In Photos: Divided Berlin

Photographer Chris John Dewitt visited – and snapped – both sides of the Berlin wall during the eighties…

An aesthetically-pleasing piece of Berlin nostalgia has been circulating the blogosphere this past week. English photographer Chris John Dewitt documented his travels to Berlin during the 1980s and has recently been revisiting his archives; scanning, uploading and captioning photos to add to his ever-growing collection on Tumblr.

Using an Olympus OM2n SLR camera, plus a swag-bag of lenses, Dewitt’s travels around both East and West Berlin show gritty and weathered scenes from a darker decade in Berlin’s history. Featuring Trabants, DDR guards, the wall, protest marches and the ’80s street styles of students, activists and officials, they also document a particularly pockmarked Berlin that was slowly rebuilding itself post-war.

Dewitt reflects on a memorable encounter as a foreigner photographer crossing through Checkpoint Charlie and into East Berlin: “When I got there I began taking pictures, but was very quickly stopped by two young policemen. It took some while to work out what it was I shouldn’t have been photographing.

“It wasn’t the site of the Reich Chancellery, they replied to my questions, or even the wall. It was because in the distance, poking up from the other side of the wall, the Reichstag building could be seen. One mustn’t photograph buildings on the other side of the wall they said. The fact that I could go there on the Western side and take as many pictures of it as I liked made no difference. That was the rule which I must obey whilst on DDR soil”.

Bethaniendamm, 1985. The famous ‘Wall Men’ graffiti.
The Berlin monorail experiment, 1982.
Potsdamer Platz, 1985.
Iran protest on Ku’damm, 1982.
Protest march on the Ku’damm, 1982.
Two DDR grenzpolizei standing on the western side of the border controls on Friedrichstrasse at Checkpoint Charlie, though still on DDR territory. You rarely saw this happen, normally they would not be trusted to go just a step away from the border. Taken in 1985.
Looking towards the Friedrichstrasse crossing-point from Zimmerstrasse, 1985. The outline of the destroyed building has been painted onto the wall of the surviving one.
Franz-Klühs-Straße runs to the left of this picture, taken in 1982. The viewpoint is from near Lindenstraße. Many areas in Berlin at this time still had a ‘gap-tooth’ look from war damage.


All photos by Chris John Dewitt. To see more, visit his Tumblr. You can also follow Chris on Twitter.