Musings on Exile, Immigrants, Pre-Unification Berlin, Trauma, Naturalization, and a Native Tongue

by Andrea Scrima

I moved to Berlin in 1984, but have rarely written about my experiences living in a foreign country; now that I think about it, it occurs to me that I lived here as though in exile those first few years, or rather as though I’d been banished, as though it hadn’t been my own free will to leave New York. It’s difficult to speak of the time before the Wall fell without falling into cliché—difficult to talk about the perception non-Germans had of the city, for decades, because in spite of the fascination Berlin inspired, it was steeped in the memory of industrialized murder and lingering fear and provoked a loathing that was, for some, quite visceral. Most of my earliest friends were foreigners, like myself; our fathers had served in World War II and were uncomfortable that their children had wound up in former enemy territory, but my Israeli and other Jewish friends had done the unthinkable: they’d moved to the land that had nearly extinguished them, learned to speak in the harsh consonants of the dreaded language, and betrayed their family and its unspeakable sufferings, or so their parents claimed. We were drawn to the stark reality of a walled-in, heavily guarded political enclave, long before the reunited German capital became an international magnet for start-ups and so-called creatives. We were the generation that had to justify itself for being here. It was hard not to be haunted by the city’s past, not to wonder how much of the human insanity that had taken place here was somehow imbedded in the soil—or if place is a thing entirely indifferent to us, the Earth entirely indifferent to the blood spilled on its battlegrounds. Read more »

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

by Sue Hubbard

“We are homesick most for the places we have never known.”

― Carson McCullers

ScreenHunter_1933 May. 09 10.24It is a truth pretty much universally acknowledged that the past is another country. But that this country, this green and pleasant land should be seen as ‘other', experienced through ‘foreign' eyes, provides an interesting perspective on our identity.

The power of the photograph is that it allows us to see ourselves as others see us. My goodness did I really look like that, wear those glasses, have that hair style? Don't I look young/slim/naïve? Did we honestly behave like that? How odd. I had quite forgotten until now…

Curated by the British photographer Martin Parr – best known for his satirical, yet affectionate technicolour images of the British enjoying their leisure in tacky seaside resorts – Strange and Familiar at the Barbican Gallery, London, includes the work of twenty-three international photographers from the 1930s onwards who have responded to the social structures, clichés and cultural changes within this sceptred isle. There's street photography, portraiture, along with architectural studies by a number of celebrated modernist photographers that reveal the diversity within this small island from the Outer Hebrides to Northern Ireland, from Welsh coal mining communities in their death throes, to boys at Eton. It also brings together an extensive photobook section of many rare and out-of-print publications.

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