This picture was taken at the World Youth Rally in East Berlin in 1964.

The East German leader Walter Ulbricht has just arrived in the covered stand on the left hand side of the far side of the stadium that carried his name.



The Berlin Wall was closed to West Germans but foreign visitors could get a temporary visa and cross into the Eastern sector through Checkpoint Charlie.

I was staying in West Berlin with a school friend who was teaching as part of his degree course in the German language.



We crossed the border into the eastern sector a number of times, but eventually we were arrested by Vopos, (the Volkspolizei) and the roll of film in my camera was confiscated.

Fortunately it was a new roll with few shots on it. We decided that it might be better not to return across the wall.



The gymnasts in the picture did hours of soviet-style prancing around making pictures and words with pieces of cardboard. This was followed by an interminable speech from the revered leader.

My friend, fluent in German, translated the speech to me in a whisper, adding his own comments. I was in great danger of injuring myself in my attempts not to be seen exploding with laughter.



Although it was called the “world” youth rally, we were probably the only two people in the crowd from the other side of the Iron Curtain.

Twenty years before I took this picture, the parents of these young people would have been accustomed to waving their arms about in similar salutes to a very different leader. Or was he so different?



This picture was taken on my trusty old Pentax, 55mm Takumar lens, Kodak Tri-X film.

Photographer’s tip: Many digital cameras use the JPEG format to record images, but this is a “lossy” format that means that every time you open and save the image on your computer it recompresses the data, causing a cumulative degrading of the image.

When you download and process your images, save them as TIFF files, which do not recompress each time and will preserve all the data.



Chris O’Dell BSC is the senior tutor at the Wildlife Film School ( where you can join him and others on exciting digital

photography courses in West Cork.