Looking Back

The poem was written in 1961, a year after the Berlin Wall had gone up and only 17 years after the end of the Second World War.

This sequence of black and white images is based on a poem by Nazim Hikhmet, “Things I didn’t know I loved”. Hikhmet, a Turkish Kurdish political activist, spent over 15 years of his life in prison and had to emigrate to escape political persecution. The poem is based on a train journey Hikhmet undertook from Prague to Berlin a year before he died. The Prague Berlin train would have passed through Dresden, and would have arrived in East Berlin.

The choice of extracts and the sequencing of images tells the story of someone remembering fragments of their life. The images are washed out at the edges and the sequencing suggest a journey that leads to destruction but ends in hope. Most of the images are extracts of photographs taken by the photographers Lee Miller, Richard Petersen and Friederich Seidenstuecker in Berlin and Dresden in 1946. The closing image, of a mother and son embracing, was taken by Miller in 1945 and pictures a mother and son separated during the war but reunited in a camp. There is one photo, of a young woman, which Julia found in an old photo album (dated 1935) bought in a charity shop. The album ends abruptly in 1935 and there are no clues as to the woman’s identity.