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Lothar's Apartment

Lothars Wohnung (2011/14)

There I was, standing in this empty apartment, where nothing reminded me of its old occupant. Contrary to expectations, without all the furniture and with these brightly painted walls, the apartment seemed smaller than before, not bigger. I was supposed to take a few quick photos of the renovated state - for the workmen, for the search for a tenant. It turned into several days, the lens focused on the no longer existing motifs of the past.


My father-in-law was a hermit in busy Reuterkiez, Quarter of Neukölln in Berlin. The fact that the world outside his abode was changing so rapidly seemed uncanny to him. Shortly after I photographed him in his apartment for the first time, I drove Lothar to a doctor's appointment. On the way back, we got to talking about the division of the city, which had been overcome for more than 20 years, and it turned out that he had not visited the eastern part of his city even once in that time. I offered him a little jaunt there, but he declined. Not out of modesty - he just didn't want to.


He left the third-floor apartment in the backyard only to go shopping and, as long as his legs still allowed it, to ride his bike to his allotment. Otherwise, he preferred to spend his time alone at home in his apartment, which had hardly changed in the thirty years he had lived there.

When walking became increasingly difficult and he suffered a mild heart attack, his children couldn't persuade Lothar to move to a ground-level apartment with a terrace. You don't transplant an old tree.


In retrospect, it amazes me more and more that this reclusive and always somewhat suspicious man agreed to me photographing him and his apartment. Lothar was not a well-read person, but he was quite reflective. I think he was well aware that he was a bit of an oddball. After I took my photos, he stunned me in his somewhat mumbled Berlinish by saying that I was a seeker, but would not find what I was looking for.


One of my motivations for engaging with my environment through photography is probably, as for many photographers, the hope of snatching what is portrayed from oblivion - even if, given the finite nature of everything, that is also just an illusion. In my father-in-law's empty, renovated apartment, a quote attributed to Bertolt Brecht came to mind: "Man is only really dead when no one thinks of him anymore." 

The complete series has been published as a book:



Christoph Schieder

Lothars Wohnung

Was bleibt, wenn wir gehen

(Lothar's Appartement — What remains when we go)

chrismon edition, 88 pages, 50 illustrations,  17x24 cm, hardcover,

ISBN: 978-3869212951, €16.90 (D), €17.40 (A)

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