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A long time ago in a place far far away…

In a different life a long time ago I regularly travelled to the countries which were then behind the “iron curtain”. Although cameras were not permitted in most places without permission, and certainly not allowed in public in the hands of foreigners, I did sometimes hide a cheap camera and manage a few shots.

In an incident in 1995 I lost virtually all my negatives from 1966 when I first started taking photographs, until the former time – another story. I was looking for something recently and came across some old photo books, out fell a folded glassine negative sheet containing some 35mm B&W negatives – memories flooded back as I held perfectly preserved film strip to the light.

These images were taken in Leipzig station in 1988, at that time still the GDR just before the reunification. I was travelling with a colleague as guests of the then “party” and we had a break in our meeting. We were “let loose” in the station as it had the only decent restaurant in the City, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to wander around and shoot a couple of rolls.

The public were incredibly nervous at the sight of obvious westerners with a camera, I was warned several times to stop. It didn’t take long before the Stasi arrived and very politely, but menacingly, confiscated my camera. When our hosts came back to pick us up we told them what had happened, instead of being troubled they were highly amused and I was applauded for my nerve.

The next morning before we left – we were staying in a so-called “villa” in the City, which was owned by the very nice Erich Honecker, our hosts brought the camera back less the film of course. However before the Stasi took it the previous day, I had just changed the film and had a full spool in my pocket - here is a selection.

The film was Kodak PX 5062, 125 ASA, using an Olympus XA point and shoot. The light was dreadful, and my shooting technique somewhat rushed and surreptitious, however it is a record of those momentous times. Note the American flag in one of the shots – very strange indeed for those times!!

Also there is a shot of me, guess which one?

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