Berlin-Notes-III

by Anil

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How quickly time flies especially when you are not looking! The last two weeks have been quite interesting. While life on the secondment front has been a little quiet, with most of the work being the initial background research work for a new documentary film, it has been an instructive process nonetheless into how a documentary film takes shape.

First, I had a long discussion with Antonia, the founder of Loupe where I’m doing my secondment, on how documentary film production works in Germany, the commissioning system, the TV channels that buy or fund the documentaries and the budgets involved. Based on this and other discussions there are possibilities of collaboration with Loupe shaping up with two potential film projects on the anvil!

In between I got to go with Anne Schönharting, a German photographer, on two of her portrait assignments. While I didn’t have to do much it was interesting to see another photographer in action, especially on assignment shooting strangers and the methods she used to get a good portrait. This is something I’m not so good at so it was a good way to pick up some tricks and tips. No wonder then that Anne has shot some great portraits!

On a photo shoot with Anne

One evening I went for what I thought would be a very good discussion on ‘Art & Social Media: a long distance relationship?’ which was being organized as part of the Social Media Week and featured at least on paper some very interesting people from the art world in Berlin. Unfortunately, it turned out to be quite tepid and boring as there was nothing new in the discussion. Yes, we all know the art world needs to engage more with and make better use of social media. But at least I got a free t-shirt for my trouble!

At a Berlin Social Media Week event

Through Antonia, I managed to reach Joern, Head-Press Relations, WWF-Germany and through him got an offer to travel up to the Baltic sea to see seals, the largest carnivores in Germany! Needless to say, I jumped at the offer. So early morning on Wednesday I found myself on a train with Thomas, the cameraman for the shoot, to Stralsund, the coastal city that lies on the Baltic Sea. At Stralsund, we met up with Britta, Press Officer of WWF-Germany based in Hamburg and Catherine, the WWF-Germany researcher based in Stralsund who is in charge of a conservation project for the seals.

From Stralsund we drove to the island of Rugen. From there we went on a boat out into the sea. It is a beautiful coast, quite well known for the beaches on the nearby sea resort town of Binz as well as for the mysterious white chalk cliffs on the other side of the island. The boat ride was a little rough as the sea was choppy with a keen wind trying its best to throw us off course. But we made it to the spot where the seals had been sighted previously. Unfortunately, as expected because of the rough sea, the rocks on which they are usually seen were under water. But the seals did not disappoint us too much.

Before we knew it their heads kept popping up all around the boat. It was as if they were playing a game of hide and seek! We sighted about 10-12 seals in total. But since they were quite shy and the sea was rough they never came close to the boat, only giving us brief glimpses of their smooth heads before disappearing underwater. But it was a fantastic experience nonetheless!

A seal in the Baltic Sea off the island of Rugen in northern Germany

A couple more seals from the Baltic Sea off the island of Rugen in northern Germany

On Thursday, I met Kay Meseberg, one of the people behind a media collective that is doing some amazing work at the interface of video and photography. It was a fruitful discussion opening up new avenues for collaboration with Aksgar. I might also meet the other partners of the collective sometime this week or next for a more detailed discussion.

I went to the WWF-Germany office on Friday with Antonia and met with Joern in person and also Thomas again. And when we all went out for lunch to a local restaurant I finally got a chance to taste my favorite Koelsch beer from Cologne. Mission accomplished!

Tomorrow is quite exciting as at last I’ll get to visit Ostkreuz, the photography agency, with Anne and it will be a day spent learning how the agency works, reviewing Aksgar and also some critical feedback on my personal photography projects!

Sometime this week I might also get the wonderful opportunity to accompany a filmmaker from Loupe for a video interview with Taryn Simon, one of the most exciting names in contemporary photography, and whose current show ‘A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters’ just opened at the New National Gallery, Berlin.

On Thursday will be a Final Cut tutorial on film titling and effects with the video editor Christof of Konterfei.

In between all this, because of the beautiful weather currently on offer in Berlin, I have had long walks through some parts of the city, discovering new places and saying hello to some old ones too. A walk along the East Side Gallery (where a long stretch of the Berlin Wall still remains and on which 121 artists from around the world were allowed to paint on) was particularly wonderful.

The famous Russian kiss!

One more from the East Side Gallery, Berlin

On Sunday, I also got a chance to spend some time walking around with my co-ATSA fellow, Ashwath Bhatt, he of the red noses. Sometime next week, I plan to photograph him as he goes around clowning on the streets of Berlin!

And now for some moments from the last couple of weeks in photographic form…

The Brandenburg Gate-the symbol of Berlin

Pink Floyd on the Berlin Wall!

The memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe

The Crisis Will Pass, The Pleasure Will Remain

As seen on two walls opposite to each other in Kreuzberg, a distinctive district of Berlin

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