The picture on the right was taken in New York City. Danny and Carolin were there because there was a photo of him on display showing them.
Photo: Julia Kopatzki / DER SPIEGEL
At some point, probably at the beginning of the year, Danny Darlington grabbed a piece of paper and wrote in English: "This year will be the year I take my art to a new level." At the end of the year, on the first weekend in December, this piece of paper, square and purple, lies behind glass. On the walls of Studio35 hang 27 well-lit photographs. The hall in Berlin-Friedrichshain used to be a car repair shop, but the roller shutter from back then is still there. The indentation for the lift became a small pool. Just 23 centimetres deep, painted light blue, at its bottom lie two photographs of the sea. "I think Danny would have liked it," says a young woman who introduces herself as Lotti. "The sea was so important to him, and there was a blue swimming pool in the kibbutz."
The kibbutz with the swimming pool is called Nir Os and is so close to the Gaza Strip that you can hear the calls of the muezzin echoing through the desert. On October 7, 2023, Hamas terrorists attacked the kibbutz. They devastated houses, set fires, kidnapped 78 people and killed 20. Two of the dead are Daniel Darlington and Carolin Bohl. Danny and Caro, 34 and 22 years old. Close friends from Berlin. Danny has family in Nir Os, together they went on holiday to Israel. He, the photographer, she, the model in so many of his pictures.
The picture above shows Carlotta Pollmann by the sea. It was created while on holiday together.
Photo: Julia Kopatzki / DER SPIEGEL
His paintings will now be exhibited for a weekend. Because it's something he's always dreamed of. And so that the friends have a place to commemorate. So that the families of the two come together. On the evening before the official opening, they met here, the Darlingtons from Manchester and the Bohls from Lower Saxony.
The war of which they were victims is a battle of images. The Israeli government published photos from the kibbutzim, including Nir Os. Photos of bombed houses from Gaza are circulating around the world. On all social networks you can see videos and photos of the war.
As visible as the war is, many of the victims remain invisible. Maybe it's the sheer volume that makes the individual deaths melt into one big gruesome story, maybe it's because each victim is politically instrumentalized. For one side or the other.
Again, no one wants Danny Darlington's art to be politicized. The announcement of the exhibition makes no mention of Israel or its death. Both are accidental victims in a war that was not theirs. But her death turns the photos into images of conflict. And the exhibition becomes a place of remembrance.
His Israel is warm and bright
"Our biggest fear was that we would open Instagram and see a video of her," says Anja Pasquesi, Carolin's eldest sister.
"I had nightmares at night about the pictures I saw on the news," says Lotti, whose real name is Carlotta Pollmann, who falters when asked how she felt about Danny. "We didn't call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend, but that's probably the closest thing to that." After the holiday, they wanted to talk about what they actually are to each other.
This is how Danny Darlington captured Israel
Julia Kopatzki / DER SPIEGEL
Lotti was instrumental in organizing the exhibition. He photographed analogue. After his death, she went to his room in a shared flat and started sorting through hundreds of negatives. That's what they actually wanted to do together. In the end, she sifted through over 2,000 pictures and selected 29 together with friends. The pictures show what Danny Darlington's view of the world looked like. How he wanted to hold on to her.
The Israel in his paintings is warm and bright. Golden light on a bookshelf. A gas station in the evening sun. In the kibbutz, he photographed clusters of cacti pressing against each other like prickly beanbags. The photos from Israel are a year old. No one knows what he photographed this time. The camera and the films are gone.
On Instagram, he shared pictures of the holiday: backgammon by the sea. Feline. Carolin, swinging, playing the piano, riding her bike in the desert. A video of them listening to the muezzin's calls in the sunset.
The photo of Danny Darlington was taken by Lotti. "We were both surprised at how good it turned out," she says.
In the anteroom of the exhibition, a collage of photos of Danny hangs on the left wall, and one with photos of Carolin on the right. The projector incessantly throws mobile phone photos onto the screen. Snapshots from restaurants, from birthdays. Most of the photos that show Danny were taken by Lotti. "There aren't usually that many photos of photographers," she says.
»This is our Caro«
The exhibition itself is a snapshot of fate. All day long, people come and go who don't know each other, but now they do, because Danny or Carolin connect them. There's Nora, who says of Danny that he was her "big bro." She stands in front of the pictures she has chosen, and her voice fails. For minutes, she and Carolin's mother cradle each other in her arms. Until now, they only knew each other from stories.
Carolin's sister Marie Bohl collects all the photos that photographers have of her: "I have 110 gigabytes, and that's not all." Customers come from the photo shop in Prenzlauer Berg, where Danny worked. "You're from Verden, too, aren't you?" one young woman asks another. Both came alone. Friends of Carolin from home who only get to know each other here.
Danny Darlington set out to develop his own style in photography this year
Julia Kopatzki / DER SPIEGEL
Lotti's favorite picture is one that shows herself. She lies next to her dog Rudi on Danny's bed. She looks like she's just woken up. "I think I'm beautiful when I see him see me." A photograph is the present that has become eternal. It tells neither what was, nor what will be.
Carolin's mother stands in front of the collage of her daughter's pictures. One shows Carolin teetering on a chair with a fixed gaze, while another shows her gazing into the evening sun on a ferry in New York. She points to a photo of herself sitting on the floor of a photo studio wearing a tie and hat. Carolin laughs with her mouth wide open. "This is our Caro," she says. "In the model photos, she always looks so serious." After an hour, she leaves the exhibition together with Carolin's sisters. She says there is no photo of Carolin at home.