Behind Facades

Ingmar Björn Nolting

2016 - Ongoing

Built in the early 1970s the “Iduna-Zentrum” is made up of 17 floors and 407 apartments of reinforced concrete. Back then the apartments of the housing block in the German university city of Göttingen were considered chick, a good location. Lawyers, university staff and young families lived in these luxury apartments. The site was attractive, right between university campus and city centre, equipped with swimming pool and sauna. Over the years, the building has fallen into disrepair and today is seen by many as an “eyesore” and “deprived area”. The prestigious apartments of high earners became the new home for marginalized groups. Most of the numerous housing blocks in Germany have shared the same fate.

My photo-essay deals with the everyday lives, environments and emotional worlds of people who currently live in the residential complex. I built personal relationships with drug addicts, welfare recipients, refugees as well as students and poverty-stricken old age pensioners for the last 2,5 years to understand what makes their life in this formerly prestigious building. Therefore I moved into the housing block myself for the last five months. With my long-term project I want to tell about realities of life that do not only exist in the “deprived areas” of larger cities but also right in the middle of smaller wealthy German towns.

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  • Dieter* poses for a portrait in his apartment. As a son of a teacher at international schools, he grew up between Cairo, Tokyo and Berlin. After a long math and physics study for a teaching profession, he found no permanent job as a teacher. Today he lives on his pension, increased only to a minimum survival level, in old age poverty. When he moved from his downtown apartment to the residential complex two decades ago, he had to get by with less space than before. Since then, his collection has piled up to the ceiling of his one-room apartment. He cannot and does not want to throw anything away. // *Name changed by the author

  • The building consists of two interconnected residential complexes. More than 500 people live here, exact numbers do not exist. Among others, drug addicts, single parents, old age pensioners, Roma families, welfare recipients and some students call the building their home.

  • Christian* and a friend recover slowly in Jan’s* apartment, after having consumed too much contaminated heroin the night before. When Christian was recently released from prison, he had no home and found shelter with Jan for a short time. // *Names changed by the author

  • Dieter's* bathroom. He collects books, DVDs, old computers and souvenirs from around the world in his apartment. // Name changed by the author

  • When Susanna* lost a leg in 2013, her husband quit his job and began to focus exclusively on his wife. The building is barrier-free. //*Name changed by the author

  • Jan* uses the washing machines for the first time. He wanted to go to the psychiatric hospital in clean clothes. After weeks of excessive consumption of cloud nine and heroin, he developed strong psychotic surges and decided himself to begin a drug withdrawal therapy. // *Name changed by the author

  • Tanja* and her ex-boyfriend Christian* in Jan’s* apartment after consuming MDMA. At this time, they had been awake for three days. The two were a couple from 2013 to 2014 and lived together in his apartment in the block of flats. Today, Christian is in long-term therapy and Tanja has moved to a new apartment on the 10th floor. // Names changed by the author

  • Tanja's* dog at her new apartment in the residential complex. As she got the dog last summer he was very aggressive, today he needs his muzzle only on rare occasions. //*Name changed by the author

  • Kelly* and her six-month-old daughter in her two-room apartment. Since she fled from Liberia, she spends a lot of time with her tablet. Kelly tries to stay in touch with her family and friends in Liberia through video-calls. //*Name changed by the author

  • The view out of Jan's* apartment. // *Name changed by the author

  • Julia* and Florian* moved from Göttingen to Berlin together after finishing their final exams at university. Living in the residential complex was always a love-hate relationship for both. //*Names changed by the author

  • Jay* sleeps on his fold-out sofa after shooting up liquid diazepam. He has been fighting against his opiate and gambling addictions for years now. // *Name changed by the author

  • Tanja* and her boyfriend kissing in her new apartment on the 10th floor a few days after they decided to become a couple. // *Name changed by the author

  • Miroslav* shoots up cloud-9 on the balcony of the 17th floor. He became a father on that day. He is dreaming about moving to Switzerland, moving to the mother of his daughter and breaking the habit. // *Name changed by the author

  • Julia's* apartment on her 27th Birthday. // // *Name changed by the author

  • Martin* poses for a portrait in the stairwell of the residential complex. During his studies he had a serious accident. Due to a fire, he had to jump out of the window of his apartment. He never fully recovered from this accident. He could not finish his studies and started to drink too much alcohol. Today he lives on welfare payments and is incapacitated for work. // *Name changed by the author

  • The view from Julia's* and Florian's balcony on the canopy of the resitendital complex. A few days ago someone threw burning charcoal from a balcony above. The charcoal started to set fire to the waste. Florian extinguished it with a bucket of water. // *Name changed by the author

  • Florian* studies for a law exam in the three-room-apartment that he is living in with his girlfriend and her dog. The couple moved into the apartment due to the tense situation in the residential market. // *Name changed by the author

  • Jan* smokes a cigarette just a few hours before admitting himself to the psychiatric hospital. He stayed there for 6 weeks, dismissed himself and relapsed. He has no memories of the two following weeks. // *Names changed by the author

  • View from the canopy towards Julia's* apartment. She celebrated her 27th birthday and therefore invited a couple of friends. The students enjoy celebrating at their flat in the residential complex, beause noone cares about the loud music. // *Name changed by the author