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     Volume 8 Issue 94 | November 13, 2009 |

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Photographs (above and below) of the Berlin Wall by Norbert Enker.

Capturing the Wall

Fayza Haq

For twenty-eight years a 167 kilometre long wall separated GDR and the rest of Berlin. About 200 people were killed in the process of trying to reach the dear ones on the other side of the wall. Erick Honicker of the socialist government was responsible for building this wall. Norbert Enker, a photographer was in Berlin in December 1989 and after that he went to Berlin every month for a week.

"It was known that the wall would go one day and I wanted to preserve the images and show them much later, as today, in the Goethe-Institut, Dhaka, to let people know what it was to have the two parts of Germany divided " says Norbert Enker, whose exhibition "A Borderline Case. The Fall of the Berlin Wall" is on till November 19.

"Officially it was built to prevent acts of sabotage, spying and smuggling from the west" says Enker. "The wall was basically to stop the people from East Germany to go to the west. The sheer bewilderment generated by the building of the wall was matched by the disbelief when the wall finally came down. It had been predicted that the wall would stand for a hundred years -- a prophecy that did not come true. The Berlin Wall, a demarcation line that divided two political systems right in the middle of the city, could suddenly be crossed without problems." Enker began his work in December 1892 and continued to document the transformation of the former borderland till March 1992.

There were several reasons for the peaceful revolution that followed. First there was Mikhail Gorbachov's politics of glastnost in Poland, Hungary and the Check republic, and the opening of the Soviet Union to the west. There were protests in cities. There was destabiliti-zation of the GDR.

Enker, who had studied photography in Essen, graphics and communication design, did not have things easy 20 years ago, when there was no digital photography.

Norbert Enker. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

One of the pictures, taken around 20 years ago, shows a control room from GDR depicting the guards controlling the area and making sure that no one could cross the border. Another shows the colourful and humorous graffiti on the western side of the wall. One photo brought in the East German soldiers in action, with lights focused on stray people who might be wanting to cross. One shot brought in tourists allowed to go to the towers to watch. A young teenager on a bike is shown ignoring rules and going through curtained off barriers, with no one there at that time to check him. There is also a focus on the checkpoint, going from the east, GDR to West Berlin. One shot brought in a garden in the west end, beyond the wall .

This exhibition is being shown in ten other countries all over the world. On November 12 there will be such an exhibition in Hamburg, Germany.

Enker has held exhibitions in Ankara, Athens, Barcelona, Bordeaux, Brasilia, Chennia, Cordoba, Curitiba, Genoa, La Paz, London, Lyon, Helsinki, Madrid, Mexico, Montreal, Porto Alegre, Rabat, Salvador Bhia, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Sao Paolo, Sarajevo, Seoul, Singapore, Stockholm, Thessalonica and Zagreb. He has won eight awards, including the Kodak European Award, Germany.

Talking about photography, and what one must keep uppermost when dealing with the lens, Enker says, "One must be patient. One must stay as long as possible in a place from which one is operating, and the people in that place should get used to one. One must acquaint oneself with photographs from all over the world by reading magazines.

"I'm working as a free-lancer for 20 years for magazines and picture editors. It is becoming more and more difficult to make a living as a photographer, especially because of digital photography. There is also the worldwide financial crisis. Ads for magazines go away to the Internet. I now fully realise why my family was so much against my taking it up as a career. Having met some young photographers in Chittagong, with whom I did a workshop, I found them eager to learn and experiment. This being my first exposure to South Asia, I find the people warm and friendly," he says.



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