Dress in a window

I moved to Berlin on the 2nd June 2008 at two o'clock in the afternoon. I had secretly hoped for a fanfare of a departure, a host of friends weeping at Luton airport, but it was just me, two heavy bags and an amazing check-in woman; who bought my bad one-liner and let me off paying the extra weight charge on my luggage.

I’d told my friends I would be in Berlin for a minimum of six months to see what happened. With 280 Euros in my pocket, a place to stay, an amazing studio space in an old military hanger in Weissensee, I was hopeful I would be able to continue my fledgling but promising career as a sculptor and photographer. At my leaving party I assured people I would be back frequently to visit, that the doors didn’t lock behind when leaving the UK, and they bought it, as did I. I didn’t realize how hard it was going to be, – and I certainly didn’t envisage my trips back would be to North Wales were I knew no one – but that’s another story.

Arriving in Berlin, I didn’t touch my cameras.  My excuse was that I was uncertain where to develop film and where I could handprint, but truthfully I was scarily uninspired and seriously beginning to doubt that I would be able to make money from a Fine Art degree. I quickly got a job in a bar, enrolled in German classes, ran out of time and inspiration to create, and gave up the studio, stepping further away from what I wanted to do, and tried to believe in what I thought I should be doing.

My first winter in Berlin was cold. It was the coldest I’ve ever known it to be, though most foreigner’s who live here will always have a story of a colder, harder, darker winter. Usually when questioned it’s just their experience of a first winter in Berlin. But this was a tough one. The sun didn’t shine for weeks, the snow and ice was piled around the city in glacial drifts and I was seriously wondering why I’d come here, if it weren't at least to facilitate doing what I loved. Six months had come and gone, and I could have got on a plane back, but I was damned if I was going to do it just yet. I had pride, and in a way, I was enjoying the separation from the person I had been in London and appreciating the person I was becoming.

In my two bags I hadn’t packed for minus 15 degrees Celsius. I hadn’t packed anything of any immediate use. I had brought four (previously read) books, one pair of shoes, and a whole lot of tools and equipment, including porcelain clay and a hammer. Tucked at the bottom of a bag were two dresses unworn by me. The dresses were probably the most curious things to bring, as I had left the majority of my belongings in my brother’s damp shed, and I had sold most of my books. But I couldn't let go of them, and I couldn’t risk them being damaged; A silver and black dress made for my mother from my grandmother’s wedding sari and my grandmother’s silk slip from when she was a new bride. Horribly crushed I eventually hung the slip in the bathroom window to steam whilst I washed dishes in the bath (I had no water in the kitchen) and maybe it was the sun coming out and me finally feeling comfortable, but I picked up my camera, took a photo, found a photo lab to develop the roll, researched darkrooms, booked a session and printed the image. And here it is; the first photo I took in Berlin.