Monumental

I got off the Berlin bus in front of the Brandenburg Gates at half past six in the morning. This was my first time there since I was eleven, in 1991, when unification and the fall of the Berlin Wall was still fresh in the minds of the locals. The sun was just starting to rise and the whole place was deserted save for two lone photographers, probably two wayfarer visitors with no time for sleep, like me, wandering around the gate. When I made my way back to the Brandenburg Gates around the noon hour, after a circular walk around the city, the place was awash with tourists.

The crowds made taking a photo of the monument, on its own, an impossibility. Not even the likes of the Tourist Remover would help in this situation. But that’s a good thing. Unless you are taking generic photos for postcard use, the crowds are part of the experience. This is a tourist attraction and trying your hardest to hide that fact, especially during peak tourist hours, feels a little less than honest. Same goes for removing the mundane city realities of cars, traffic, commuting, and people doing their jobs. If you feel the need to use the Tourist Remover, I think you are missing the point of what you are doing (or are very impatient.) The practical solution is to photograph things that by their nature don’t attract crowds, or, if you’re feeling particularly travel wary, show up at six in the morning.

This is why I like Joel Micah Miller‘s “Monumental” series. His photographs revel in that tourist filled reality, showing how it really is to be at those monumental locations.

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I also like it for the selfish reason that he photographed many of the same things I have photographed from the very same vantage point I photographed them. It gives my amateur self a good point of comparison for technique in contrast to that of a professional, award winning photographer.

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