“Be careful, watch your head.” the guide says as he shines a flashlight up towards the low doorway. I’m startled upon hearing his warning – I look up and break my laser like concentration on the floor leaving my feet to fend for themselves on the uneven ground as I watch out for my forehead. My eyes adjust to the lighting change as a ray of bright sunlight pours through a broken window in front of me. The shattered glass mixes with the other stone debris under my feet and makes a crunching sound. Even though I’m clearly somewhere I shouldn’t be, I have a rush of excitement pulse through me and I clutch my camera case slung around my body. Today I’m exploring and photographing abandoned Berlin.
The guide is leading a group of us through the maze of stairways rooms, and hallways first explaining the different areas and what to be careful of, lighting challenges, as well as little hidden treasures. The old paper mill factory has fallen into disarray starting in 1994 when it went bankrupt shortly after German reunification. This building that is falling apart, rusted out, broken, and only lit by the natural outside light is going to be my photographic canvas for the next 4 hours.
The Wolfswinkel Paper Mill had been around since the 1800’s and was producing some of the of the best quality handmade paper around the area. This 284 year old paper mill was essentially a house on stilts, beneath which a picturesque creek rushed through. Now the water is still flowing nearby, but the building is crumbling slowly to the earth below. Many of the old machines were cutting edge technology years ago, but are now rotting and rusting away.
One of the things that Berlin has in abundance is abandoned buildings left from the German reunification and the privatization of many East German businesses. The businesses, like the abandoned amusement Park (Spreepark) I visited and photographed earlier in the week, just couldn’t survive in this new world. However even though capitalism did them in, it was a couple of inventive, young capitalist thinking friends who have turned ‘abandoned’ into a business.
Go2Know is a unique tour company in Berlin who will take groups of photographers or videographers through abandoned buildings around the city. Buildings such as a Chemical plant, woman’s clinic, sanitarium, meat factory, water works, Spreepark, and even the old Tempelhof Airport. They have secured special access from the owners to bring people into the buildings and photograph them. The men come from a video and photography production background and knew that photographers would love these types of photographic playgrounds to practice composition and lighting effects.
Today a group of about 16 of us all armed with SLR’s, tripods, flashes, and light meters get our initial introduction to the building and then we are set free – to roam into every dark little corner over the next 4 hours. We split up and wander at our own speeds. The two guys periodically walk around and check on us and even leave little chocolate candy bars spread around the abandoned mill as treats for us as we wander. They are there to answer questions, give advice about the shooting conditions and generally provide as much help as you want when it comes to shooting this environment.
If you are looking for a unique tour or photography experience in while in Berlin – then I found it. This was a great chance for me to have a unique travel experience, and brush up on my photography composition and shooting in low light skills while I slowly wandered around the building. I went up stairways, into dark corners, through puddles and to find some amazing, eerie settings. The challenge was to capture the feeling of the place beyond simple snapping the photo. I’ve chosen some of my favorite shots from the day – what do you think? How do they make you feel?
View all Abandoned Berlin Paper Mill Photography:
Go2Know Website – www.go2know.de (only in German – however the men who run the tours do speak a little English)
Paper Mill Tour specifics (located in Eberswalde)
List of tours through other abandoned buildings
Note that you can use your photos commercially too, however you must contact them (Go2Know) first. They will contact the respective owners of the properties and notify you with the use permit and a possible share ownership.
Disclosure: Thanks to Oh Berlin apartment rental and Go with Oh for hosting me on this great tour. However, all of the opinions expressed here are my own – as you know how I love to speak my mind!