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This is Berlin

The German capital is more used to being shot in grainy grey. Photographer Matthias Heiderich tells us why he sees his home city differently

  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin
  • This is Berlin

For all the vibrancy and beauty of Berlin, “colourful” is not necessarily the adjective everyone would use to describe it. Rio, Marrakech or Burano are colourful places; think Berlin and you might conjure up warehouses, checkpoints and communist kitsch gone hip.

Photographer Matthias Heiderich sees his adopted city differently, though. He bought his first camera in 2008 just after he’d moved to Berlin for a thesis on linguistics. “I was spending long days exploring the city. I discovered that I’m not so much interested in photographing people, but enjoyed taking pictures of architecture, especially colourful architecture,” he says. “I have always liked that slightly dreamy quality of Polaroid and Kodachrome photos from the 1950s and ’60s. In the beginning I was trying to imitate that style with digital post-processing, but quickly realised I have to work with film and different processing techniques to achieve the quality I wanted. My style got more and more minimal, and I became obsessed by all the weird buildings in Berlin.”

Photography soon took over from linguistics, and after becoming a full-time photographer in 2010, Heiderich has created distinctive portraits of Dubai and Madrid, among others, and exhibited across the world, from San Francisco to St Petersburg. “Generally, I find locations just by walking around cities,” he says. “I try to find places I haven’t seen before, and that other photographers haven’t shot much.” 

His first love, though, is Berlin. As for depicting the German capital in sharp, primary colours, he insists he’s not reinventing any wheels. “You can find very old postcards portraying Berlin in a very cheerful and colourful way. Sure, I have also seen » monochromatic photos of Berlin, as in all cities, but in fact it’s a pretty colourful city, with the colourful underground stations and the painted facades, especially in the eastern part.”

If you want to get a glimpse of Berlin à la Heiderich, the photographer loves the Bierpinsel (“beer brush”), the iconic but currently unoccupied building by the Schloßstraße U-Bahn station. “It used to be orange, but then they had it all painted by artists – I preferred it before, but it’s still quite a sight.” Another favourite is the candy-coloured Meininger Hotel near Grünbergallee station, whose exterior is made up of lines of bright colours. “I found it by chance one day during one of my photo trips, and just thought: This is perfect.”

More generally, he says Berlin is still one of Europe’s great cities. “It’s been this cultural playground that has attracted young people, artists and alternative projects over the past few decades. While it has started to attract the odd cash-hungry investor, it’s still one of the most eclectic cities in Europe, and you can find almost anything here from underground parties in abandoned warehouses to international fashion events. I really hope politicians will manage to preserve that Berlin and not sell the city out.”
 
Norwegian flies to Berlin from nine destinations. Book flights, a hotel and a rental car at norwegian.com


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