In the 1960s and 1970s, Allied officials, military personnel and tourists once flocked to the first floor of Café Adler (Eagle Cafe) - only a few yards from Checkpoint Charlie - to peer, eagle-eyed, over the wall and get a glimpse into the East. John le Carré drew great inspiration from the place, setting several of his most poignant scenes there, and it was a poorly kept secret that the headquarters of the CIA were situated just one floor above.
Furthermore, in historical images of the twentieth century, Checkpoint Charlie is often photographed from above, the checkpoint, its structure and its architecture at the center of the frame and the obvious focus of attention. Yet in such images, curious figures are always seen roaming on the periphery, hinting at both the daily lives and anonymous individuals caught in the photographic crossfire at this site of ideological confrontation.
This work was photographed in the twenty-first century, when this symbol of the division between East and West is now more prominently a tourist attraction and no longer a point of political stand-off. The photographs are made digitally, reversed tonally, and then printed at a small scale (five inches in height) on silver-gelatin paper. Both technically and aesthetically they represent a convergence of 1960s and twenty-first century surveillance and touristic imagery, and act as an allegorical homage to this once important site of (di)vision, attempting to invoke the spirit of the site's past through the human figures that continue to roam through the frame.


Aaron Schuman Photography

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