Continuing my reconnection with photography in West Berlin

This time, I want to focus a little more on how I approach taking photos when I do projects like this.

Mitchel Lensink
Aug 8, 2019
4 min read
Mitchel Lensink Berlin street photography

You may, or may not, have noticed but there is another part to this story. That one’s more focussed on my thought process behind doing these photo sets (and East Berlin). This time, I want to focus a little more on how I approach taking photos when I do projects like this.

You see, for the last few years, my photography has evolved from being strictly personal to mainly commercial. I talked about that at length in my previous post. So what did I do differently this time around then? There are a few things.

Quick shots

When I’m shooting commercial work, I always focus on an image with great care. Not only do I have to work with specific requests I have to adhere to, I also want to provide the client with technically flawless results. When I’m out shooting the streets to document them, that dynamic changes. I have nothing to take into account except my own idea of what I am trying to accomplish. That means that I have no clue what my end result will be and that the conditions I encounter will determine my output.

While roaming around Berlin, this meant that every corner we walked around was a new opportunity and required me to readjust my perspective. Life happens no matter what you do so when you set out to document that, you better have your camera ready. You can immediately see this in the spontaneity of a lot of these shots.

Finding unity and not

I believe that a photoset should always have some unifying element (Evan Ranft has some interesting ideas about this in this video). Of course, I could use the city of Berlin as my unifier but that turned out to be too marginal for me. This is the main reason I chose to split up my Berlin work in an East and West part. I found that the two were distinctly different, yet somehow the same. Setting out to find this coherence, while highlighting their inherent differences, ended up being my main goal. I tried to establish just this, by utilizing the same kind of shots but highlighting different subjects.

While Berlin-East was mainly focussed on, the bohemian, the beauty in the gritty, the undefined, Berlin-West asked for more focus on the architecture and the modernity of the city. Still, all these photos have some character of randomness to them that really ties them together. East and West Berlin obviously belong to the same city, yet have very different characters. You can feel all this in the tones of the surroundings, the subjects in those surroundings and the scenes that creates.

Creating memories

Lastly, as I pointed out before, I hadn’t crossed a border for a few years, despite my wanderlust. As I set out on this journey to remind myself why I started taking photos, the real thing I wanted to accomplish was to create some memories. I have a strong tendency to live with my head in the future (I am trying to be more present but I developed myself differently) and forget to enjoy what I am currently going through, let alone cherish my past. I recently realised that my photography can be of great aid to rewire myself being more aware of the present continuous.

So far I can say I have succeeded for a first try. I don’t pretend to be cured of my future-focussed tendencies but I can say my mind was present when I took these photos.

Receive monthly stories in your inbox.

Dialogue is a newsletter about photography, walking and other things.

Oops! There was an error sending the email, please try again.

Awesome! Now check your inbox and click the link to confirm your subscription.