In late December 1989 two young men, Page Chichester and Helmut Brinkmann, were drinking and watching a soccer match on television in the city of Bonn in what was then called West Germany. Brinkmann suddenly suggested that they tour East Germany, beginning the next day. The two stayed up all night planning their hastily-conceived trip. At Noon on December 29th the two took off in a Volkswagen van carrying cameras, film, and very few provisions.
Just about a month earlier the Berlin Wall, the main symbol of the division of the two Germanys had begun to fall. Ironically, this event came just a few short months after the German Democratic Republic celebrated its fortieth anniversary as a communist state. The festivities included a guest appearance by none other than the leader of the communist world himself, Mikhail Gorbechev. By late December, however, curious people began to move cautiously between the two countries, being extremely careful not to arouse the suspicion of the Stasi, the State Security Police of the crumbling, but still-functioning GDR.
Chichester and Brinkmann spent eight days touring East Germany. The two visited Erfurt, Jena, Dresden, Leipzig, Bitterfeld, Connewitz, Berlin, and other surrounding locales before returning west to Bonn on January 5, 1990. Speaking to people and photographing the architecture, industry, transportation, and people of the east, they got a first-hand look at the conditions in that part of the Iron Curtain in the period between the fall of the Wall and reunification in October 1990.
The “Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989/90” exhibit collection contains 53 framed photographs and supporting documentation for the exhibit “Scenes from Behind the Wall: Images of East Germany, 1989/90” that traveled throughout Virginia as part of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Statewide Exhibition Program from 1995 through 2009. The finding aid for this collection can be accessed here. A digitized collection of the images can be found at this link.