Friday, 31 October 2014

Earth, Wind and Fire: the Winds of Berlin

Purely by accident, I've somehow fallen into an earth, wind and fire theme to my blog book reviews. Black Country Allotment Society and Seeds by Jos Jansen were earth. Next comes Oben by Diane Vincent which is most definitely Wind.

Oben is a lovely book with a card cover over a single signature all sewn up with a single strand of thread, ends showing, waxed with the wax of bees kept on the very rooftops Vincent photographed. It feels nice. It feels fresh, as fresh as the wind that blows over the rooftops of a city. And that's what it is, a book of the rooftops of Berlin.

I like that idea. I empathise with it because I used to live in Jakarta. It was a city full of new skyscrapers. I used to get to the top of them and enjoy the fresher air 20 stories above the tropical street fumes of the city's downtown. You get a different perspective from the top; different sights, different smells, different sounds, different air, and a different geography.

And that is what Oben replicates, that world of the rooftops, the Berlin rooftops (which automatically brings to mind Wings of Desire and a few other things -  there's may be a nod to that in the book). Instead it's a muted tour of the shapes and textures of the Berlin skyline; the anonymity of the immediate architecture mixed with the occasional landmark, the blankness of the leaded rooftops, the crunch of the tarred apartment tops, the rise of construction cranes, the curve of the satellite dishes and the oddness of the chimney stacks. It's New Topographic but without their brutal rigoour. The camera looks across, it looks down and it looks up. It's very grey and very quiet. The only sound up there is the wind, but we don't see that.

Buy Oben here.

And read Lens Culture's Review here. 

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