BBC lifts secret of Berlin’s pink pipes

When I published an explanation about the purpose of Berlin’s pink pipes in the beginning of last year, little did I know this was a question so many people were keen to find out.

The post went viral through several blogs, facebook and twitter. Then the BBC decided to do a little reportage on the pink pipes and contacted me. When asked, if I wanted to be a part in their broadcast, I said yes.

So back in summer this year I had the opportunity to meet the BBC’s Berlin correspondent Stephen Evans at Potsdamer Platz. I took a shot, when he was filmed by video journalist Suraj Patel and talking about his plan to solve the mystery of the pink pipes.

Then Suraj filmed me while I was shooting some images of the pipes with my camera. Watch the whole story here. And yes, at 2:05 in the video, that’s me.Stephen Evans & the pink pipes © Robert HerrmannPink pipes © Robert HerrmannPink pipes © Robert Herrmann

It always starts with an image in my mind …

At some time early in March this year I felt the urge to get out and capture some collective human motion again. With my longtime exposure project 60-second slices of present in mind and the intention to extend it beyond Berlin I asked myself where to go this time.

Inspired by the news reports on the election of the new pope, an image instantly popped up in my mind – the image of Saint Peter’s Square packed with people. So then, why not go to Rome for Easter? Surely I could find what I was looking for during the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi Message on Easter Sunday.

Sketch of Saint Peter's Square

Built between 1656 and 1667 according to the planning of Roman architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini Saint Peter’s Square itself marks an oval with an obelisk in its centre. Symmetrically framed by two curved colonnades at both ends of its major axis it lies in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica – the heart of Vatican – and opens up to Via della Conciliazione, which belongs to Roman territory already.

I was aware of the fact that the image I had in mind was a bird’s eye view and thus, a rather impossible one to get from that vantage point. It was infact similar to the iconic photograph that National Geographic’s Thomas Abercrombie took back in 1966 of another highly symbolic and religiously charged place – the Kaaba in Mecca.

Abercrombie’s image is fascinating not only because it conveys a sense of place but also because it depicts the motion of the masses which in itself is a part of the religious ritual of the Hajj. So this similarity ultimately leads me back to my own photographic essay on collective human motion.

Of course, I couldn’t really get a high perspective on Saint Peter’s Square. Even more so as I was late for the Urbi et Orbi Message after having documented the masses on their way to the square. So I wouldn’t get in anymore. Then instead I hurried and fell back on finding myself an appropriate point of view on Via della Conciliazione.

With Saint Peter’s Basilica at the vanishing point and the camera set in an angle slightly above the crowd these are the two best shots I got:

Urbi et Orbi

Right after Urbi et Orbi on Via della Conciliazione

I shot two rolls at that point during the Pope’s message and afterwards. Then it was overwhelming to see the masses leave the square and move towards me. The motion wouldn’t end for more than an hour and all these people where walking along the main street to finally sprawl into the centre of Rome at the other bank of the Tiber.

Considering the result it might not exactly be corresponding to what I had imagined in the first place, but I find it at least as beautiful. I am happy I found a way to react on the circumstances and in the end, of course, nothing beats the experience of actually being there.

Well, and it always starts with an image in my mind …

Monotony – booklet publication

Regardless of time or place “monotony” exposes a phenomenon hundreds of thousands of people find themselves in the midst of everyday – commuting.

Being accomodated in suburbs – often huge monocultural agglomerations of apartment blocks – their residents need to be on their way to the city centre to earn a living each and every day.

Come into being in early 2012 on several winter morning trips to the satellite towns far out in the east of Berlin the pictures of the project are given a frame and a melody with this booklet.

Along with a text about the project you can see all the pictures the booklet contains here.

If you are interested in purchasing this booklet or like to have some more information about it, I recommend you download this PDF