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Thinking outside the Wall

Today I read a blog post by one of my favourite news photographers, Leon Neal, who describes his experience on an assignment in Berlin, working for the local AFP bureau covering the Berlin Wall celebrations.

His blog shows just why you should – if possible – get off the beaten track to capture the real spirit of the moment.

The main event (in this case the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall) produced a number of similarly looking images from the Branderburg Gate area. We’ve seen the giant domino shots and the fireworks in all papers and on all websites last week.

Leon however recorded the ‘extra-curricular’ activities – people walking across the line marking the former site of the Wall, old Trabants taking tourists along the route of the former wall, kids chasing giant bubbles or people crowded on the bridge which years ago was the original gateway to the West.

And this is the exciting bit. Photographing a major event is always thrilling, but you also run the risk of producing images which are similar to everyone else’s.

The best Glastonbury shots I’ve seen didn’t feature a single musician or a stage, but gave me a brilliant idea of what it’s like to be there. The most amazing New York martahon shots I’ve seen didn’t show the usual masses of people, but featured single runners photographed with a flash on a bridge.

I find such pictures much more interesting, particularly when, as Leon says, what you see on TV never really gives you the full picture:

While dignitaries, leaders and celebrities congratulated each other on their success in ending Communism, the public were kept at a safe distance, behind twin layers of security barriers. While I totally understand the need for this during the speeches by Sarkozy, Merkel, Medvedev and the rest of the political heavyweights, once they were tucked up in their bunkers again, the public should have been allowed in to celebrate in their own way, under the famous gates. As is the way with nearly all of this kind of event in current times, the whole evening left the feeling that it was created to be enjoyed at home on tv, with the spectators that did make the effort used as a backdrop for the cameras.

Read the rest of his post and see his brilliant pictures here.

Image © abhijeet.rane via Flickr, used under Creative Comons licence

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