The Lost Border


Blankenberg, East/West German Border, 1987. © Brian Rose.


Photo Essay by photographer Brian Rose


In 1985 I began photographing the Iron Curtain landscape, the fences and fortifications that divided East and West, the nuclear trip wire of the Cold War. Berlin lay to the East, divided into sectors, a vestige of World War II. The French, British, and American sectors became the isolated city of West Berlin when the East Germans constructed a wall to staunch the flow of its citizens to the west. The Berlin Wall stood, almost impenetrable, until a stunning series of political events culminated in its surprise opening in November of 1989.

I made many trips to West Berlin between 1985 and 1989. The Wall was at the center of my project, but not necessarily the prime focus as I spent months tracing the borderline across Europe from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic. Several times during the years I crossed over into East Berlin and made photographs with my view camera until a brush with the Stasi, the East German state police, persuaded me to stop.



Berlin Wall. © Sansculotte.


After the Wall opened, I continued to visit Berlin as Germany reunified, and the city began, fitfully, to knit itself together. Potsdamer Platz became the largest construction site in the world, and thousands of tourists flocked to the red InfoBox to see the plans and gaze out upon the forest of cranes. I photographed the former no man’s land of the Wall, the ruins and rebuilding, but began venturing farther afield to take in historical sites that resonated with the rest of the project.

Berlin is now one city, though as always a multi-centered metropolis. Its divisions remain evident, historical fault lines exposed—and the Wall, preserved in a few slabs here and there, remain a powerful artifact of the imagination



Mödlareuth, East/West German Border, 1987. © Brian Rose.



Offleben, East/West German Border, 1987. © Brian Rose.



Vacha, East/West German Border, 1985. © Brian Rose.



The Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 1985. © Brian Rose.



Bernauer Strasse, Berlin, 1985. © Brian Rose.



Bernauer Strasse, Berlin, 1985. © Brian Rose.



Am Zandkrug, Berlin, 1985. © Brian Rose.



Ebertstrasse, Berlin, 1989. © Brian Rose.



Ebertstrasse, Berlin, 1989. © Brian Rose.



Berlin, 1990. © Brian Rose.



Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin, 1996. © Brian Rose.



Potsdamerplatz, Berlin, 2009. © Brian Rose.



Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, 2009. © Brian Rose.


Brian Rose is a New York-based photographer. Since 1980, he has photographed the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall, the Mercatorplein neighborhood with its immigrant population and Amsterdam School architecture, and the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. Rose’s images have been collected by the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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