University of Westminster, London, (BA Film & Photo Arts)
About Christiane Zschommler
I was born in East Berlin, growing up in the 1960s in a block of flats behind The Berlin Wall, where I was a self-taught photographer. Later, having qualified and worked as a chemistry and biology teacher, I devoted all my spare time to photography. My improvised black and white darkroom was a refuge to me, a magical place, a timeless world. The language of my photography was grainy black and white street photography taken on my travels through Eastern Europe.
With the fall of The Wall in November 1989, my world got bigger.
In 1992 I received a grant for 6 months to teach German in a school in London and to learn English. I felt overwhelmed by the change and unlimited opportunities. I resigned from my teaching post in Berlin to stay longer in London.
While completing a BA in Photography at the University of Westminster in the mid-90s my approach to photography changed radically: instead of capturing images, I began to create them.
Experimenting with combining images using colour and black and white negatives, I trans-formed familiar objects into photographs of magical dreams. This work became a means to find an emotional release but also to experience creativity.
For my degree I created a series of self-portraits through darkroom manipulation reflecting on the impact of growing up directly opposite The Berlin Wall.
After college I worked as a freelance photographer and became involved in a variety of creative and collaborative projects.
In 2003 we moved away from London to live on a canal in Surrey. I photographed my surroundings and their metamorphosis as they reflected in water.
Since my daughter was born I have started to look at the world from a perspective I have not considered before. Watching my daughter exploring her surroundings with a never-ending curiosity, spending countless hours exploring one item encouraged me to revisit the canal through-out the seasons
Most of my photographs from 2013 to 2016 were taken on solitary walks. Restricting myself to the same route feels more like escaping into a thinking space. It seems this process acts as a catalyst for triggering memory’s connected to my life in former East Germany. Writing these down was the beginning of keeping notebooks. Here I collect thoughts about the past, my current
photographs, poetry and artists. It has developed into a compulsion.
2018, I have been living in England for 26 years about the same time I lived behind the Berlin Wall. However, I always feel something is missing, my thoughts drift back to my former life. Writing and reading helps me to understand my work process and provides a focus. I feel I can hold on to something.
With my recent work I continue to focus on my experiences of totalitarianism, using my note-books as starting point. I feel the need to refer to this regime which permeated every aspect of life. Love for your “homeland” was substituted for love for the state.
I took images of places in Berlin connected with power and repression, photographed objects of secret facts published after The Wall came down and created images using files held on me by the secret police.
I make objects out of my writing and place them into familiar surroundings. I feel memories reconstruct themselves, making new connections. Recollecting, reiterating and visualising these thoughts, a process of re examination provides orientation. The feeling of disconnectedness changes into something I can identify with and have ownership of.