THE BERLINER ZINE.
8th January 2019
By Martin Schumann
The Berliner zine just happened really spontaneously. One day an advertising agency in Berlin approached me. "We are working on a campaign for the city and we need some typical Berlin-pictures. Your work seems to be suitable for it and we might want to buy the rights for a few photos." Of course I was hyped about it, but also I was a bit worried because they asked me to come to their office and bring a selection of my best work in a printed form. After I skipped through my archive, I had an amount of pictures that I didn't want to just throw on the table as a stack of prints. So I took a closer look at them in connection to each other and tried some combinations in InDesign. I was basically looking for similar moods, matching shapes or strong contrasts, I guess. Nothing too fancy or distracting from the image itself. As I had found some good pairs, it made sense for me to turn them into a zine. Shortly before this inquiry I picked up two old Berlin-newspapers on a sidewalk called "Berliner Illustrierte" - one was from 1963 (Kennedy visits Berlin) and the other one from 1936 (olympic games in nazi Germany). I guess they're super rare and the historical content is partly displeasing but also fascinating. However – I knew I could use them sometime and this was a good opportunity, as my pictures are also documents of a specific time in Berlin. So I scanned one of the covers, cut the "Berliner" out and placed it on the front page of my zine.
A few days later the agency guys flipped through it and they were more or less like "This photo is great, the rest is difficult in terms of personal right infringement... maybe we could adjust a scene like this..." Long story short: they didn't buy one photo from me.
Nevertheless I'm happy somebody made me do this thing. It represents a certain period of my photographic quest in this city I call home since 2006.
I started shooting film in 2011 after a friend showed me some of his photography work for university. My grandpa gave me his old Praktica SLR camera [photos in the zine are mostly taken with an Olympus 35 RC & Yashica T4; now I use a Leica M6 & the Yashica] and I began documenting my everyday life... mostly skateboarding and hanging out. One and a half year later a found myself in a photography class in university (I studied visual communication) where I was introduced to the work of photographers like Joel Sternfeld, Robert Frank or Cartier-Bresson. Even though I wasn't able to adapt everything, I learned right away to my own way of taking pictures. It put a spark on me and I kept educating myself. In 2014, probably after I'd seen all the documentaries about Joel Meyerowitz and Gary Winogrand, I started doing more street photography.
The reason why I'm still doing it is that you have to come pretty close to strangers which is very challenging for me. So that keeps it really exciting. Also of course I'm looking for that one "decisive moment." A fracture of a second. And I shoot film because I don't want be distracted by a screen or the ability of taking 100 pictures of the scene and picking one afterwards. I like to valuate this one moment and when it's missed, you will learn from it. But when you get the moment, it can be like visual poetry.