That is the most recent in our One Photograph collection, the place photographers share their most significant photograph and the story behind it.  

We requested photographer Scott Miller to share the story behind this picture he took on the border of West Germany in 1989. Right here’s what he stated.

The East Bloc was in turmoil as individuals protested for open borders and free elections. Refugees have been escaping. Then on the night of November 9, 1989, phrase got here that the East German authorities was opening its borders with the West for the primary time in many years.

Traces of automobiles cross by way of a make-shift border crossing that was reduce in a fence within the intra-German border close to Hof, West Germany on Nov. 10, 1989. The borders between East and West Germany had been opened earlier for the primary time in almost 40 years. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

These 4 days in November 1989 (November ninth – November 12th) are nonetheless vivid in my thoughts. As an American rising up in West Germany, I had traveled to East Germany and Berlin a number of instances. I used to be 22 when the Wall got here down, so having the ability to doc the historical past occurring in my yard was life altering.

On the time, I used to be working on the European version of Stars and Stripes in Germany. I had returned dwelling after 4 years in faculty, and was fortunate sufficient to land a job.  So when the information broke, three of our workers photographers headed to Berlin. I took a raffle and went to the borders that night time, finally making my method to Hof the subsequent morning. It was November 10, 1989.

I used to be with a colleague photographing automobiles crossing into the West. Simply hours earlier, the border between the 2 international locations had opened for the primary time in 40 years.

Nov. 10, 1989: Automobiles stream from East to West alongside the intra-German border close to Hof, West Germany. © 1989 Scott A. Miller

As I stood simply toes inside West Germany, there have been two cops waving to automobiles crossing previous the purple, black and gold submit on the street into the West. It was all pretty routine, till this automotive slowed and a girl leaned out at hand a flower to the West Germany police officer.  I instinctively pushed the shutter button hoping all the pieces was proper.

Nov. 10, 1989: A automotive pauses because it crosses the intra-German border close to Hof, West Germany as a girl palms a flower to a West German police officer on the border. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

I made this picture with my Nikon F4s on Fuji Chrome 100. I’m not certain of the lens, however I might guess a 24mm f2.eight and fill flash, which was key. So having my head in the suitable place and making changes on the fly was necessary. This was 1989, in any case. There was no autofocus and no capability to “repair it in submit.”  And naturally, as a result of I occur to be in the suitable place on the proper time, there was a little bit of luck concerned.

I made 1000’s of photographs over the subsequent few months because the nation crumbled – photographs alongside the borders and photographs in Berlin as individuals hammered away on the wall. At one level, I even grew to become the primary American photojournalist allowed on a military base within the East.

An East German policeman friends by way of a gap within the Berlin Wall to speak to a passer by on the West Berlin facet. The outlet was trigger by individuals hammering on the Wall after the borders have been opened on Nov. 9, 1989. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

Fall of the Berlin Wall. Opening of the Berlin Wall, West Berlin, Germany, November 1989. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

Photographing households being reunited for the primary time in 40 years and youthful individuals coming to the West for the primary time was very shifting and historic. As a photojournalist, it made for excellent photographs and it was not misplaced on me that I used to be documenting one of many largest occasions previously 50 years.

A pair embraces after they crossed the intra-German border close to Helmstedt, West Germany on Nov. 9, 1989. The borders between East and West Germany had been opened earlier within the day for the primary time in almost 40 years. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

The yr 1989 was stuffed with political change. What began in Tiananmen Sq. within the Spring and continued worldwide was a motion that introduced down governments, many within the East Bloc.

Being on the entrance traces and photographing historical past, coupled with the sheer pleasure on the girl’s face in that photograph is why I grew to become a photojournalist. For me, this picture expresses all the pieces — the smile on the girl’s face, the attention contact with the West German police officer, his expression. And the truth that the border marker is simply few toes behind the automotive within the background units the place and helps inform the story. I made 1000’s of photographs alongside the border and the Berlin Wall, however none will come near telling your entire story as that one did. 


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