The Berlin Experts: Finding Berlin

photos: FindingBerlin

With our new interview series The Berlin Experts we would like to introduce you to some very interesting personalities who – just like us – have devoted their life and work to the city of Berlin and its cultural scene including art, fashion, music, nightlife and publication.

For our very first interview we wanted to begin with a fellow blogger who we have enjoyed following now for a few years. Sara started her visual magazine Finding Berlin in 2010 and since then captures the essence and the cultural diversity of our metropole, through photography and videography, exposing a refreshing and authentic image of Berlin from every possible perspectives. Alongside with other excellent authors, Sara is investing her energy and creativity on FindingBerlin to give her readers a very personal, yet elaborate view of how Berlin is changing and how we are changing with it. Enjoy the interview after the jump.

There are so many ways one can connect with other people, but what has motivated you to do it through a visual magazine?

I guess there was not a lot to say about Berlin at that time for me. Everyone and their mother talks about the city, Berliners are truly narcissistic about their designated home. I’d been writing for so many blogs and magazine, by the time I started FindingBerlin I simply wanted to share a certain perception. Details that go missing while you hurry through the city (or while you’re busy talking so much). In the end, it became a good mix of text and pictures, and I think for now this works best to portray Berlin even to those who have been here  all their life. It’s a momentary document, of course. Maybe in a couple of years we’ll repeat some of the articles with new pictures on how it looks like in comparison to the past. It’s fun to compare, makes you feel how old you get. Text alone doesn’t really transport that feeling.

Finding Berlin started as a one-girl project and soon became a multi-layered magazine. Did you already have a vision at the beginning on how your engagement with Berlin would develop?

Absolutely not. FindingBerlin wasn’t even supposed to be more than my personal photo-blog in preparation to an upcoming one year trip around the world. The plan was to document life in Berlin before taking off to see the rest of the planet, then contrast all the cities and travels to life back home. FindingBerlin used to be called “FindingBerlin – a two part documentary”, relating to that plan. When I met Marcus and Nico a couple of weeks after the initial launch of the site, we realized that we all had the same (visual) passion about the city. They continued the “Berlin” part of the site while I was gone, and when I returned six months later we started to work on it for real. By now we’re a much bigger team with a couple of guest contributors and it’s been a fun ride.

Why should people check out Finding Berlin? What makes it different from other Berlin-based magazines?

Oh, well. I wouldn’t say FindingBerlin is superior to any other Berlin site or blog. We don’t even have up-to-date things or location reviews or anything like that. But that’s how a trip to Berlin works, right? It’s the atmosphere that matters, the visual input, that faint feeling you can’t quite describe. When you travel to a different city you might look up where to go and what to do but that’s not usually the experience that you take home afterwards. It’s the spontaneous things, the unexpected. For me, FindingBerlin is not a tour guide that explains the best places. It simply gives you an impression of what can happen here if you just let it flow. Most of the time, FindingBerlin mirrors our personal lives, not even anything special or exciting. There’s honesty about it. And when nothing is going on in our lives – nothing goes on on our website.

What’s the best part of running an online magazine dedicated to Berlin?

Guestlist spots to almost any gig in the city are definitely a big bonus, haha. What makes it so exciting is the challenge to keep on finding new faces and sides about Berlin. Sometimes I wander around and think to myself “I should do a story about this some day, get really involved with it”. When I actually get around to do it, I’m usually amazed by all the stuff I haven’t even yet touched. Four years I’ve been doing this and I feel like I haven’t even left Kreuzberg yet. So many people think they know this city – the architecture, clubs, people, lifestyles and whatnot – but really all of it is just on the surface. Personally, it’s a compelling hobby to learn about your surroundings. It changes your perception. It also changed my studies at university, made me get more into the sociology of cities. That’s some real life stuff right there and it’s fun, too.

Why does Berlin culture plays such a strong role in your life?

It didn’t always. I used to hate Berlin and after two years of working in a start-up I decided to quit the job and quit the city and go travelling for a while. I had 9 months to plan my trip and I wanted to use the time to “learn travelling”. It sounds stupid now but it made sense at the time: before I leave, I have to find out why so many people like Berlin and I don’t. That’s how it started. I got sucked into the perspectives of people who adored the city. I got to live out THEIR experiences. Suddenly I understood that it was a mindset thing. Berlin can be great and horrible likewise; it just depends on how you approach the subject. In the meantime I’ve nurtured a fascination about Berlin and travelling in general. After my trip I came to realize: Berlin is actually super-unique and a wonderful place to live in, how could I have been so blind?

What are currently, from your point of view, the most interesting places in Berlin?

Wow, that must be the most difficult question of all times. The most interesting places are those undergoing change, in a both negative and positive way. What will happen to the rest of the empty warehouses, the East Side Gallery, all those things prone to discussion. On the other hand, there are really no secrets about Berlin. You just have to stitch your own pieces together I guess, and what’s interesting to me might be super boring to the next person. I owe you a straight answer though, so I’ll just say I still enjoy watching all those people flock into Görlitzer Park and see what they’re up to.

If you had the opportunity to change something in the cultural scene of Berlin, what would it be? Why?

Berlin is always used as a scapegoat for everything that goes wrong. “I can’t love, I can’t sleep, I’m broke, I have no work, people are jaded, the scene is changing etc.” I’ve heard it so many times. Seriously? Berlin is just a city. You are what you surround yourself with, and if you start disliking yourself, you should use the platform of the city to change that surrounding. Don’t use the mindset or the infrastructure as an excuse for your own failures.
Another thing: People actually live here without mystifying the place, they work and they love and they dream about going to other places. I think it’s okay to say “Berlin is AWESOME, you should come and visit, you’ll see and experience things you will not anywhere else!”, but right now people react by saying “yes, but then rents rise and the cost of living rises and investors come and…” That is so contradictory to everything Berlin supposedly stands for. The same people who never get tired of talking about rising rents are the ones who rent out their apartment on AirBnB for dizzying amounts of money. There’s a lapse of logic right there. I’ll say it right here and now: if you want something to change, you have to fight for it.  There ARE indeed political issues that we cannot overlook, but if you want to have a say about it, please consider the bigger context. I can’t take another discussion about how Berlin is going to change and it’s going to be so expensive and all those hipsters and yuppies are invading our spaces… just stop the hate already.

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