Diane Meyer uses hand-stitching in her photography project Berlin, to emphasise the historic border that once ran through the heart of the city, defining a generation.
Using amazing embroidery, Diane Meyer sews blurry patches onto 43 different shots taken around Berlin, from the Brandenberg Gate to the suburban outskirts, showing how the Berlin Wall shaped and defined the city.
When erected, it split the German city in two. Separating families, friends, businesses and sports teams; one half operated in the Western capitalist model and the other, part of the Communist Eastern Bloc.
It’s lifespan became the epoch of the Cold War and the frontline of the battle between capitalism and communism.
Thirty years on, and the wall is no longer there.
However, it’s presence is still very much felt.
Meyer’s embroidery is etched onto the photograph, representing where the old wall would have stood, generating a ghostly feel to the pictures.
Blurring the view of what lies behind, the embroidery is made to resemble pixels and borrows the visual language of digital imaging in an analogue, handmade process.
With the embroidery typically obscuring the most essential parts of the photo, it really evokes the sense of a lost opportunity, and the lost histories caused by the wall.
Coinciding with the current political climate of division and hostility between countries, Meyer’s pieces are a gentle reminder that we do not want to return to where we once were.
“In most cases, I placed the embroidery in the same location and scale of the original wall. I tried to put the embroidery at what would typically be the normal focal point of the image to emphasize the feeling in the viewer of being blocked from what lay behind.
To avoid the embroidery becoming too repetitive, in some images, I used the embroidery in a way that is more abstract and acts as a disruption in the image — similar to a corrupted image file. Other times, the embroidery mimics fencing, particularly in the forests where barbed wire fencing was used.”
Whilst there were some clear remnants of the wall, such as the guard towers still dotted over the city, Meyer also sought out places that had less obvious traces of the past, but with the presence still felt nonetheless.
In the past it would perhaps be easier to look at these pictures with an element of pity, or even a grateful nostalgia, grateful that we have moved away from such times of division.
But the context of pictures is always changing, and this is something Meyer is acutely aware of.
“I am interested in the porous nature of memory as well as the means by which photography transforms history into nostalgic objects that obscure objective understandings of the past”
Since she started the project, she admits the political landscape in our world has shifted drastically.
When Meyer started this project, Barack Obama was in office, but we are now looking at a very different world, giving Meyer’s project Berlin far more conscious weight when observed in the current climate.
“Just as the meaning of photographs change over time based on the cultural or historical moment, sadly, the implications and purposes of this project have changed for me in ways I didn’t expect given the current moment.”
Perhaps carrying a more political message than was originally intended, Meyer’s project is an amazing example of ingenuity in design, able to communicate a powerful message with the most subtle of suggestions.
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Diane Meyer’s project is being shown in an exhibition in the Klompching Gallery in New York; the first time it will be shown in it’s entirety.
Running until 10th January, make sure you give it a visit to see this amazing project in full!