About Memorial Ghosts

Memorial Ghosts is a photography collaboration on the holocaust memorial in Berlin by Roland Groebe and Martin U Waltz

roland groebe

Roland Groebe

Roland Groebe is a German street photographer, living and working in Berlin.
Born in 1964, Roland came to photography later than most. He studied as a Mechanical Engineer. Having had a successful career in business, he started photographing the streets of Berlin in 2005.

He specialized in street photography, primarily focussing on the relationship between people, the city, disposed goods, and street signs. His shots are meant to connect the dots: What is the underlying code of interaction, how do we communicate with the world that surrounds us, both openly and subconsciously?

Roland Groebe often summarises his work under a common theme, e. g. tattoes, faces, or street. Roland Groebe’s street scene looks like a timeless classic that could’ve been already featured by magnum in the 60s.

As a freelance photographer, Roland works on the street on a variety of stories which focus on political, cultural and emotional isolation, alienation, loneliness, racism and discrimination.

His work was published at The Eye Photo Magazine, Stern Magazine, art-Das Kunstmagazin, National Geographic and We Street 2015 – Street Photography Book.

He won the reader’s choice award of art-Das Kunstmagazin.

Martin U Waltz

Martin is an art and commercial photographer. He is a founding member of the berlin1020 photography collective.

Martin lives in Berlin, Germany.

Martin is a keen observer of the fragility and transiency in urban life. In his street photography Martin emphasizes the contrast between the soft fluid human shape and the hard and static fabric of city infrastructure. Martin uses strong geometrical compositions, still he thinks of his photography as associative and poetic.

His work beyond draws inspiration from many sources beyond the world of photography Music ranging from Thomas Tallis and J.S. Bach to contemporary electronic music and hiphop, literature with the work of J.P. Sartre, Paul Bowles and Michel Houellebecq, from the film noir movies to Jim Jarmush, Wong Kar-wai and the recent “Victoria”, the world of painting between Rembrandt, Hopper and Penck. Poetry with Baudelaire, Benn and Celan.

Martin won numerous international photo awards like a 2 bronze medals at the prix de la photography paris or a first, second and third place at the moscow international foto awards. In 2017 he was a commended photographer at Sony World Photo Awards.

His work has been shown recently at group and solo exhibitions in New York, Paris, Dublin, London, Rome, Bucharest and Berlin.

Roland Groebe: Who are the Ghosts?

Many years ago, when visiting the memorial for the first time, I had no detailed knowledge of the architect Peter Eisenmann and the intention behind his “idea”: to build a place in which to confront and come to terms with contemporary German history – right in the heart of our capital.

In the beginning, I came without a camera, as an observer of the situation, capturing the mood and reflecting on my own perception. How does it change when experienced at different times of the day or the year? How do people behave in this place in the middle of Berlin and how do I perceive them in that particular moment?

I quickly realized that I deemed these people inseparable of time and space. Weren’t they, in fact, mirrors of those whose fate is shown here in such a palpable way? As protagonists on a historic stage that serves us as a memorial!

The translation of this sentiment and the concept for the visual interpretation of the project came to me pretty quickly.

I realized I wanted do picture the people in this setting as blurred entities, as “Ghosts of the Memorial”, apparitional, their movements out of focus. Walking past me without noticing me or looking directly at me without really seeing me.

With time the images gained focus, thus reproducing my perception. Direct looks full of questions, doubt and expectations – or averted and introverted, distant from the immediate moment, yet always present.

With great respect for the past, the victims, the survivors and the bereaved, it is my wish to interpret the memorial through my lens.

Martin U Waltz: I haven’t said anything yet

Years ago I was looking at a photograph of the holocaust memorial in Berlin, thinking „well yes, I have been there and I have shot there“. On a second thought I felt. „You haven’t said anything yet“. So I returned to the holocaust memorial and started shooting again. This is how this project started. Based on the feeling that there was something to say about this place. No intellectual or artistic concept.

My work focuses on the interaction between the fragile, fluid human element and the rather robust, hard shape of the urban environment. Yet the urban space is changing and fluid in its own way. The life cycle of building is often shorter than a human life. The city is a space where impermanence and transiency manifest in different forms and at varying speed levels.

The memorial is an abstract contemporary architectonic reflection on the holocaust. The Holocaust memorial appears to be solid and built for ages. It is not. It is already decaying. Many of concrete slabs show deep cracks, some slabs need metal bands.  It is more like a temporary installation.

This is not a work on the holocaust

It is this interaction between the memorial and its visitors, both very temporary and fluid phenomena that I find to be interesting. This is not a work on the holocaust. It is about today. It is about our culture of „memorializing“, it is about our way of dealing with the memory of the holocaust today.  There is the architectonic reflection and there is the contemporary behavior of the visitors dealing with the memorial. Be this shooting selfies, playing nervously hide and seek or simply walking through the slabs. This human behavior again can be seen as a  contemporary reflection of the historic event holocaust, ranging from acceptance and mourning to ignorance and denial.

In the end I’m observing the interaction between these two contemporary and transient reflections on the holocaust, the architectonic and the behavioral reflection. While the holocaust is an historic event, it still shapes the present moment.