“I always think in museums at photo exhibitions with historical material from Berlin that these pictures probably seemed quite mundane to the person taking the picture at the time,” said one of IMAGO’s newest members F. Anthea Schaap. Rolf Zöllner, one of IMAGO’s longest standing photographers whose archive spans into the GDR when the city underwent some of its greatest historic developments, has photographed Berlin for decades. “I am currently digitizing my photo archive and amazed at what has changed in 30 / 40 years, much of which one has no memory of,” he said in an interview with IMAGO, “That’s why it’s important to photographically record the changes in urban landscapes.”  

In wrapping up our IMAGO 25 years series, we spoke to two of our Berlin-based photographers from different generations to find out their relationship to photographing Berlin and its historical landmarks, seeing how their photos compare and contrast in the telling of history through imagery. “Berlin is constantly changing and hopefully is far from finished. What is very striking to me is how much less wasteland and open space there is now in the inner city. But art and culture always find their niches,” said Schaap. 

See our previous interview with Rolf Zöllner on the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

See IMAGO’s curated collection on Berlin history told through architecture.

imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | The final piece of the holocaust memorial is placed with Bundestaf President Wolfgang Thierse and architekt Peter Eisenmann. 15 December, 2004.
Berlin landmarks by two different generations. 
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin Mitte. 23 July, 2019.

Both however, shared their frustrations with the increased mistrust towards photographers which has unfolded throughout their careers. “I started taking pictures in the GDR – photography was still a cultural asset then,” said Zöllner, “Street photography was no problem, if someone didn’t want to be photographed, a hand gesture was enough. Today, in the age of social media, but also in general, photographing people has become almost impossible,” he added. Schaap, who started photographing in Berlin decades later in 2010, also said that when she started, “it was less problematic to photograph and approach people on the street, but now I encounter a greater distrust of the press than I used to receive.” Schaap added that still today, the gender imbalance in press photography remains astoundingly male-dominated, while the demographics seem balanced in photo classes.

imago images/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | The Berlin Wall near the Reichstag, East Berlin. 11 January, 1990.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | Rusty grid door hung with love locks and street art at the Berlin Wall, now the East Side Gallery. 14 August, 2019.

When it comes to historic moments and landmarks in photography, Schaap and Zöllner’s archives reveal juxtapositions and contradictions as the the history of the city and its landscape has taken on different forms throughout both of their lives. Their varying perspectives, methods, and experiences as Berlin-based photographers are reflected in their photos, and their insights give a glimpse into the different photographic relationships with the city. 

“There are of course historical moments, like the fall of the Berlin Wall, for example, where the photographers already know how relevant the material will be one day, but often the exact opposite is the case and it is the quiet, incidental images that have the greatest impact decades later. I always try to keep that in mind: which images are really relevant? Often only time shows,” said Schaap. 

Berlin is full of timestamps told through its landmarks, whether it be those that have remained or those that have popped up in recent years, perhaps even overshadowing those of the past. IMAGO and its archive is home to endless representations of its city – in wrapping up this month’s series celebrating IMAGO’s 25 years, we look at Berlin’s landmarks from two generations of photographers and how they see IMAGO’s role in the industry:

“I can say from my work as a photojournalist that IMAGO’s archive in particular is a great help in reporting on the city.”

– F. Anthea Schaap 

 

“Through IMAGO I have the opportunity to spread my photos very far.”

– Rolf Zöllner
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | Palast der Republik – a historic cultural GDR landmark which was torn down between 2006 and 2008. 26 January, 1990.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus, a parliamentary building in the government district of Berlin built in 2003. 2 June, 2019.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | National Gallery on Museum Island. 4 April, 2002.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | Long queue in front of Berghain. 21 July, 2018.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | Potsdamer Platz - Daimler City. 29 April, 1999.
IMAGO/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | Potsdamer Platz - Daimler City, Deutsche Bahn tower. 6 March, 2022.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | The new seat of the Federal President Schloss Bellevue before the federal government moves from Bonn to Berlin after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 18 November, 1998.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | ‘Futurium House of the Future’ in the government district is a new forum of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for shaping the future of science, business and politics. 2 June, 2019.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | The historic Café Kanzler before closing down - the café closed and reopened several times between 1999 and 2016. 27 March, 1999.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | Café Kanzler was reopened in 2016 after closing a second time in 2015. It continues to be a historic landmark of Berlin in Charlottenburg. 2 December, 2021.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | Media Landscape Berlin, Building of the Berlin Publishing House at Alexanderplatz. 13 August, 1999.
Berlin landmarks by two different generations. 
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | The Mercedes Benz Arena, previously the O2 Arena, was renamed in 2015 and has undergone renovations - it is now the biggest Multifunctional Arena in Germany. 16 January, 2020.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | Champagne reception for potential investors propose developement projects at the Teufelsberg radar domes of the former spy station of the Allied forces. 7 June, 2000.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | The former Tegel Airport was Berlin’s main airport and has now taken on several purposes – it also became attractive to investors looking to develop the space upon closing. 22 August, 2020.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | The Bösebrücke near the Bornholmer Straße S-Bahn Station was the border crossing before the fall of the Berlin Wall. 29 October, 1999.
IMAGO/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | The former Reichsbahnausbesserungswerk (RAW) Berlin near the Warschauer Straße S-Bahn station is the largest culturally occupied site in Germany and one of the last non-modernized industrial areas in Berlin – it is a symbol of the city’s underground subculture and vibrant nightlife. 3 April, 2022.
imago/Rolf Zöllner
IMAGO / Rolf Zöllner | Visitors in the Reichstag Dome. 31 August, 1999.
imago images/F. Anthea Schaap
IMAGO / F. Anthea Schaap | Dome on the historic Reichstag building. 29 October, 2019.

All photos by Rolf Zöllner and F. Anthea Schaap. Interviews by Sofia Bergmann. Part of our IMAGO 25 Years series