Berlin wall 1989


© Colin Shaw

Berlin had always held a huge fascination, it is an iconic European city defined by its history. Travelling there for the first time in August 1989 by train from Dusseldorf was full of excitement only heightened by the discovery of a blood stained woman in the corridor of the train. Evidently she had fallen against a toilet door and was not badly injured but the incident added an extra sense of intrigue to the journey.

Being in a divided city was immensely interesting and a trip the East Berlin was an important addition. Seeing shattered buildings from world war two and a way of life that had not changed much since then meant there were many opportunities for photography.  The time in Berlin was a holiday, time to relax, but coming upon the British army fixing metal steps into the side of river to help those fleeing from the East added a degree of excitement especially as East German border guards decided to roar up and down the river in a speed boat.

On leaving Berlin by train I made the mistake of photographing the border crossing at Potsdam resulting in my arrest and confiscation of my passport. Luckily I was rescued by a retired professor of microbiology who happened to be sitting in the next seat. She spoke perfect English and my passport was returned together with a 100DM fine.

Three months later I was back in Berlin photographing the unthinkable, the wall was coming down. It was a cross between an important historical even and large European party. I spent a week moving from west to east with no restrictions and I could photograph the border with impunity.

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