TILT Institute for the Contemporary Image
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Thursday Night Photo Talk: Paul Farber

June 25, 2020

June 25, 7PM EST


A Wall of Our Own – An American History of the Berlin Wall 

The Berlin Wall is arguably the most prominent symbol of the Cold War era. Its construction in 1961 and its dismantling in 1989 are broadly understood as pivotal moments in the history of the last century. In A Wall of Our Own (University of North Carolina Press, 2020), Paul M. Farber traces the Berlin Wall as a site of pilgrimage for American artists, writers, and activists. During the Cold War and in the shadow of the Wall, figures such as Leonard Freed, Angela Davis, Shinkichi Tajiri, and Audre Lorde weighed the possibilities and limits of American democracy. 

Farber’s book was inspired by Leonard Freed’s single shot of a Black American solider standing guard in front of a day’s old Berlin Wall in 1961. A Wall of Our Own also includes other significant images, often left out of American narratives of divided Berlin, including Angela Davis rendered in East German state archives, Shinkichi Tajiri’s photographic study of the wall’s reconstruction, and Audre Lorde’s snapshots from her apartment window and in the streets of West and East Berlin. Farber will share insights into the images that reveal the divided city of Berlin as another destination for Americans seeking a critical distance in the Cold War and beyond.

Books are available for purchase, including signed copies, for delivery through Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books.


Paul M. Farber, PhD is a curator, historian, and educator from Philadelphia. He is Artistic Director of Monument Lab and Senior Research Scholar at the Center for Public Art and Space at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design.

Farber’s research and curatorial projects explore transnational urban history, cultural memory, and creative approaches to civic engagement. He is the author of A Wall of Our Own: An American History of the Berlin Wall (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). He is also the co-editor with Ken Lum of Monument Lab: Creative Speculations for Philadelphia (Temple University Press, 2019), a public art and history handbook designed to generate new critical ways of thinking about and building monuments. 

Additionally, Farber has edited a new critical edition of photographer Leonard Freed’s Made in Germany (Steidl Verlag, 2013), co-edited a special issue of the journal Criticism on HBO’s series, The Wire (Wayne State University Press, 2011), and contributed essays and advised the production of visual culture books including Leonard Freed’s This Is the Day: The March on Washington (Getty Publications, 2013), Nathan Benn’s Kodachrome Memory: American Pictures 1972-1990 (powerHouse, 2013), and Jamel Shabazz’s Pieces of a Man (ArtVoices, 2016). 

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