City Grips is a photographic project developed by the photography collective Berlin
Mafia. Four of its members decided to work together on a common issue: the links
and ties they forged with their city. Being all migrants in Berlin, they decided to take
advantage of their diverse experiences and visions to analyze their own connections
with the city. A kaleidoscopic, subjective and fractional photographic answer arises
from this process.
The photographers worked together by asking themselves the same question: how
does Berlin grip us? It is no news that Berlin is a diverse place. For some people,
it is a place called home. For others, just another city on the map: an item to cross
off the bucket list. Still, for many who happen to live there, the main question remains:
Why Berliners do stay? It could be for a month, a year or forever… people coming
here usually don’t remain intact. It seems therefore interresting to study the interractions
they build with the city. To address this matter, the photographers explored their surroundings,
experimenting with different techniques, sharing their visions and pictures
all along the process. This collaboration leads to a heterogeneous photographic
production, displaying differences and particular ways of seeing Berlin and getting
connected to it.
It turns out for each of them the city could be seen as an autonomous entity.
Berlin grabs people unaware, whether they choosed the city freely or not. City Grips
is about the process of being captured by a place, a condition of belonging,
how and why it happens.
A formerly squatted house of the 80’s was one of the first places I called home in Berlin.
It is a beautiful building facing the Spree, with a white facade and high ceilings, a few steps away from a crowded Synagogue.
In the place there lived a thousands lives. It has been inhabited and displaced several times for different reasons over the years.
The Project is about this place and how it welcomed me during this time. Some of the pictures were taken there during my stay and other pictures are staged. I have reproduced the house as a doll’s house to host inside all the memories that are bonding me to this City.
Antonio – The Wall
No other city in today’s Europe says street art like Berlin. In comparasion with London, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and so on and so forth, Berlin is today the capital city of Graffitti and Street Art in Europe. The history of the wall, the East Side Gallery, the abandoned houses and apartments during the war, the bombed corners; they all have something in particular: they all are painted by young people screaming for freedom.
Either because of the history of the ciy itself, or rather because the Berlin Police Department doesn’t have the budget to protect the walls, many artists are coming from around the world looking for that next white canvas on the wall. There they might paint a message of unity, antifascism, freedom, or just their names… These people are not going anywhere, they’re here to stay.
Patrice – Berlin is my home
For the group exhibition City Grips, I will show a selection of photographs that were produced since my arrival in Berlin. It will be a very personal selection of how the city gripped and still grips me, in that matter that I found my home here. Berlin as “Home” has for me a very intense and special meaning since I have been searching for home as long as I can remember – as a child forced by the decisions of my mother and with growing up by the urge to find my roots, identity and where I actually belong. By the nomadic life my mother lived since we fled the GDR just months before the wall went down, it was hard to understand where I belong – changing places of living, schools and friends made it impossible to adapt and fit in in the current environment and with people.
When I finally left to live on my own I was already adapted to a kind of nomadic lifestyle and started searching for the place where I would belong to across Europe, always with the feeling that it will be somewhere else. Finally I found myself with my wife in Berlin and immediately felt home. The atmosphere and history of the city is incredible even though it feels sometimes like a melting pot of lost souls – but it is exactly that which drew my attention. I’m not different, I’m not an outsider – I belong here; here I feel comfort, happiness and most of all I feel at home. I arrived. I don’t need to search anymore. Within this city of structured chaos, people from all over the world with all their hard life stories that finally brought them to Berlin, it is the intense, maybe sometimes careless but optimistic atmosphere and lifestyle which grips me every day. These feelings I try to capture in the photographs that document my Berlin – the “city grips” that make me calling this city “home”.
I seek in City Grips an opportunity to research the reality of what attaches me to Berlin. Human connections are a central part of my work and my motivation to pursue a story through the reflection of my own. The important men and women of my life took me to very different geographic paths, and on them I’ve often relied for my decision making. Moving to Berlin is also as a result of an important human link and when this link is vanished, I find myself at a tipping point; in this city, and in need for answers. In this project, my piece is a collection of portraits of my closer Berlin connections. In them, I explore how the city grabs each individual. Each one takes me to a very different personal space, a place in Berlin that has been their own and tells me how they’ve ended up held by the City’s grip.