Hotel Berolina by Frank Thiel

Frank Theil is a contemporary German photographer, born in Kleinmachnow in 1966. On moving to West Berlin in 1985, Thiel enrolled in a training college where he studied photography from 1987-1989. The city of Berlin has been the focus of much of his photographic work, he has recorded the transformation of the city from the mid-1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. His photographs represent a city and culture that has been torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. Not merely documentation, his photographs paint a picture of a city re-born. Thiel has described the Berlin as ‘the youngest city in the world’ and as a ‘city that suffers from an overdose of history…yet it does not suffer from its sediments like other European cities, but from the consequences of its eruptions.’ As well as photographing the details of the city’s decay, Thiel also captures the emergence of new patterns of urban existence.

Thiel’s commitment to the constant transformation and development of Berlin for more than a decade has become an integral part of the unfolding history of the city and its most important photographic record. Thiel works on a large scale and his photographs reflect the monumental scale of the city and its architecture. Hotel Berolina, the subject of this photograph, is a relic of the Cold War era, opened in 1963 it operated until the mid 1990s when the city of Berlin re-unified. The hotel’s façade is presented as a vast block, typical of the Soviet architecture of its time, against a drab grey sky Thiel evokes a nostalgia for the cities decaying sites. However, Thiel’s special ability to inscribe the dialectic relationship between ideology and aesthetics in his photographs prevents any appearance of sentimentality.

In documenting the city of Berlin, Thiel has also focused on themes of state surveillance and the privatisation of public space. More recently he has turned his attention to producing large format photographs of the glacial landscapes of Argentina’s Patagonia region. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows around the world and he is the recipient of numerous photography awards.

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