Show 'em! A Berlin photo exhibit goes "over the top"
Berlin, where taxis sometimes double as erotic photo studios
PHOTOGRAPHY IS THE ART of the obvious. The trick is to come up with this obvious idea in the first place.
Sixty-seven year-old Berlin taxi driver and self-styled “woman whisperer” Hans-Jürgen Watzlawek had just such an idea and is now reaping the fame. A skilled photographer whose previous work never paid the rent, Watzlawek came up with his obvious idea while driving his cab through the nighttime streets of Berlin. “Show ‘em,” he told one of his female passengers. And she did. This is the stuff of which artistic careers are made.
Breasts are “the fingerprint of any woman,” Watzlawek believes. The amazing thing is that it’s easier to get a woman to flash her tits at a camera in a taxicab than to take her fingerprints at a police station. Some fifty female passengers on their way from A to B have opened their tops to him over the past four years. Most of the women have been around thirty, and in about a third of the cases their male companions encouraged them to take the leap. One evening, the accompanying boyfriend or husband used all his persuasive power to talk the woman into exposing her bosom to Watzlawek’s lense. While many of the women had had a few quick ones before entering his taxi and giving their consent, he swears that none of them were stinking drunk.
Twenty of Watzlawek’s candid black and white breast photos are now gracing the walls of the “Galeria Casablanca” in Berlin-Charlottenburg. The artist believes that breasts say a lot about a woman. They come in all shapes and volumes, nipples vary in size and color, some have piercings and others do not, and some breasts bear the scars of breast augmentation or reduction. Each pair stands for a female life. In some images, the women eagerly push their breast out towards the camera, whereas in others their owners lean back passively and let Watzlawek focus on the cleavage. Each in her own style.
In his element: Artist/cabdriver Watzlawek at his "Berlin Flash 0.1" exhibition
Watzlawek started taking the pictures for free, although, in a few cases of charmingly casual prostitution, women consented to the photos in exchange for a free taxi ride. But his fame has since spread, and he is now selling them to art dealers at up to 800 euros a pop. And he wants his models to get a piece of the action as well. Nowadays, when he shoots a woman’s breasts he also asks her for her email address. So far, no one has accused this “charismatic person,” “the king of taxi drivers,” of sexual harassment.
I enjoyed the exhibit – to say that it “gave me a rise” would be saying too much – and more than anything else it made me ponder the nature of taboos. Just a century ago, a woman could be arrested on the beach for wearing a sleeveless swimsuit. Then topless bathing became a fad in the 60s, and today women are showing off their busts to dirty old men in a Berlin taxicab and allowing them to be displayed in all their glory on the walls of a West End art gallery. Is “decency” just a figment of our imagination? An ephemeral, ultimately meaningless social construct? If you visit the Galeria Casablanca, you just might start believing it.
OS regulations prohibit me from displaying any of the images on this site, but if you go HERE, you’ll see what all the fuss is about.