“Berlin in Stone” – a photographic journey through place and time with classic artistic vision by Eion Johnston
Berlin in Stone – Photographs by Eion Johnston FRPS
The Life Room, 23B Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ
Tuesday 11th – Sunday 16th September 2018 (open 10.30 – 17.30)
Award-winning photographer Eion Johnston, FRPS, who lives in Edinburgh, has visited Berlin regularly over the past thirty years observing its architectural heritage, past and present. This two part exhibition captures a snapshot of a crumbling building damaged during 1945 and the remaining fragment of the Berlin Wall. These are more than just photographs – these are artistically crafted compositions to reflect, through hindsight and contemporary viewpoint, the aftermath of a city at war.
Through a series of panels, Berlin 1945 depicts a stone wall, punctured with bullet holes and blasts of shrapnel which pierced the fabric of the building. With extraordinary juxtaposition and layering of black and white photographic images, here too we see the ghosts of war captured like a classical sculptured frieze, human figures frozen in mid-movement, representing aspects of comfort, hope, despair and death in their war torn and destroyed city.
The main focus for Ancient Greek artists was to depict ultimate beauty and harmony, the physicality of man, his Olympic strength and endeavour in sport and in battle. With extraordinary vision, Eion Johnston has replicated the stylistic, athletic pose and poise of classic sculptures with images of slim, toned models in Berlin today. The background has a grainy textured quality which emphasises a forgotten, faded sense of place and time. One or two people viewing these photographs were convinced that these were real, historic decorative friezes carved on a wall in Berlin.
What is most moving about combining the bullet blasted stone with modern life studies is that the figures represent both the citizens who suffered and died during World War II and also young Berliners today, surrounded by memories still present within the ruins of the past.
The second part of the showcase, The Wall follows a similar artistic format whereby life studies of models have been placed against the stark grey concrete of the Berlin Wall. About a kilometre has been preserved as a valuable historic monument, a living symbol of the physical and political divisions between East and West Berlin, 1961 – 1989. Now partly destroyed, strips of steel supports are visible which gives the impression of prison bars holding back the male figures, viewed from behind, as if trapped against a cell wall, while another has his arms out stretched as if to represent the Crucifiction.
This dual perspective of Berlin in Stone reflecting the city’s tragic heritage, presents re-imagined classical mural iconography with contemporary vision which is simply breathtaking in its power and poignancy.
A selection of photographs from Berlin 1945 was submitted to the Royal Photographic Society last year, for which Eion Johnston proudly received the award of “Fellowship of the Year, 2017”. A most prestigious honour in recognition of this memorable and masterly collection.