Derelict House in Jüterbog

Photo: Ulla Hennig

Probably not many of you know that Jüterbog is a town in the Mark Brandenburg – that means in the  Eastern part of Germany. I took this picture on a sightseeing trip trough the town. No, not all the houses in Jüterbog are looking like this. Indeed, that was the only one being in a derelict state.

But you wouldn’t know If I had mentioned this, would you? A town somewhere in the East of Germany – weren’t there a lot of newspaper articles about how poor the Eastern part of Germany is? And how many derelict houses there were and still are?

That’s where the responsibility of the photographer and the photo-blogger comes in. When presenting a photo, you have to ask yourself:

  • Does this photo represent reality? or does it not?
  • Is there more than one reality? If yes, what about the other ones you don’t show? You should at least mention them!
  • Are you documenting something with your photos? Then do some research. E.g. for how long has this house been in such a derelict state? What have been the reasons for it getting in such a state?
  • Are you not documenting something, but trying to present a certain mood to the reader? E.g. the contradiction between old and new? Or the bad feeling of seeing old houses going down? Then you should put this picture in relation to what you saw in the rest of the town – at least one sentence.

Always keep in mind: It is so easy to create wrong realities with pictures!

This is a contribution to Joanna Young’s article on Confident Writing: Giving 50 Ideas Away: An Invitation to Join the Conversation.

About Ulla Hennig

I live and work in Berlin. Taking photos is one of my hobbies, and writing is one of my hobbies, too. So I decided not only to show some of my pictures here but also present some of the thought which came wth the pictures.

6 responses to “Derelict House in Jüterbog”

  1. Joanna Young says :

    Ulla, you make some very good points here about the nature of the reality we’re chosing to present with our words and our pictures. Given the power of the internet we have to be responsible with the choices we make.

    Thanks so much for taking part in this project and adding your voice to the mix


  2. Brad Shorr says :

    Ulla, great photo and great point about context. Like Joanna says, the internet gives us power, and you demonstrate how easy it is to either abuse or honor that power.

  3. Jean Browman--Cheerful Monk says :

    Great point! But if you just showed me a picture of a derelict house, I wouldn’t have thought it represented the whole area. I would have thought it represented the inevitable decay and death we all have to face.

    I’m not quite as morbid as that sounds!

  4. Karen Swim says :

    Ulla, what an incredible post. The picture is striking and your words really make me think. It is so easy to provide a snapshot whether a photo or words that does not tell the whole story. We can manipulate things to make them appear differently, sometimes without intention. You are right that we must stop and ask ourselves these questions. We truly are responsible for the impressions we create. Great post!

  5. Ralph says :

    Congratulations, Ulla! You took up a topic which is as hard to believe as a lot of things in German reunification . On our motorbike tour along the East German Baltic coast we passed through some towns and villages. We made it a sport to find “the abandoned house”. Thhere is always one! We discovered that smaller villages are in a pretty good state. Towns, on the other hand, have sometimes a quite nice centre, but there is always a part which is absolutely run down, and that 18 years after the reunification. So I think you have really documented the current state very well.

    Regarding the question why there are so many abandoned houses in East Germany, we have talked to many residents in these towns, and they all don´t know. The owners rights have all been cleared, so that there are no more doubts about them. It seems the houses are in such a bad state that they should rather be pulled down.

    There is something else to it: Sometimes the land is that contaminated by WWII ammunition and remains of the Russian army that it would mean huge investments to make it fit to be lived on.

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