This is the Hottest in our One Photo series, in Which photographers Discuss their most Purposeful Photograph along with the story behind This.    

We requested photographer Scott Miller to talk about the story behind the picture he took in the boundary of West Germany in 1989. Here is what he said.

The East Bloc was in chaos as individuals flocked for open borders and free elections.) Refugees escaped. On the day of November 9, 1989, word came that the East German authorities was launching its borders with the West for the very first time in years.

Lines of automobiles cross via a make-shift border crossing that has been cut at a fence at the intra-German border near Hof, West Germany on Nov. 10, 1989. The boundaries between East and West Germany was opened before for the first time in almost 40 years. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

People four times in November 1989 (November 9th — November 12th) remain vivid in my own mind. I’d traveled into East Germany and Berlin times, as an American growing up in West Germany. I had been 22 if the Wall came down, therefore having the ability to record the background occurring in my garden was life altering.

At that moment, I had been working in the European edition of Stars and Stripes in Germany. I was fortunate enough to land a new project, and had returned home after four years in school.     So as soon as the news broke, three of our team photographers led to Berlin. I went that night making my way the morning after to Hof and took a gamble. It was November 10, 1989.

I was using a colleague photographing cars crossing in the West. Only hours before, the boundary between the two nations had started for the first time in 40 years.

Nov. 10, 1989: Automobiles stream from East to West across the intra-German boundary near Hof, West Germany. © 1989 Scott A. Miller

Since I stood only feet inside of West Germany, there were two police officers clinging to automobiles crossing beyond the red, gold and black pole on the street to the West. Before this car slowed, it was fairly regular along with a girl leaned out to hand a blossom.     I pushed the shutter button was suitable.

Nov. 10, 1989: An automobile pauses as it strikes the intra-German boundary near Hof, West Germany as a girl hands a flower to a West German police officer in the boundary. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

I created this picture with my Nikon F4s on Fuji Chrome 100. I am not certain of this lens, but I’d guess a 24mm f2.8 and fill flash, which was crucial. Thus making adjustments and having my head in the perfect location was significant. This was 1989, after all. There was no autofocus without the capability to “fix it in place.”     And since I have been in the perfect place at the time, there was a little luck.

I created tens of thousands of photographs during the upcoming few months since the nation crumbled — photographs along the boundaries and photographs in Berlin as folks throw away in the wall. At one stage, I became the first photojournalist.

A East German policeman peers through a gap at the Berlin Wall to speak with a passer by on the West Berlin side. The gap was cause by individuals beating the Wall following the boundaries were 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 first time in 40 years and younger individuals coming into the West for the very first time was quite moving and historical. As a photojournalist, it made for good images and it wasn’t lost on me I was documenting among the greatest events in the past 50 years.

A few embraces once they grabbed the intra-German boundary near Helmstedt, West Germany on Nov. 9, 1989. The boundaries between East and West Germany was opened earlier in the afternoon for the very first time in almost 40 years. ©1989 Scott A. Miller

The season 1989 has been full of political shift. What continued and began in Tiananmen Square from the Spring was.

Being on the front lines and photographing background, coupled with the utter pleasure on the lady’s face in that picture is why I became a photojournalist. For mepersonally, this picture expresses everything — his own saying, that the grin on the face of the woman, the eye contact with the police officer. And also the location is set by the simple fact that the boundary mark is only feet behind the vehicle in the background and helps to tell the story. I left thousands of pictures across the Berlin Wall along with the boundary, but none would come close to telling the story as that you did.  

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