My Best Shot

Novem­ber 1989 Berlin Nikon FM

NPhoto - - Contents - Keith Wil­son

In 1989 the Berlin Wall came down, and John Angerson cap­tured the emo­tion

25 years ago, cit­i­zens of Berlin de­mol­ished the con­crete di­vide that had kept them apart since the 1960s. Fol­low­ing the end of World War II, Berlin city was di­vided be­tween com­mu­nist East and cap­i­tal­ist West. In 1961 the East Ger­man au­thor­i­ties erected a wall across the city, which be­came the phys­i­cal sym­bol of the Cold War di­vide.

In 1989, the coun­tries of the Soviet Bloc swept away their com­mu­nist regimes. On Novem­ber 9, East Ger­man bor­der guards be­gan al­low­ing their fel­low cit­i­zens to cross into West Berlin un­chal­lenged. All over the world TV news bul­letins broad­cast im­ages of drills punch­ing holes through the Wall and West Ber­lin­ers cheer­ing fam­i­lies of East Ber­lin­ers cross­ing the bor­der. One per­son watch­ing was a young free­lance pho­tog­ra­pher called John Angerson. “I saw ev­ery­thing that was hap­pen­ing and de­cided to go to Berlin. I had a hun­dred quid in my pocket, a knap­sack with some clothes, a Nikon FM with a dodgy MD11 mo­tor­drive which jammed all the time, a 28mm f/3.5 Nikkor, a dozen rolls of Il­ford HP5 and nowhere to stay!”

John set about walk­ing among the crowds near the Wall. “It was mayhem,” he says. ‘There were lots of demon­stra­tions, lots of people chant­ing.” There were also cries of joy, as rep­re­sented in the ex­pres­sion of a young woman wear­ing a dis­tinc­tive pair of horn-rimmed glasses. “I took this pic­ture with­out look­ing through the viewfinder, it was that crowded,” John re­calls. “She was very ex­cited, they hugged a cou­ple of times and dis­ap­peared into the crowd. I don’t know who they were or where they were from.”

The re­ac­tion

Back in Northamp­ton, John was in the dark­room of the Chron­i­cle & Echo de­cid­ing which neg­a­tives to print from the con­tact sheet when one of the paper’s pho­tog­ra­phers leant over. “He pointed to this frame and said, ‘That’s a win­ner.’”

He was right: six months later John got a full-time job on the paper. He in­cluded this pic­ture in his en­try to the 1990 Il­ford

I took this pic­ture with­out look­ing through the viewfinder, it was that crowded

Awards and was named Young Pho­tog­ra­pher of the Year.

John re­turned to Berlin last year. “It’s for a project to pho­to­graph 10 events in Euro­pean his­tory since 1900 that changed our world, same date, same lo­ca­tion. But that’s an­other story!”

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