Saturday, July 10, 2010

Spreepark 2010

A few photographs I took recently at Spreepark, an amusement park in Planterwald which has been abandoned since 2002: 

Abandoned amusement parks may be a bit passe, as photo-subjects go, but the Spreepark at least has a bit of a sordid backstory. Opened in 1969 as Kulturpark Planterwald, the park was sold, after German reunification in 1989, to a company called Spreepark GmbH, who redeveloped the facility along more western lines, adding a modern roller coaster and several additional attractions. Despite the makeover, revenue fell dramatically, leaving Spreepark with a mountain of debt by the time it was shuttered in 2002. Company head Norbert Witte, along with family and associates, fled to Peru in early 2002, shipping along several of Spreepark's more popular rides for a doomed amusement-park venture in Peru's capitol. In 2004 Witte was caught smuggling 180 kgs of cocaine from Peru to Germany, hidden in the masts of his "flying carpet" ride. He was sentenced to seven years in jail. 

Today the park stands in a state of charming dilapidation, being slowly reclaimed by the surrounding forest, and is understandably popular among would-be photographers like myself. The entire perimeter is fenced off, though not particularly well, and it was with few reservations that I hopped over a weak spot and began exploring. Most of the structures remained intact, if slightly worse for the wear. Concession prices were listed in deutschmarks. My favorite was the eerie Grimm Haus, pictured above with frosted roof, and it was from this building that I was emerging when I was accosted by a security officer and his beastly, toothsome dog, who seemed more than ready to tear me to pieces. The security officer was not amused by my presence. He demanded that I either delete all of my photographs or fork over 20 euros, which he claimed the park's owner needed for upkeep. I was being shaken down! I tried to protest; he changed his story--he was the owner of the park, and I'd give him 20 euros or he'd call the cops. Not one to argue with security guards and their murderous dogs, I reluctantly parted with my 20 euros and beat a hasty retreat. Corruption at Spreepark, it seems, continues to this day, and I can only imagine what a tidy little extra income is earned in shaking down hapless shutterbugs like me.

I'm trying to take more photographs in general--Yony got a fancy new camera and kicked me down his old model, a Sony A-100 that is far beyond anything I've ever used before. But I can't seem to get over my misgivings about the photographic process. People love photographs, I think, but are innately suspicious of photographers. German speaks of "making pictures," but I think the English "taking pictures" better sums up popular attitude, with its connotations of theft. One is still expected to ask, generally, before taking a stranger's picture--to do so without permission is considered rude, even a bit perverse. Encounters like mine at Spreepark only enhance this aura of criminality; my transgression, it seemed, was not being on private property but rather photographing it, trying to take an elusive little piece of it along with me. One is made to feel greedy, a hangup I'll have to overcome if I ever intend to get serious with a camera...

1 comment :

  1. take make pictures all the time! yes! wonderful. so glad to hear you are in Germany. Hope you had a great birthday! much love. visit me in France in the fall. xoxoxoxox