In November 2014, I had a nagging feeling that I hadn’t seen enough of Berlin, despite living there for nearly a year. Since I am quite enamored with trains, typography and history — I decided to embark upon a journey to photograph every U-Bahn station in Berlin.
The next day I jumped onto the U1 and started photographing each station. I was aware at the time that others had done similar projects. These projects were really great, but I felt by only photographing the signs of each station that they missed a lot of interesting context and history about the station. I wanted to capture a more complete picture of each station, that included signs, stairwells, platforms, trains, entrances, benches and anything else that caught my eye.
I estimated that it would take me a month to finish. I was very wrong about that. About midway through my project, came an unfortunate result of my over eagerness to finish. I had photographed about 20 stations during one outing and the next day I couldn’t walk because of excruciating knee pain. This injury laid me up for months and I was unable to continue. Shortly before this injury I had also enrolled in intensive German language classes at 20 hours per week. With my bad knee, language school and my work as an iOS developer, the project slowed to a crawl. I took it very easy and went out a few times a month to just stay in the rhythm. I ended up doing ten months of intensive language classes and during this time my knee mostly healed. In September 2015, I started photographing stations again (albeit slowly) and vowed that I would finish before the one year mark.
With 20 days to spare I happily stepped foot in the last station on my list, Alt-Mariendorf and ended that portion of the project. While the second half of the project dragged on seemingly forever, I’m glad that I finished when I did and wasn’t rushed. Apart from a few drug dealers on the U8 between Alex and Kottbusser that made me feel a bit uncomfortable, my underground adventure was easy going and incident-free.
Outside of a few snapped smartphone pictures a week it must be said that I’m not a photographer. I hope you will forgive some of my less-than-stellar shots, there are many. I started with the U1 line and while I would love to go back and reshoot it with the photography experience I’ve gained, I’m not going to. My favorite lines to photograph were parts of the U2, U3 and U8.
Originally, I had thought that it would be a simple matter of visiting stations, then uploading the pictures to the internet. It didn’t occur to me at the start that these pictures would all need to be edited. It’s likely that it took me more time to edit the pictures and create this website than it took to photograph all of the stations.
Nearly all of the photographs were taken with a Canon EOS M and although it’s not a big fancy camera, overall I’m quite happy with the results. My wife (a Berlin wedding photographer) was curious about my project and was nice enough to accompany me one day. She helped me photograph seven stations and gets points for keeping me entertained that day. During this project I visited 170 stations, took over 1800 photographs and was (ticket) controlled too many times to count.
I have a newfound respect for the Berlin U-Bahn system and the people that designed the stations, placed the tiles and created the typefaces. It was really interesting to explore the city and I hope you all enjoy this glimpse into Berlin’s underground.
Also, be sure to checkout (and subscribe) to H & Co.’s Youtube channel which features videos of parts of the Berlin subway system.