Tourists visiting the German capital might have a difficult time finding things to take pictures of. The city, after all, is far from beautiful, and has none of the cookie-cutter "German" charm of the Bavarian villages that fill travel brochures.
But the city prides itself on its run-down coolness. Outside of yuppie districts like Prenzlauer Berg, much of former East Berlin, despite having been freshened up since the fall of the Wall, still seems to prefer grit and graffiti to glitz and glamour. City fashion in Berlin is designer-poor -- labelled T-shirts thrown over unwashed jeans, the whole ensemble looking wrinkled and slept-in. How can you dress sharp in a city with debts of €60 billion, the look seems to ask?
Or maybe its a look designed to match the city. Even now, despite years of construction to suture the West and East together, it would be difficult to describe the city as pleasing to the eye. The wide boulevards criss-crossing the city center seem specifically designed to channel the wind sweeping over Berlin's vast sprawl. Indeed, this openness may be what drives the young and hip into the pulsating closeness of the city's myriad clubs to party right through the dead of night.
For Berlin photographer Dieter Grube, though, the city is photogenic -- provided of course the photos are taken at night. For the last five years, the 48-year-old has wandered the streets of night-time Berlin, taking pictures of the empty streets, illuminated only by ambient light. The result is an eerie look at the cityscape presented in a new book called "Berlin by Night," published by Parthas Verlag. Accompanying the photos are excerpts from authors such as Christopher Isherwood and Heinrich Heine describing Berlin's hours of darkness.
Glancing through the book, one gets the impression that the German capital is empty of people. Only one photograph includes a human face -- on a sign advertising a Chinese Restaurant near Zoo Station. Aside from that, Grube's Berlin is full of shadow-filled cobblestone streets, lonely street lights, and darkened courtyards -- and is even, almost, beautiful.