Documenting Berlin, 2022-2023

It starts around December 2021. My partner and I live in Toulouse. She works in an administration office, I’m a young lawyer. I’m the firm’s little hand, I work crazy hours and don’t learn much. She’s tired of the slow pace of projects and the gossip between colleagues. One evening she says to me: “Why don’t we drop all this? Why don’t we go and join our friend F in Berlin for a while?

At first, I didn’t take it well. There’s this comfortable apartment we’ve just bought. There’s the stress, a real illness with me, which I’m treating and I’m just starting to feel good.

And then the idea takes hold. At work, the days are long, waiting for someone to need me in court or for my boss to deign to give me a file. So, locked away in my office, I start doing other things, such as reading about photography. It’s important to kill some time, and photography interests me more than the law as I was practicing it at that moment.

A few weeks later, the decision was made. My partner’s contract was coming to an end. As for me, I gave my notice and set up my own photography business. We’re off.

We arrived in Germany at the end of August, staying with our friend F while we looked for accommodation. We searched and searched, but found nothing. We discover Berlin’s housing crisis. Without a proper work contract, it’s impossible to sign a lease. So we stay at F’s for a while, before finally finding a sublet.

When it comes to photography, I do odd jobs. Photographing dishes in restaurants for home delivery platforms, a report on a tattoo artist for a journalist friend. The rest of the time, I work on free projects and live off my savings. A few shows at Berlin Fashion Week and mostly street photography.

Berlin in 2022-2023. My local contacts tell me that the city is changing. It used to be that artists lived in Mitte, in the heart of the city center. Real estate was cheap. You could get by without having to earn too much money.

Today, the economy has developed. The alternative movements have moved to the outskirts, to Moabit and Neukölln. At the same time, buildings are changing, luxury properties are multiplying and the working classes are moving away from the city center. The city has become gentrified.

I wanted to photograph this. A changing city, marked by its past, counter-culture movements and current events, such as the war in Ukraine. To keep a trace of Berlin between two periods, a city halfway between the end of the Soviet Union and a standardized European capital.

As for me, I was between my gap year and my entry into the professional world of photography.

Marius Balayn

Full gallery:

Also on instagram

I would like to exhibit my work in a gallery, feel free to contact me on this link.

This work was mostly shot on Fomapan 200 with a Leica III paired with the Voigtlander Kolor Skopar 35mm f2.5 LTM mount.

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About The Author

7 thoughts on “Documenting Berlin, 2022-2023”

  1. Thanks for sharing your story Marius ! I too am just starting out in film photography, and I will be visiting Toulouse in a week. Do you have any recommendations for where I should visit ? Any camera/film stores to recommend ?

    1. Hi John, thanks for the kind words !
      Yes you could visit the Musée des Abattoirs, they often showcase interesting international artists. For photo exhibitions in particular there is also the Galerie du Chateau d’Eau. It’s a former water tower converted into a photo gallery. Then you can have a violet syrup on the Place du Capitole and admire the numerous old monuments and churchs in town.
      Camera stores :
      – avenue de Muret : Repar’Phot (for films, camera repairs and various second hand cameras ; I work there part time when I’m not on paternity leave)
      – near place du Capitole : Photo Signe Des Temps (for films, chemistry and second hand cameras)
      – place Dupuy : Laboratoire Photon (for films and very high quality fine art prints).
      Have a nice trip !

  2. I admire the courage you & your partner displayed to pack it all in, and take a leap into the unknown.
    I wish both of you continued success as you build your business.
    As for the kit, it’s perfect for the style of photography you posted. I work with its younger brother – a M2 w/the 35mm f/2.5 Color-Skopar (m mount). It makes for a compact, but a powerful combo.

      1. I’ve had the M2 for over 25 years. I love it. I’m leaving it to my daughter if I ever pass away :-).
        I’ve had it for so long it’s truly an extension of my arm & eye. I carry it whenever I go out of the house. My wife grabs her purse, I grab the M2.
        I will never push it to its limits.

  3. Hi Marius,

    Thank you for sharing your pictures and the insight into your live. I’m way older than you are and your piece got me thinking. Would I have had the courage? I started all over again when I was in my early thirties, from the law into IT. That wasn’t entirely by choice and I came into an environment that would employ anyone who could spell SAP correctly… Your story is different. I’m curious and of course you don’t need to answer if you don’t want to, but would you say that you enjoy life more now than before in your legal job? Is it too early to tell? However, I wish you all the best for your new way of life and that it just turns out the way you want!


    1. Hi Stefan, thx for the nice comment. Yes I would say I feel much happier now. However photography is not an easy path and I’m glad I found a part time job in a camera shop because it is a real challenge to gain customers when beginning as a freelancer. I took almost a year off to consider switching to “professional” photographer. It may be something interesting to consider!

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