Fiona Laughton chats to Pieces of Berlin’s Florian Reischauer about his new photography book…
Austrian photographer Florian Reischauer is the founder of Pieces of Berlin, an appealing photoblog focused on the Hauptstadt. Bored of his hometown Vienna and longing for something new, Reischauer made his move to Berlin in 2007.
As photographers tend to do, he began capturing the city and its inhabitants. His collection of images kept growing and Reischauer started to look for a suitable concept for his archive of images.
Four years ago, he published an identically named book made in collaboration with some friends and crammed with his unconventional images of the city. Not willing to end the project, Reischauer continued publishing his photos online – hence Pieces of Berlin, a continuing love letter to the city and its unique characters.
Still shooting with a vintage 6×6 folding camera, Reischauer has transitioned his quirky film portraits of Berliners from screen to print for a brand new book project – along with their words about what living in Berlin means to them.
What exactly is the ‘Pieces of Berlin’ project?
The Pieces of Berlin blog is a bit like a diary to me. The city is constantly changing, so I try to capture things that I personally like or which are typically Berlin-ish in my opinion. Beautiful places are disappearing, new things are coming up – I want to collect and save this in photographs. But most important to me are the people, the heart of a city. One of my intentions is to show a profile of everyday life in Berlin. I ask random Berliners on the street about their home – no matter what age or social background they have or what district they’re from. I ask them for their opinion about the city and take them out of their anonymity for five minutes.
What inspired you to start this project?
The city itself inspired me of course. When I moved here I was immediately thrilled by its variety. Every district is different and has its own charm. You can find everything, from rough, old and scruffy buildings to brand-new architectural highlights. It’s the same with the people.
What are the key characteristics of your photography?
With Pieces of Berlin, I like my photos to be rough, imperfect and dreamy. I try to show the city and its inhabitants in a rather spontaneous way and only use analogue equipment. Nobody is perfect, including Berlin. That’s the definition of beauty for me.
Do you want to portray the city in a specific way?
I show Berlin through my eyes, of course. I want to capture all these beautiful places that are going to be demolished, for example. Like I said, Berlin is changing a lot and unfortunately, mostly in a bad way in my opinion. Many free, open spaces are disappearing and new, expensive loft buildings are on the rise instead. I’m a bit afraid that Berlin runs the risk of getting boring and glib like thousands of other cities. But apart from all this, I don’t really want to show Berlin in a certain light – I try to focus on the city itself and record it as ‘purely’ as possible.
What are your favourite places in Berlin?
I really like the view down to the Fernsehturm at Frankfurter Tor, but the area around Richardplatz is also high on my list. The disparity is amazing there. One moment it’s like you are walking around in a village, five minutes later you are on Karl Marx Straße where everything is totally different. That’s just beautiful. But generally I love Berlin’s open character – not much is hidden away and the streets are very lively.
What inspired you to publish the latest book?
Firstly, I love photo books! For me it is the perfect medium in which to tell the story of a photographic body of work. For example, take the Pieces of Berlin photoblog, which is an ongoing project. It exists online, where you rarely take the time to view the content closely as you are usually switching between one site to another. The book preserves and conserves the whole thing. You can grab it, take it in your hands and put it on your bookshelf. It’s there.
In a city as rapidly-changing as Berlin, did you feel it was important to have something tangible? Did you feel like it complimented your use of film?
Yes definitely! The volatile surroundings, the vanishing places – seeing them printed in a book is a good feeling and also a feeling that it wont be forgotten so easily. Also as I use film, it is great to bring it back full circle via the analogue medium.
What are your favourite images in the book?
It’s hard to say, but as you can see I used the portrait of Ingrid on the cover – that’s obviously one of my favourites. I met her three years ago in Pankow and we had a nice long and interesting chat. She is a real Urberliner! Generally I like them all, because for me they are all very personal. Everybody in the book – and the whole project – took his or her time to take part and tell me a story. I appreciate that a lot and that’s of course why Pieces of Berlin exists. The book is dedicated to all of them.
In a city that has inspired so many, do you find it challenging to present Berlin from a fresh perspective?
Sometimes it is, but I have never thought of it like this as I tried to find the most simplest way of showing it – hitting the streets, walking around in all the districts and talking to its inhabitants.
What’s next on the cards for the Pieces Of Berlin project?
I plan to keep on running it and I look forward to making another book in five years! I’ll be watching what’s going on, and letting myself be surprised again and again by Berlin. Also, I will focus more and more on specific topics and work on Pieces of Berlin specials, like one about Späti clerks as well as Tempelhof.
Where can our readers purchase Pieces Of Berlin?
Online via piecesofberlin.com/book and there will be some for sale at the event this Friday. It will also soon be available in selected bookstores around the city.
Pieces Of Berlin by Florian Reischauer is released on Friday December 20th. The book launch is at Salon Tippel, Neukölln from 9pm.