View Full Version : Cities that you know - advice for fellow members

7th June 2015, 09:50 AM
As a result of the thread ‘Berlin - photography locations’ started by FADU member davidgc, I sent some suggestions to him regarding photography in Berlin. Following this I had the pleasure of meeting up with David for a few hours in the Prenzlauer Berg area of Berlin. Towards the end of our time, David said how helpful my notes had been and how good it would be to have a thread on FADU that gave similar advice for other cities.

I also thought that this would be a great idea. So here I have started a new thread specifically for this purpose. The notes that I sent to David were pretty long and somewhat particular to where he was staying. Nevertheless, I hope that they might be helpful to others and form the basis of a thread where others could post advice for photographers visiting cities that members know well.

So over to everyone on FADU - what photography-related advice can you provide for fellow members visiting a city that you know well?

My next post will be the notes that I send to David.



7th June 2015, 09:56 AM
So firstly, Savignyplatz is a great location for both a photographer and a shopper!

If the weather is not good, you are in the centre of an area with a lot of photography galleries and in the heart of West Berlin’s main shopping area. At Savignyplatz there is a great bookshop (http://www.buecherbogen-shop.de) located in the arches under the station. It has a large photography section and the staff do not pester you when you spend a long time looking at the books. A couple of minutes away at Savignyplatz 11, there is a shoe shop divided by an Einstein Coffee shop: Men’s shoes, coffee café and Women’s shoes. This great idea is nicknamed by the locals ‘Männergarten’ (combining the words ‘Kindergarten’ and the German plural for Men) or Männerparkplatz (men's parking space). The idea is that wives and girlfriends park the men with a coffee so that they have the time to ‘properly’ look at all the shoes and other nearby shops.

In walking distance from Savignyplatz you also have the following galleries:


In terms of historical (not famous buildings) architecture, the typical Berlin apartment house is 4 - 5 stories high and can be very interesting in terms of architecture with plaster detailing, etc. Around Savignyplatz you will find both some of the most sophisticated of these apartment houses by walking in the direction of Kurfürstendamm (Ku’Damm) along Bleibtreustraße. Once you reach Ku’Damm turn left and your wife is in the heart of Berlin’s traditional shopping mile. For a photographer there are a wealth of interesting streets around Ku’Damm and a dedicated shopper will need at least a day to do the variety of shops on Ku’Damm any justice.

The best idea would be to separate and agree to meet at a fixed time at Café Kranzler. This is easy to find and is located half way between the Apple Store and the Memorial Church. It is a round café on the top of a two storey building at the junction of Ku’Damm and Joachimsthaler Straße (the street that leads from Ku’Damm to Zoo station) and is somewhere that all the locals and many tourists will know how to find. It is one of the most famous cafés in West Berlin and a good place to get a view over the surrounding area, have a nice cup of coffee and good cake plus go out on to the terrace to take a few photos.

Whilst your wife is shopping, you can cross over the road and then walk down Ku’Damm towards the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Along the way you will reach (on your right-hand side) Fasanenstraße which has some fantastic apartment houses oozing old world money, charm and architecture. It also has Johanna Breede PHOTOKUNST Gallery - which is always worth visiting - and a small Leica specialist shop.

On another day, KaDeWe (which is South of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church) will keep your wife occupied for hours (it is huge with eight themed floors). It is not very interesting in terms of it’s external architecture but looks very attractive at dusk or at night.

If you walk westwards along Kantstraße you will experience a completely different type of post-war architecture and a more ‘run down’ feel the further along the street that you walk. However, if you like asian food there is one of the very best noodle soup places in the whole of Berlin. At number 33 Kantstraße there is a small Taiwanese café that sells some very authentic and tasty food. If you are brave you can eat a Pig’s Ear but I would recommend soup number 13 on the menu (available in large or small). This has thick noodles, really tasty chicken (they only use the flavoursome dark meats unlike almost every other asian place that only uses bland breast meat) and the stock for the soup is out of this world. Legend has it that the huge pot where the soup base is made has never been emptied since the place opened and this gives an almost unique intense flavour to the soup that many dearer places just can’t match.

In East Berlin, the equivalent of Ku’Damm is Friedrichstraße. If you walk southwards from Friedrichstraße Station you will pass all of the main stores plus a subsidiary of Paris’s Galeries Lafayette - which is a true shoppers heaven. Once again, if you arrange to both travel southwards you can arrange to meet later (at say Checkpoint Charlie). You can then explore the side streets which have a mixture of traditional architecture and GDR concrete system-built buildings plus Gendarmenmarkt - which is a lovely square with a concert house and two beautiful mini cathedrals. Afterwards you can keep walking south to visit the Jewish Museum which is the best example of Daniel Libeskind’s modernist architecture and a great location for making photographs.

Off the beaten track ideas:

Westhafen is an interesting area to visit for contrasting industrial architecture and is home to Berlin’s biggest port. It is an area that is easy to reach with both the S-Bahn (Overground train) and U-Bahn (Underground) networks and not usually in the tourist guides (well let’s face it - only dockers, photographers and artists would want to visit it!).

If you take either the 100 or 200 bus from Zoo to Alexanderplatz, you will see a great cross section of central Berlin for the price of a normal Zone A&B ticket. Alexanderplatz is not much of an attraction (other than the TV tower which is worth going up to for the views BUT make sure you book your tickets in advance as the wait can be hours - or by a ticket with a fixed - usually 3 hours later - entry time or get an Early Bird Ticket - entry before 11:00am as there will be NO waiting time or the Late Night Ticket as you get access to the TV Tower at night from 09.00PM to closing with NO waiting time) but nearby is Karl-Marx-Allee which is one of Europe’s best examples of Stalinist architecture, a Unesco World Heritage Site and a fantastic location for architectural photography.

You can easily reach Hohenschönhausen from Alexanderplatz (Tram M4 direction Zingster Straße) in about 25 minutes. This gives you a completely different view of Berlin. It was one of the last ‘show’ housing developments in the GDR. The area is full of system-built medium and high-rise apartment buildings and great for photography. If the weather is lousy, an great alternative thing to do would be to visit the former GDR political prison (Tram M5 from Alexanderplatz to the stop called Freienwalder Straße). Might sound an odd idea but it is a really moving experience. The prison is virtually intact and the tours are led by the prisoners who were incarcerated and tortured there. It is perhaps the most powerful experience to understand what it was like living in the Communist era (Full details here: http://en.stiftung-hsh.de/document.php?cat_id=CAT_232&special=0). The surrounding area also gives you some idea of how grim the housing was back in those days.

If your wife normally prefers beach holidays why not surprise her by taking her to the Badeschiff. This is one of the most extraordinary beach bars in Berlin (beach bars in Berlin are basically open areas that are set up to be like a beach despite the fact that you are in the middle of the city) and has a swimming pool that floats on the river! Furthermore, at dusk it is a fantastic location for photography with the sun going down, the buildings and river in the distance getting darker but with the swimming pool still illuminated.

Gleisdreieck is near to the Technical Museum. Absolutely no shopping here but a lovely new park with good photo opportunities. The park was the site of a massive railway station and goods yard and, although it is now green, some of the old buildings remain and, when you walk around the more overgrown areas, you will still find the old tracks half covered and half uncovered. This is great for photos like the tracks running into the distance but with overgrown vegetation all around (has proved highly popular with my students) or the tracks running towards a locked gate, etc.

When walking around Berlin, keep your eyes peeled to the ground! - there are thousands of Stolpersteine in Berlin. These are small bronze plaques that have been set into the payment by artist Gunter Demnig and bear the names of Jewish people who used to live in the neighbouring houses and were exterminated by the Nazis.

Finally, a few purely photographic tips:

Berlin is a city that really rewards the photographer who walks around.

Almost a third of Berlin is green open spaces (for example the Grunewald area is over 8 square miles or Tiergarten - the central park - is over 500 acres and Schlachtensee - a large lake and green area in South-West Berlin - that has a circumference of 5.5 kilometres) which can be ideal for landscape photography.

If you are lucky to get really good sunny days, be aware that urban images with streets in the shade but the fourth and fifth stories of white houses being in full sun will present a much bigger subject contrast range than you are used to.

Foto Impex is THE store for anything analogue in Berlin (http://www.fotoimpex.de/website/fotoimpex-2/). It is located in East Berlin very nearby to the Hackesche-Höfe (http://www.hackesche-hoefe.com) shopping complex. Mirko the owner is also the man behind the relaunched Adox brand of papers, chemicals, films, etc. If you do darkroom printing, you can also buy a packet of Foma fibre-based 12 x 16 (50 sheets) paper at Foto Impex for 50€ cheaper than the same paper or equivalent from Ilford in the UK.

I am sure you will have a great time in Berlin.

If you have any problems or questions, my mobile number is 0049 (0)1577 30 15 790. I will not be in Berlin on Thursday to Friday but you can always call if you need help.



7th June 2015, 11:29 AM
As I go to Paris at least a couple of times a year to visit my wife's family I've got to know the city well. I usually leave my wife at home with her mother so I'm free to roam around. My favourite journey is taking a metro out to the edges of the city then spending the day wandering back to my mother-in-law's photographing along the way. I never plan the route back just head in the general direction. I also enjoy walking and photographing along the Seine river in either direction. I've never encountered any bother in any area I've visited - only time I was hassled was around Sacré-Cœur by guys selling wrist bands who then try and extract money. (Also, watch out for the pickpockets on the metro and in the street - they ask for your signature on a clipboard which, whilst you're signing, conveniently hides their busy hands working underneath in your pockets or bag.)
Photography-wise take plenty of film as in my experience film is very expensive in Paris. Especially take care buying it on Boulevard Beaumarchais (https://www.google.co.uk/search?biw=1440&bih=787&noj=1&q=boulevard+beaumarchais+photo&revid=823352810&sa=X&ei=ViV0VZecHYy07gbsm4HYBA&ved=0CG8Q1QIoAA) where there are second-hand camera shops that sell film also - if you think UK prices are expensive expects to pay around half as much again.
Places to see photography exhibitions:-
Jeu De Paume (http://www.jeudepaume.org/index.php?page=liste&sousmenu=56) usually has a retrospective on alongside contemporary work.
This site has some good places listed. http://www.rendezvousfrance.com/photoparis.html

Have a walk around the 5th and 6th arrondissements for some smaller galleries.

8th June 2015, 07:11 AM
Thanks Tony - exactly what I was hoping for with such a thread.

Anyone got advice for other cities?



8th June 2015, 08:34 AM
Thanks, dsallen, my wife and I have been considering Berlin for our next expedition but the guide books present a bewildering choice of things to see. Your list is far more realistic.
We spend part of the year in France. Luton and Béziers airports are both very convenient, served by Ryanair several times a week, but the late Charlie the cat would not have been welcome and the luggage allowance is either limited or expensive, so we take the car several times a year. But the drive Calais - Agde was too far to attempt in one day, so we stopped half-way in a hotel, which added to the cost of tolls, fuel and eating out en route. So, lately, we have used Britanny Ferries from Portsmouth. What a discovery is Bilbao! May I suggest adding it to your list of destinations. The town centre is a magnificent example of enlightened modern architecture, with many attractive views. The Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art is astonishing, both in aspect and content. I won't highlight any buildings in particular because the entire experience is a delight. The surrounding countryside is lovely as well.

9th June 2015, 07:21 AM
As has been mentioned David's notes were excellent and helpful in so many ways. Berlin is great place and I hope to return.
If any of you visit Berlin I can recommend going on David's workshop tour of Prenzlauer Berg. It was a great 3 hours of photography talk, ideas and life as a Berliner; I only wish I was not full of cold. Thank's again David.

Fotoimpex is good for all things analogue and has a wide variety of tanks, film and paper and, with the current rate of exchange big savings can be had. It is in a good location as well - see following link: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Fotoimpex/@52.525168,13.406902,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x47a851e1bfd3a707:0x4887d8e8a1931 ebe?hl=en


9th June 2015, 01:13 PM
I spent 9 months working in Zurich in the late 90s. I can thoroughly recommend the city as being highly photogenic. Central Zurich is really quite small and you can walk round it easily in a day but stopping for photography would extend that.
The Alt Stadt (old town) is particulary attractive and of course the lake at Bellevue. And Bahnhof Strasse for the trams and there is the river and bridges too.
It is a city center that is especailly good for night time photography as the lighting of the old buildings is excellent. You can't beat a cold frosty night for nighttime photography.

And being Switzerland with its superb public transport system, you can get anywhere in Switzerland very fast. Luzern is lovely and a trip to Rheinfall (euopes largest waterfall (not highest)) is worth it just for the thunderous spectacle.