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The Dartmouth
February 26, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Exhibit shows changes since fall of Berlin Wall

Pairs of photographs currently line the walls of the Upper Jewitt Corridor in the Hopkins Center. Each pair consists of two images that portray two versions of the same location. The images, part of the exhibit "Ortzeit/Local Time," are the work of the German photographer Stefan Koppelkamm.

In 1990, a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before German reunification, Koppelkamm traversed East Germany and photographed a variety of locations behind the punctured iron curtain. A decade later, he returned to those same places to take yet another set of photographs.

The photographs depict scenes from a number of cities, including Dresden, Leipzig and Berlin, cataloguing the material history of the region. Following World War II, the East German government failed to put money into the restoration of architectural gems like Dresden, letting many buildings decay and fall apart. There was also very little new construction. The landscape was, in effect, frozen in time.

After reunification, however, the German government invested considerable funds in the restoration of its towns and cities. Architectural landmarks have been renovated, churches refurbished and the facades of buildings revamped.

Through Koppelkamm's lens, one gets a glimpse of the vast transformation of the built landscape that has occurred since reunification. Some of the pictures from 1990 are truly haunting: desolate town squares with surrounding buildings decaying or in ruins, deserted streets and empty shops. Those of a decade later, however, are much more alive. Most of the buildings are restored, the streets are bustling with pedestrians and the shops are busy with the coming and going of customers.

Koppelkamm's photographic comparisons between the Germany of 1990 and the Germany of the present day are striking, encouraging and interesting. They help to convey how far that country has progressed since the fall of the Berlin Wall.