Denis Cherim´s digital photographs of Berlin streets and squares continue a long-standingtradition. With the emergence of modern cities in the 19th century, the new imaging process of photography was developed. Technique, medium, and subject were closely linked from the verybeginning. Images of lonely people in an anonymous crowd, portraits in the midst of pulsating citylife, and city dwellers on public transportation have since shaped our perception of themetropolis. Shooting techniques and image content differ, but urban photographs share a senseof bearing witness of a social documentary perspective. Consider perhaps Eugène Atget´s photographs of Paris around 1900, which show asphalt workers at work in the streets beforerichly decorated shop windows, and Paul Strand, who, from 1910, depicted the hectic of peopleand traffic in the New York streets. Or the work of Walker Evens, who used a hidden camera inthe 1930s to capture the tired and empty faces of ordinary folk on the subway.
At first glance, Cherim´s large color photographs appear razor-sharp in every detail and almosthyper-realistic. They show streets and places in Berlin such as the Museum Island, the banks ofthe Spree, Alexanderplatz, and the Brandenburg Gate. However, it quickly becomes clear thatthe focus is primarily on the people passing through, i.e., this is street photography rather than apicture-postcard touristic view of these spaces. The scene of fast-moving passers-by might invitethe viewer to move hastily to the next photo, but something in the picture makes one pause. Andonce one has stopped to view this distraction, the gaze lingers to consider all the opticalcoincidences. It becomes clear that between the passers-by, the levels of their bodies arepartially intertwined. For example, in the photograph on the banks of the Spree River, a youngfemale passer-by appears to be walking on the shoulders of another person, and a female figureappears to be walking across the torso of another person. Notable in Cherim´s approach is thathe does not add elements to the photographed situation, but digitally cuts out individual elementsof a shot and rearranges them using Photoshop in his play with layers. In the photograph of theBrandenburg Gate, which is lined with police cars, Cherim goes one step further: He alsochanges the architecture of the Berlin landmark. The quadriga is rotated and bears the lettering “Tomorrow is the question” inspired by the facade of the Berghain Club. The adjacent HausLiebermann, a reconstruction of the former Haus Sommer by J.P. Kleihues from 1996, istransformed into a typical Berlin pre-war building. While the layers of Cherim’s photos appear attimes surreal, they simultaneously captivate the viewer by documenting everyday situations ofthe city that we experience but rarely notice. Even in the irritation of skewed spatial concepts,traces of recently transpired events can be found. The photographs show that these “decisivemoments”, as Henri Cartier-Bresson called them, can be created digitally.