Sunday, September 18, 2011

Assignment 2: Location

Following on from my first assignment that looked at the legacy left by Munich's 1972 Olympic games, I want to stay with a historical narrative and continue to examine Munich's past and present through the lens of my camera.  I started with the rebirth of Germany's hopes through the architecture and landscape of the Olympic park.  Now I plan to step back to the more difficult question of Munich's Jewish history and the appalling legacy left by the Nazi parties genocidal policies.  There are a number of locations in which I could develop this assignment, the Dachau concentration camp is just an hour away on the train.  Alternatively around Koenigsplatz there are a number of old party buildings.  However, I am drawn to a location in the center of the city in which there is a cluster of new buildings that attempt to deal with the past and to start again.  This is Sankt-Jacobs Platz, just south of the city center.

Situated here is the brand new Munich Synagogue, Munich Jewish Center, and the Jewish Museum, all very recently built.  Opposite is the Munich City Museum, documenting Munich's past and very recently opening a ground breaking exhibition on the cities Nazi history.  Munich is finally coming to terms with its past, after a long time during which it has been deemed better to forget than confront.  Nearby is a variety of both old and new architecture, all within a pedestrianized zone enabling good access for photography.  This is a sensitive site and I have been politely challenged by the Police to explain why I was taking photographs, but then allowed to continue what I am doing.  The site is a little more than an acre, which is roughly 64x64m, or 4,000 square meters:

The area of interest to me is the yellow line, the green line is roughly the limits of a single acre, however, I do not want to be totally constrained to the synagogue complex.  So I am looking at something that is perhaps a little more like a hectare than an acre, after all in Munich we are metric.  The square building in the center of the green square is the synagogue, to the north is the Munich Museum and to the South the Jewish Museum.  To the East the long low building is the Schrannenhalle, one of the earliest steel built structures in Germany, originally the meat market, now unused.

Over the weekend I had a chance to spend some time looking around the area and getting a feel for what might be possible.  I constrained myself to shooting with a 17mm TS-E so had a strong focus on space and architecture.

Above is the Munich Museum, once the city arsenal, retaining a slightly medieval look with the turrets at the corner and the long sloping roof.  Opposite it is the Synagogue

The above two shots show the synagogue shot from due West in the early afternoon.  The playground add some humanity and movement to an otherwise quite austere building complex.  The museum on the left has a popular cafe.  This has potential and I suspect one of these shots might already be strong enough to work into the final set, the one with the boy in the foreground is especially good.

The wall of the synagogue has a strong relief, bringing to mind the wailing wall.  I need to do some research on this before submitting the set.

Another shot of the wall, very strong contrast to the terracotta and blue sky behind.

Just 5 shots to start, but enough to suggest to me that the location has potential.  I still have a few questions that I need to answer:

  1. Should I shoot this in colour or black and white.  As the above images show there is strong colour to be had, but it is actually limited to the sky and the red roofs.  Black and White might accentuate the architectural elements and add a solemnity to what might be a quite somber set.
  2. To what degree should I include people in the shots?  In my last assignment I had more of an implication of residence than the actuality, something I was properly questioned on.
  3. Is there enough variety in the scenes, I think so, but this will be one of the challenges in producing the final set of 12 images
Finally whilst shooting this first set of images I spent some time walking around Munich looking at the tourists now flocking to the city for the Oktoberfest.  I had Thomas Struth's work in mind when I shot the following series:

The people add scale and interest to what would be otherwise quite dull subjects, this is something I need to explore better in my forthcoming assignment.  I finish this set with a couple of total architecture shots, the first of some building work that caught my eye


The second is Munich's first high rise apartment block, quite revolutionary when first built and controversial ever since, you either love or hate this building, I love it!

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