SVENJA

This is Svenja. We met her at her favourite spot in Berlin, the big window of Saturn at Alexanderplatz (which she also likes to call her living room). Preferably in the early morning or the golden afternoon light, you might find her here observing people, imagining their lives through the lense of her camera and thinking about the 3.5 million stories waiting to be told in this city.

This is Svenja. We met her at her favourite spot in Berlin, the big window of Saturn at Alexanderplatz (which she also likes to call her living room). Preferably in the early morning or the golden afternoon light, you might find her here observing people, imagining their lives through the lense of her camera and thinking about the 3.5 million stories waiting to be told in this city.

Why do you love Alexanderplatz so much?

Because it’s always full of people. That’s what makes this concrete wasteland beautiful. Barely anyone spends more time here than necessary. Except maybe me (laughs). You can feel the rush as people are transitioning from one place to the next while I could stand here for hours wondering what their stories might be… Not one person crossing this square is the same.

How did you end up in Berlin?

It was completely unplanned. In 2013 I was studying in Buenos Aires and a series of random events connected me to a stranger in Berlin. One of those friend of a friend of a friend kind of stories, you know? This stranger not only welcomed me to Berlin as if I was a long-lost friend but also invited me to a church and became one of my closest friends. It was through all this that I began to explore faith – something I did not care about before – and discovered what would become my greatest passion in life: storytelling.

Why storytelling?

I am in awe of the story of humanity. 7.6 billion people with different languages, religions, skin tones, eye colours, shapes and sizes. Everyone is so different, yet we are all searching for meaning and are drawn to stories of purpose and significance. We think other people’s stories are greater than our own, but the truth is that every single one of us has a story that matters. I believe stories capture beauty that could easily be overlooked, pain that could easily be covered up and moments that could easily be forgotten. I want to help others discover the power of their own story – whatever that might look like.

Why do you love Alexanderplatz so much?

Because it’s always full of people. That’s what makes this concrete wasteland beautiful. Barely anyone spends more time here than necessary. Except maybe me (laughs). You can feel the rush as people are transitioning from one place to the next while I could stand here for hours wondering what their stories might be… Not one person crossing this square is the same.

How did you end up in Berlin?

It was completely unplanned. In 2013 I was studying in Buenos Aires and a series of random events connected me to a stranger in Berlin. One of those friend of a friend of a friend kind of stories, you know? This stranger not only welcomed me to Berlin as if I was a long-lost friend but also invited me to a church and became one of my closest friends. It was through all this that I began to explore faith – something I did not care about before – and discovered what would become my greatest passion in life: storytelling.

Why storytelling?

I am in awe of the story of humanity. 7.6 billion people with different languages, religions, skin tones, eye colours, shapes and sizes. Everyone is so different, yet we are all searching for meaning and are drawn to stories of purpose and significance. We think other people’s stories are greater than our own, but the truth is that every single one of us has a story that matters. I believe stories capture beauty that could easily be overlooked, pain that could easily be covered up and moments that could easily be forgotten. I want to help others discover the power of their own story – whatever that might look like.

What is your biggest challenge right now?

How to get enough sleep! (laughs) – no in all honesty – there is so much I would love to do, but I never quite seem to have enough time for it all. I want to live life more intentionally. Let’s take social media as an example. I often find myself sharing from the positive side of life. Great moments, Berlin’s hidden gems, awesome sunsets. It’s easy to capture highlights. But that’s only half the story of life. What takes courage is telling stories that go deeper. Stories of pain and heartache.

“Owning your story is the bravest thing you will ever do.”
Brene Brown
“Owning your story is the bravest thing you will ever do.”
Brene Brown

What is your biggest challenge right now?

How to get enough sleep! (laughs) – no in all honesty – there is so much I would love to do, but I never quite seem to have enough time for it all. I want to live life more intentionally. Let’s take social media as an example. I often find myself sharing from the positive side of life. Great moments, Berlin’s hidden gems, awesome sunsets. It’s easy to capture highlights. But that’s only half the story of life. What takes courage is telling stories that go deeper. Stories of pain and heartache.

Why these kind of stories?

I guess because I can relate to them. Losing my father to leukemia when I was only 14 left me heartbroken. I mean, how do you move on from that? Trying to find hope with a limited, very earthly perspective seemed impossible. But through my journey of faith, I began to see life as a gift, and that everything is redeemable. Pain and losing something that is dear to you can grow you in ways nothing else ever could. I believe it’s the vulnerability of these kind of stories that can bring hope to others. If you want to know the value of family, listen to the story of someone who lost theirs. It was this picture that helped me understand God’s heart for humanity.

So is that what Easter means to you?

Yes. The cross shows us that great stories have great tension. In fact, stories only truly matter when there is something to win and something to lose. Easter brings out this tension like no other story. Where there should have been a full stop, God placed a comma. Where death should have been the end, the greatest plot twist took place.

And how does this all fit into Berlin’s story?

Berlin is not always love at first sight for everyone. But I see a city risen from the ashes. Once divided, now unified. Broken and shattered, now being restored. Always transforming. Written off as hopeless, now having stories of hope written in its streets by artists. I believe that by sharing our own redemptive stories in Berlin, by being bold and vulnerable at the same time, we can create a future where neighbours tell neighbours: ‘Your story is unfinished.’

Thanks, Svenja, for your time.