The old Amer­i­can Li­brary shines once more thanks to the C/O Ber­lin art cen­ter. Solveig Steinhardt stopped by to get her pass­port pic­ture taken in Robert Capa style.

Where Berlin - - Con­tents -

The old Amer­i­can li­brary trans­formed into an ex­hi­bi­tion cen­ter for pho­tog­ra­phy and art.

Lit­er­ally around the cor­ner from the Zool­o­gis­cher Garten sta­tion is a quirky retro build­ing with a light blue and or­ange façade: it is the Amerika Haus, the former Amer­i­can li­brary and cul­tural cen­ter. This con­crete box has sen­ti­men­tal value for many West Ber­lin­ers, epit­o­miz­ing those strange 30 years dur­ing which Ber­lin was an is­land oc­cu­pied by for­eign mil­i­tary forces. Re­cent ru­mor has it that the Haus ac­tu­ally served as a work space for US in­tel­li­gence – which re­minds me of all the times when I came here as a 15-year-old high-schooler to bor­row English books and video­tapes. So they are say­ing that all those old ladies and English teach­ers weren’t re­ally there to read Good House­keep­ing, but were ex­chang­ing in­for­ma­tion in­stead?

Who knows. But what re­ally counts now is that the Haus still stands de­spite de­mo­li­tion threats, and that it’s still host­ing some­thing as noble as books: art. The build­ing was re­opened on 30 Oc­to­ber as an ex­hi­bi­tion cen­ter for pho­tog­ra­phy and hub for cul­tural (rather than in­for­ma­tion) ex­change, run by the C/O Ber­lin art foun­da­tion, which was evicted from its prior lo­ca­tion in Mitte in March 2013. One of the open­ing ex­hi­bi­tions, Mag­num

Con­tact Sheets, pro­vides fascinating in­sights into the work­ing meth­ods of renowned pho­tog­ra­phers such as Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bres­son, and Leonard Freed through the use of con­tact sheets, which are pieces of pho­to­graphic pa­per printed with strips of photo neg­a­tives. A sec­ond show called Pic­ture

Your­self, Mag­num Pho­toma­ton ex­plores the more anony­mous world of the photo booth in its static func­tion­al­ity, il­lus­trat­ing how it coun­ters the in­di­vid­u­al­ity and nar­ra­tive of por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy. Dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion, C/O Ber­lin will also be pre­sent­ing six dif­fer­ent photo booths that per­fectly sim­u­late the por­trait styles of Mag­num pho­tog­ra­phers El­liott Er­witt, Robert Capa, Paolo Pel­le­grin, Steve McCurry, Philippe Hals­man, and Bruce Gilden, en­cour­ag­ing vis­i­tors like you and me to step in and have their pass­port pic­ture taken, this time with a pose art­sier than usual.

“The build­ing re­opened on 30 Oc­to­ber as an art cen­ter.”

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