|Helga Paris "Winstrasse"|
"...part of the story with DDR photography is that it wasnt considered an “Art” by the government so photographers had a more room to maneuver. So there is some really interesting stuff that works as visual double and triple entendre. And there is something compelling about scenes of East Berlin in the 50s, just knowing the way back and the way forward from that time.
"Early on during our Berlin stay I got set up at this high-end gallery to look at photos. I was initially interested in Weimar photographers, but said also show me DDR work. when they started showing it to me I was stunned and uninterested in anything else. But then I left and they sent me the prices, which were much higher than I expected or wanted to pay. I stewed about it for a while and was planning to bite the bullet and just buy one to at least establish a relationship - maybe in the future they would cut be a better deal. but a few weeks went by and I never pulled the trigger because I just felt there had to be another way. Then it dawned on me that the guy from whom we rented our Berlin apartment was a photographer. I said what the hell, maybe he knows someone who knows someone. It turns out he did. And on one of our last days in Berlin he and I met with Helga Paris, one of the major DDR photographers, in her apartment in Prenzlauerberg. Lots of talking about photos, about photographing in DDR, about her process. She even understood my German. And I came away with 2 photos, straight from her darkroom. both make my knees shake. The price was vastly lower than at the gallery, but much more importantly getting the photos straight from the source, even if not *vintage* or low edition number makes a huge difference to me.
"So, feeling pretty good with myself, I parted ways with the landlord. I decided I would devote the rest of the day to following up on photo leads. I headed off to an auction house which I noticed in my web crawling occasionally offers up some stuff by DDR photographers. I figured maybe I could get something cheap because it hadn’t sold. There was one photo that I had my eye on, but I was less taken with it in person, so I passed. But one off hand comment in the middle of discussions there was that, if I was really interested in DDR photographers, I should consider stopping by this small gallery in Mitte. The guy there evidently likes showing some of the less well known stuff. It was on my way home, I had some time, so I jumped off the S Bahn and found the place. He’s got some work by a Danish photographer up, not that special. The proprietor was much more interested in some other guy who was there so I just quietly looked around. As I’m passing by a back room with his office, I see that Arno Fischer photo on the wall. It was one of the ones I liked best. We eventually get to talking about a different photographer, then I casually mention that I know the Fischer picture is widely known but I like it - how much is he selling it for? He said 2400 euros. It was 6000 (!) at the high end gallery. We talked more about other stuff then I said, what about cash, and what about now (I had it on me because of wanting to be prepared at Helga Paris’s place). Anyway, he says oh, how about 2000? Done.