An Off-the-Wall Portrait of Historic Days in Berlin : Exhibit: Photographs of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall are on view in the Fullerton College Library through Sept. 6.


When the Wall came down, it was a photojournalist’s dream: a news event ripe with dramatic portent, neatly symbolizing the end of an era.

The dismantling of the Berlin Wall in late 1989 embodied a dizzying cascade of changes in the relationships between East and West. Images of the historic episode are on view in the gallery area of the Fullerton College Library through Sept. 6.

Thirty color photographs by American photojournalists represented by the Black Star agency in New York, are on display. The photographers, most of whom were shooting for news weeklies, include David Turnley, who won a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for his photographs of the political events in China, Anthony Suau (another Pulitzer winner), Peter Turnley, Christopher Morris, Joanna Pinneo and Ken Sakamoto.


The wall, erected overnight on Aug. 12-13, 1961, cut off West Berlin from East Germany and came to symbolize the postwar division of Europe and Germany. The wall was periodically strengthened and expanded over the years and countless desperate East Germans were shot by guards as they tried to breach it.

Suddenly, and at a pace that amazed even the experts, that began to change in 1989. On Nov. 10, East Germany ended all border restrictions, and East Berliners streamed into West Berlin, many of them for the first time. In less than two years, the reunification of the two Germanys--previously considered a distant dream at best--was complete.

The jubilation of the Berlin Wall’s final days is captured in the photographs: An East German woman wipes away tears as her car crosses into West Berlin; joyous souvenir seekers hammer at the graffiti-splattered wall; an East German border guard, flower in hand, autographs a fragment of the broken wall; children play in the rubble of what was once a no-man’s land; a juggler stands atop the wall.

With almost two years’ distance, the images provide a timely look back on the euphoria of those days, as the painful realities of transition for the reunited Germany are taking hold. They also take on a fresh perspective in light of current events in the Soviet Union, where the news photographers are again looking for the image that will come to symbolize a moment in history: Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin addressing supporters from atop a Red Army tank, the dismantling of Lenin statues.

Two pieces of the Berlin Wall, donated by retired instructor Martin Hebeling, are also on view in the college library. Hebeling was in Germany with a group of Fullerton College students when events at the wall began to unfold.

Also available for viewing at the library is a one-hour videotape, “Ode to Joy and Freedom: The Fall of the Berlin Wall,” on loan from the Goethe Institute in Los Angeles. The photo exhibit is on loan from the German consulate general’s office in Los Angeles.

Photographs of the Berlin Wall are on view through Sept. 6 at the Fullerton College library, 321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton. Exhibit open during regular library hours, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, (Friday to 4 p.m.). The library will be closed Monday for Labor Day. Information: (714) 992-7061.