MG_5616 MG_56331

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