Jason Langer – Berlin

Review by Gerhard Clausing

To me, the fact that human beliefs can result in the intentional deaths of others has always been an unfathomable tragedy. Whether it is local warfare against minorities or worldwide imperialist campaigns against some groups, the goal in all these instances seems to be the enforcement of the preferences of one group at the expense of another. This involves the painting of perceivable “evil” scapegoats to justify horrendous actions. We can find evidence for such trends in all kinds of places. Germany certainly was an unprecedented example in this regard in the first half of the 20th century, with a government that took their particular constructed idea of the ”evil others” to the extreme, systematically persecuting and causing the deaths of Jews, Romas, dissidents, the handicapped, and many others.

Jason Langer, a photographer who is steeped in Jewish tradition, deeply felt the trauma of this historical persecution of his group and the resulting nightmares and notions about Germany shared by descendants even to this day. One way to find some understanding was to visit the locations from which those decisions for those crimes emanated, and to get to know the place associated with such horrors. Berlin, once again the capital of Germany, is that place, full of old and new history.

As we begin to look at this photobook, we see that it is sumptuously produced in large format, impressive in appearance. The printing of Langer’s haunting images is also of the highest quality.  As we begin to look at the work in detail, we are overwhelmed by the impressions that the photographer is sharing with us about the past and the present.

The book is a visual Berlin odyssey from West to East that presents photographs of locations steeped in history and yet occupied by new generations, many of whom are from other countries. The recent governments of Germany have made big efforts not to have the past forgotten. Memorial plaques known as ‘stumbling stones’ have been integrated into walkways in many places to call attention to and honor individuals and families that were wiped out.  Many of the buildings that were central in those years of the Nazi regime are still there, as silent witnesses to what occurred. Thus the Wannsee Conference building and the location of the Hitler bunker are featured among others as silent reminders. 

Langer’s personal journey takes him from these reminders of the early 20th century to the equally overwhelming politically motivated and efficiently supported apparatus of the East German regime, responsible for forty years of further oppression in the latter half of that same century (Hohenschönhausen prison, for example).  At the end of the book, we are also reminded of the remnants of ghastly concentration camps nearby.

All of these images from the past are interspersed with lively images and environmental portraits of current residents of Berlin. Past and present, despair and joy, side by side. These are the friends and others that Jason Lang got to know each day during and after his walks around the city. There is also a continuation of the Jewish community in Berlin, much smaller in scope. It is in these images that we might sense some hope for a better future. 

The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable:

through the embracing of one of its beings.

Martin Buber

These images of young hopefuls can also be a reminder that cult movements and excessive political actions can emanate and be expanded in any country at any time, and that the seemingly innocent can fall prey to cult leaders that generate support with false promises as they focus anger on groups that are in the minority or otherwise vulnerable. We perceive the promise of the future as an overlay of an overwhelming past.

This project,  a “dream within a dream within another dream,” is a very personal visual narrative that makes us get in touch with our emotions and with our rational side as well, using Jason Langer’s images as reminders. The essays and captions provide very valuable further insights. I strongly recommend spending time with this book in order to expand your own sense of our particular moment in time.


Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.


Jason Langer – Berlin

Photographer:  Jason Langer (born in Tucson, Arizona; lives in Portland, Oregon)

Publisher:  Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld, Germany; © 2022

Texts:  Bill Kouwenhoven, Shelly Kupferberg, Jason Langer

Language:  English

Hardback with illustrated cover; 176 pages, paginated; 10.75 x 13 inches (27.5 x 33 cm); printed in Germany; ISBN 978-3-7356-0843-7

Photobook Designer:  Matthew Papa


Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.

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