photos: Keith Telfeyan
Berlin is an identity. It’s the capital of Germany and a city in Europe, but it transcends those things. It’s a state of mind. I moved here a year ago – not for a job, not for a lover, not for any official reason, but simply because it’s Berlin. I identify with this place – this idea – and now it feels like home. For creative people, the journey naturally leads here. These pictures are how I see Berlin, through fresh eyes of the inspiring city.
“Where are you from?”
It’s the question I hear most often when traveling. And now that I live in a new country, I engage in this topic all the time. When people ask this, what do they really want to know?
“New York” is my usual response. I moved to Berlin from Brooklyn, and sure, I identify as a “New Yorker.” But I was born in California and spent my first 22 years all around that wonderful state. Which of these places gives a better sense of my identity? Should I just say I’m “American”? I feel like that word says too much, or almost nothing.
Really, we are all the sum of our unique journeys. Some people stay in the same place their whole lives and the question is easy for them. But for those of us who have become locals of multiple places, it’s a bit trickier. We are an amalgam of influences.
“And what do you do?”
That’s usually the next question. It’s another question I’ve always struggled with answering confidently. Maybe because I don’t have a proper, legitimate “career.” I create things, specifically words and pictures. I’ll call myself a writer and artist. But these titles must be worn with some reservation. Maybe they sound funny because they are words we’re meant to somehow “earn.”
In the USA – a place so obsessed with work and success – these things can consume you and overwhelm you. It’s partly why I left. Berlin is freer, free from the constant chase of “success”, from the idea of being “the best.” It’s less concerned perhaps with identifying people by their job, because we aren’t limited by how we “earn a living.” We just live.
What we’re passionate about, and how we spend our time: these things are what most interest us, aren’t they?
We need to replace “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” with “What culture do you relate to?” and “What do you care about?” I think Berlin intuitively knows this. And Berlin answers these questions by itself.
My journey has led me here, to this European capital that epitomizes the life of an artist. This is the place where I feel most comfortable because it is an egalitarian culture, diverse and modern. It embodies a passion for living well, for focusing on the important things in life, and for having fun. The mind is free to daydream, to romanticize, to imagine all sorts of possibilities.
Ideas flow like the wonderfully efficient public transit system, like bicycles orderly zooming through the city. The streets are abuzz, people pouring out of weekend-long parties like so much cheap beer, relaxing on cozy couches in candlelit bars every night without a care in the world. Mutual respect pervades the air; there is absolute freedom to live and let live.
I relate to Berlin: International, bustling like New York but also very chill like California. It’s concerned mostly with quality of life, social equality, modern comforts and contemporary living – truly wonderful European values. Berlin is unique, with a rich and exciting history. It’s the best place to call home because it encompasses the best of all worlds. It is truly inspiring!
So now, when I travel, I am tempted to say that I come from Berlin. As an idea, there is no better city to be from.
photos: Keith Telfeyan