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Last November when I got me a camera again after many years without I started taking pictures in a small area close to where I live. A small strip of land running along a little creek, the Bornbach. This land had been used as ‘Grabeland’: small lots of land to be used for growing vegetables. Around many cities and centres of industrialization in Germany ‘Grabeland’ was let for little money to workers and other poor folks. The idea was mostly to help those people feed their families.
Traditionally ‘Grabeland’ was different from ‘Kleingärten’: Those were meant for recreational purposes, ersatz gardens for families living in small flats. Where Kleingärten have strict rules tight organization in clubs life in a ‘Grabeland’ was more individual, less organized. There were hardly any rules for how to build and what to plant and people didn’t care for those rules much anyway.
Today the idea of ‘Grabeland’ however seems to get some traction again mostly because this concept is hugely popular among immigrants from Turkey and other islamic countries.
The ‘Grabeland’ along the Bornbach however met the fate of most such areas: local politicians and administration decided it had to go. Instead of the unruly ‘Grabeland# there would be a brandnew neat ‘Kleingartenverein’. And not only that: the area also would be renaturalised. The Bornbach would be remade into a ‘natural’ creek with broader banks, providing space for birds, dragonflies and frogs.
Plans had been made years ago. The final straw broke when in a cold night in October an old man died in one of the huts. The homeless man had - quietly tolerated by the owner - been using the hut as a sleeping place for some time.
So the tenants had to go. Most were old people, many of whom had spent good parts of their lifes in their lots among trees and shrubs they or their parents had planted decades ago.
The huts were demolished, big piles of rubble removed. For several weeks the plants and trees were standing alone around the gaping breaks. Then finally a landscapers company moved in with heavy machinery. Only a choice few trees were left standing, mostly rare old apple trees.
The photos in this gallery have been made in the time between the demolishing of the huts and the end of the final clearance of the land.
I am thinking about making pictures of the newly naturalized state of the area but I’m not sure yet if that really interests me.