Tubingen Q&A

During the Summer, Durham University student photographers Grace Ellen Beaumont & Huw Thomas were chosen to capture Durham's stunning German twin city, Tübingen, as part of the upcoming exhibition 'My Town through the Eyes of My Twin', hosted by DU PhotoSoc in collaboration with the International Office and Durham County Council. In this entry, we've asked Grace & Huw a few questions about their experience in Tübingen. 

Tell us a bit about yourself

H: I’m Huw, a 4th year Engineering Student at Josephine Butler College. I first got into photography through underwater photography 9 years ago when I learnt to scuba dive, and this has been my passion since. I started taking photos above water 5 years ago when I bought a DSLR with underwater housing and decided that I needed to start taking photos on land to really get the most value from the purchase! I now also enjoy doing lots of landscape photography and whilst at university I do a lot of event photography for balls, fashion shows and college days, and work at the Klute nightclub taking photos a couple of nights a week too.

G: I’m Grace, a student Pharmacist on the MPharm programme. I’m a mature student with three little boys at home. My interest in photography started with just my iPhone and instagram. I still love iPhone photography and do a lot of it, but I’ve also now got a DSLR. My favourite photographer is Lee Millar – a remarkable woman who went from being a Vogue magazine fashion model, to one of Vogues leading photographers, to one of only four female American WWII war correspondents. I admire her tenacity. I also love the work of Rebecca Litchfield; her book Soviet Ghosts is just incredible.

How would you describe Tubingen in 3 words?

H: Welcoming, scenic, varied

G: Vibrant, Friendly, Picturesque

What are the things Durham and Tubingen share?

H: Like Durham, Tubingen is a very student-centric city, and its University forms a major aspect of the city. Both cities are very old, with cobbled streets, a castle and large church, but also share some more modern features such as a botanic garden. The architecture in both cities, whilst completely different from each other, is unmistakeable to the area of Europe each city is found, and more modern buildings are in keeping with the character and traditions of the city.

G: Durham and Tubingen are pretty similar, it’s easy to see why they are twinned. Like Durham, Tubingen is full of beautiful old buildings and hilly cobbled streets. Both have a castle, river, church, market square, botanical gardens, large student population, and of course a University.

What was your first thought when you got to Tubingen?

H: The first thing that struck me was the architecture of the buildings. Almost all the buildings in the city centre are very old, and many of them still have their wooden frame works with the bolts holding them together visible on the outside. They all have red, extremely sloped roofs, which are very distinctive of the area Tubingen is in.

G: First thoughts? Wow it’s hot! It was about 30oC (I’m from the North). I was also struck by the beauty of all the incredible old buildings. So many different textures and colours.

How would you describe the people of Tubingen?

H: The people of Tubingen were very friendly and welcoming, and happy to help with my non-existent knowledge of the German language. You also get a sense that they are very proud of their city, and many stay in the city after graduating university for jobs. Everyone is very relaxed, and there were many people sitting beside the river or in one of the parks, chatting with their friends or enjoying a beer during the days and evenings.

What was the yummiest moment of the trip? 

G: Oh definitely the dark, dark chocolate gelato. We also went to an amazing Vegan Bar that served delicious falafel and homemade fries. The traditional Swabian food was really good too, I loved the Schwäbische Linsen mit Spätzle (Swabian Lentils)

What’s the best photo spot in Tubingen?

H: My favourite spot for photos was at St George’s Collegiate Church (Stiftskirche) in the centre of Tubingen. Climbing the bell tower offered superb views over the entire city, and the interior of the church was beautiful too. Several of my favourite photos from the trip were taken here.

G: It’s impossible to choose – the old town is full of so many charming places, narrow streets that open into beautiful squares perfect for sitting with friends and a drink.

Do you have a favourite photo from Tubingen?

H: It is very hard to choose just one favourite photo from the week, as there were such a range of subjects, and I am very pleased with how many of the photos turned out. If I was going to choose one, I would choose the view of the Neckargasse street taken from above. Whilst this may not be the best photograph that I took on the trip, I wanted to capture both the style of the buildings and also the feeling of everyday life with people enjoying themselves in the street, which I think this shot in particular achieves. It is closely followed by the punt boat passing underneath the church tower on the river and the shot down the Marktgasse street at night with the ghostly figures of the people moving about. 

G: Ooh that’s a tough one. I would say probably an amazing shot I got of a Dragonfly in the Botanical Gardens. But, I also really love a black and white photo I took of some empty Stocherkahn (punting boats), because I love the lines and shapes.

What gear did you take with you to Tubingen?

H: I took my full frame Nikon D750 camera body, along with a few lenses. My day to day lens was a Sigma 35mm f1.4 prime, but I also used a Tamron 70-200 and a Nikon 10-24 for some of the shots. I managed to fit a tripod and neutral density filter in my bag for the shots at night and a couple of long exposure shots during the day.

G: I took my Canon 5D mkII, 50mm lens, 70-200mm lens, 24-105mm lens, and lots of memory cards!

What was the biggest photo challenge of your trip?

H: Going to a new place on a trip with the sole intention of taking photos for an exhibition was a lot more challenging than I anticipated. I have been at Durham for 3 years now, so have a decent knowledge of some of the best spots in and around the city for photos, whereas going somewhere completely new to take photos required me to discover these best locations very quickly. The photos were a lot more spontaneous, and were taken of whatever happened to be in the view at the time, as due to the short time frame we had to get the images we couldn’t plan photos to come back when the I had the best subjects or best conditions, such as better light, a calmer river or sunnier weather.

G: Probably the heat and constantly changing weather conditions. It would be sunny and cloudless one minute, then black and thundery the next.

What was the biggest photo regret of the trip?

G: Not having the confidence to speak to some of the locals and ask if I could photograph them. The Market was absolutely amazing, but my photographs don’t do it justice. They are too impersonal – some street portraits of the marketeers would’ve looked so much better.

If you could go back for one thing, what would that be? 

G: Gelato! And lazy summer evenings punting on the Neckar with homemade Lemonade. I hear there is a chocolate festival in December, I’d love to go back for that.

The Exhibition will feature work from both Grace & Huw, as well as selected photos from the two Tübingen exchange students, Hannah and Theresa, who came to Durham this summer. The exhibition will be open 10:00-18:00 on Nov 4-5 in the Pemberton Rooms, Palace Green.
Many Thanks to everyone involved for their help in facilitating this project.