It was what may go down in history as the vilest September day on Wellington record. But not even so-called springtime temperatures brushing freezing can keep booklovers from their favourite dates in the calendar – the launch of a beautiful new book at Unity. On this particularly frigid Monday, we celebrated Snapshots of Berlin, a collection of poems and photography celebrating (and occasionally deconstructing the German city). Poet John Davidson and photographer Matthias Seidenstücker were both in attendance, along with Bettina Senff, the director of Goethe-Institut New Zealand.
The murmurs of the crowd before the festivities kicked off were a mixture of English and German voices, which seemed appropriate given the international flavour of the event. John Davidson is based in Wellington – though he has spent extensive time in Berlin, while German Matthias Seidenstücker is in turn familiar with both New Zealand and Wellington. Everyone gathered was impressed, however, to hear that Matthias had made this particular trip to New Zealand specifically for the book’s launch.
Prior to Bettina officially launching the book, she spoke of her experience working towards the book’s creation. She acknowledged the trials and tribulations of the editorial process, as well as the feeling of success with the finished product – and the opportunity to launch it among friends at Unity. John then provided a little backstory to the book’s creation, and shared little snippets of stories of his time in Berlin. He explained the way in which the poems cross between the serious and the light-hearted, before reading several pieces from the book to illustrate the range of the book’s poetry.
Matthias then addressed the crowd, prefacing his brief speech by telling us that he would ‘keep the word count down’ because he’s the photographer. He went on to say that he loves travelling between Wellington and Berlin ‘because I’m going home no matter which way’. It was a privilege for us, in his southern home, then, to have him around for the launch of a book containing such beautiful and varied photographs of his original hometown.
It is always a long journey for any book to get from concept to launch, and it was wonderful for the gathered crowd – including the Unity staff in attendance – to have a chance to share in the clear sense of pride that John, Matthias and Bettina felt in their finished product. And rightly so.
Review: Briar Lawry//Photography © Matt Bialostocki