Whispers in East Berlin - There were always ghosts in the house. Breathing, moving, slowly. Changing the shadows. Whispers of movement of articles of clothing. They were memories. Not actual spirits. They were things that happened in the house in the past, and they stayed. They didn't leave. And they were thick. They were not loud. They were the things we did not talk about. The house was built by my maternal grandparents in 1939, right before my mother was born. In Eastern Berlin. Four generations have been in this house. And even though furniture comes and goes, my great grandmother always sits in the front dining room. Quietly, alone, she is solemn and shut down... you can.
My grandmother is laying on the sofa in the living room. Napping, she has been addicted to sleeping pills since the end of WW2. My mother is little and cold in the small bedroom upstairs. Her room is dark, she is trembling, and she is alone. Both of my grandfathers are in the room that I sleep in when I visit. My step-grandfather is occupied with fixing the poorly made East German made vacuum cleaner, from the plant he works at. His breathing is labored because of shrapnel he sustained during WW2. My beautiful grandfather is tinkering on the large miniature schooner he made, he has no idea that WW2 and his SS uniform will bring about massive destruction and change generations to come.
The Russian soldiers are in the same room that my grandmother is napping in. They are spitting out seeds from the cherry tree that my grandparents planted when the house was built. The cherry pits leave stains on the green rug. This becomes my mother’s first memory ever. She must have been 3. I wonder if this is where they raped my grandmother. Wait, then in the dining room, my mother is running hysterical, screaming, pleading not to be shot by my grandmother, who was only trying hard to fulfill the duties of a German Frau and commit suicide before she and her child ended up in Russian hands, as they were invading Berlin.
In other moments, my 6-year-old mother stands in between the oven and door, in the dark, for hours, downstairs, freezing, fingers numb, waiting for her mother to come home so she could start the fire. After the war was over, wood fire was scarce. Up in the room that I sleep in, shelved away, is the one illustrated book that my mother looked at over and over again, every night at as a child, to help her leave her world and enter one that was charming, lovely, full of color and gold. The upstairs master bedroom window forever holds the view of the field across the street and the path that the Germans marched in mass expulsion from what was Germany, but became Poland. The corner in the living room has a radio on, declaring the separation of my family by a gigantic concrete wall accompanied by guards with automatic weapons, attack dogs, and mines. That wall was two and a half blocks from the house. One day, without notice, the East German regime came and cleared what was the location of my grandfather's burial site. That way the border control had a clear view of anyone approaching the wall. The location of my grandfather's body is unknown.
The backyard is full of all the fruit and nut trees my grandparents had planted. And you can almost hear the squawk as the chickens laid their blue eggs with the magnificent orange yolks. The apples trees are full of bees and apples and are happy to get craggily and craggily. The basement bomb shelter that has become a memorial for all of my step grandfather’s tools, holds despair and terror. It’s a space where, if you closed the door and stayed inside long enough, a person could lose their mind. The old wicker basket that used to hold my grandmothers linens has cracked.
The room off to the back right holds a quarter ton of coal. My mother still holds onto it, just in case Putin decides to cut off oil to Germany. Oddly, I realize these presences are separate, alone and locked into eternity. But just how now makes sense to me. I knew so very little of my family. So much unspoken. And the unknown becomes more frightening. These were people with emotional concussions. I am little and everyone is celebrating my 11th birthday. My step grandfather has made me a birthday cheesecake, as per my request. A rather large heart made of raisin sits on the top along with two lite candles. They sing me Happy Birthday in English with very thick German accents. My mother remarried an American when I was 5. They are trying to honor my Americanness. It makes it even more heart-warming.
In this moment, I am content, safe, and everyone else is happy. For a while. We are sitting in the garden, the birds are singing. I feed the pet turtles strawberries. The turtles were illegally harvested by my grandmother from the Bulgarian forest where she vacationed yearly. A typical Eastern bloc vacation. She is smiling. All of these things stay in the house and garden. They never go away. I wonder about all the other things that stay in all the other houses in Altglienicke Berlin. In Berlin. Germany. Europe. The earth. I think we would do well to listen to them and honor them.
"I am so very very happy to hear the good news! I was emotional with joy as to get honored for this project in Berlin is a great honor. For me and my family. A huge huge huge thank you.” Nashalina Schrape tells us, whose mom traveled to the other side of town just to be at the awards ceremonies at UPDATE15BERLIN.
About - Nashalina Schrape was born in West Berlin. Her family continues to live in East and West Berlin. Growing up, she came to America. All of her adult life she has lived in New York City where she continues to be most at home with all the different cultures and beautiful faces. Parts of her heart will forever live in East Berlin but her soul is free-est in Gotham City. Nashalina has a Master's of Science in Art Psychotherapy and occasionally uses photography with her pediatric clients. Otherwise, she uses the camera to express herself and showcase faces, lights and dreams.
Photographer Steffen Schulte-Lippern, aka STEVE c/o GoSee member STEFANI NENNECKE, accompanied adventurer Malte Asmus across Mongolia last February. And his photographic travel report inspired the jury in the category REPORTAGE. The prize: GOLD at the GoSeeAWARDS15, awarded at UPDATE15BERLIN. We have a few of his brief impressions for you here on GoSee:
"Life like on another planet is precisely how it appears to a Central European as soon as he leaves the airport of the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, formerly Ulan Bator! The thermometer reads a chilling -42 degrees Celsius, and the cold air burns the lungs. For 10 days, it will be the new home of the adventurer and car developer Malte Asmus and his team. My assistant Davis Pahl and I have already accompanied the globetrotter on various short journeys to the most remote regions of the world. But this trip would prove to be the endurance test for humans and material. After three days of adapting to the climate in the capital, it was off to the country's wilderness across almost 500 km of frozen rivers. We slept in traditional Mongolian yurts and the temperatures fell even further to -50 degrees Celsius.
The Mongolians were not affected by the temperatures that much, but quite the contrary was true for our equipment, which began to strike again. A highlight of the trip, a traditional horse race which is celebrated as a fair and where boys and girls on their Mongolian ponies battle for victory on a 40 km route. An experience that you won´t forget that fast! It all resulted in the creation of the series titled Mongolia showing how people lead a normal life under what we would consider unreal conditions... and that with great joy." We present a small cinematic documentation on the trip.
Better known as a portrait and fashion photographer, SIX SEVEN PHOTOGRAPHIC artist Neil BEDFORD won both the Silver Award and the Public Voting Prize in the Reportage category at GoSeeAWARDS15 with his kids spread titled 'Are We There Yet?'. The black & white series was created in England's Epping Forest for the magazine Kinfolk and accompanies three brothers on their summer adventures.
"I’ve always felt the best documentary images are in black and white. For me, the best way to convey a story about real life is to take the color away from it," Neil Bedford tells GoSee.
About - Neil Bedford moved from his native Yorkshire to London to study photography at London College of Fashion. Since finishing his Masters in 2010, he’s shot for a range of titles such as The Green Soccer Journal, GQ Style, and Kinfolk. He has worked with brands like Adidas, Nike, Paul Smith and Visa; sitters include Pharrell Williams, Liam Gallagher, Kobe Bryant, Yohji Yamamoto, and Ray Winstone.
The spread titled 'The Journey to Myself' was created in very distant Xinaliq, Aserbaijan, for Best Fashion/Men's Health with the German actor and film producer of Turkish heritage Numan Acar, who is also known for his role in the fourth season of Homeland. It was entered into the GoSeeAWARDS race by Yilmaz Aktepe, Fashion Director Men's Health Germany. And rightly so: We congratulate him on Silver in the GoSeeAWARDS15 category REPORTAGE. It was photographed by Ralph Mecke.
Khinalug is known as the highest and most isolated village in the country Aserbaijan and the entire Caucasus. The weather varies dramatically between summer and winter with temperatures of −20 °C to +18 °C degrees Celsius. Due to its altitude, isolation, and impressive landscape, it is a popular travel destination for adventurers from different countries and walks of life.
About - Ralph Mecke When Ralph was given a camera as a boy the beginning of a lifelong passion was born. A native Berliner, Mecke spent several years assisting Peter Schmidt, the brand identity master of Jil Sander and Toblerone. He later assisted photographer Albert Watson in New York. Ralph’s career took off when his portraits of intellectuals and cultural icons were first published in French Vogue. Smart and expressive, his carefully constructed images cut to the heart of his subjects, creating unexpected and unobstructed views into their worlds. Today, Ralph’s work includes portraiture, fashion and beauty for which he is internationally recognized. His portraits range from actress Keira Knightley to artist Julian Schnabel to Olympic champion Usain Bolt. He also shoots for American Vogue and L’Oreal. Ralph currently lives in Paris and New York.
The GoSeeAWARDS15 Merits in the category Reportage go to the Vienna-based photographer Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek (//gebhartdekoekkoek), the Parisian kid´s and lifestyle specialist Lise Anne Marsal (//lise-anne-marsal), and London-based portrait photographer Neil Bedford (//sixsevenphotographic).