Brian McKee Soviet Military Base, Former East Germany
When I was fifteen my best friend and I took a road trip to the Dakotas, and along the way I began taking photos: a truck stop, a herd of cattle, old barns. At college my thesis was thirty "Dark and Marginal" images of historic sites across the United States. After college, I wanted to do something similar in Europe and decided to photograph the remains of East Germany: the empty factories, military camps, and apartment buildings. A huge range of emotions and ideas began to form as I made these photos. Many of the rooms appeared to have been untouched since they were abandoned, and I felt as if I were trespassing on the past.
I work with an 8 x 10 camera, so I move slowly and get to know the spaces well. My work is primarily concerned with specific historical events and our relationship to those events. I am fascinated by how we define history, how we use events and objects to create a historical record. For this project I chose the Communist occupation of the former East Germany as my subject matter. If you look at these images as a group, a mysterious and unnerving story from the not-so-distant past begins to emerge, a story of now-empty rooms, abandoned possessions, peeling wallpaper, and the collapse of Communist control over Eastern Europe. It is their context that gives these ruined places such rich meaning, calling up European history-memories of past wars, of the Cold War, of human lives.