My Best Shot
November 1989 Berlin Nikon FM
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.”
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!”