David Bowie aside, no one shaped the myth of 1980s West Berlin as indelibly as Christiane F. Born in Hamburg, raised in Gropiusstadt, her life as a teenage heroin addict and prostitute was immortalised in the 1978 autobiographical book Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, now also a series on Amazon Prime. Uli Edel’s film adaptation of the same name followed the book’s release in 1981; both propelled her to fame. Photographer Ilse Ruppert documented her life during this time in a series of candid portraits.
The collaboration between photographer Ilse Ruppert and Christiane F. was inevitable. The two women met in 1980 – when the latter was just 18 years old – around the time Ruppert began documenting the punk and subculture scene in Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, London and New York. Her colour photos of squatted houses and punk flats in East Berlin are unique testimonies to GDR counterculture.
In 1983, Ruppert and Christiane F. met again for a photo session. This time in Hamburg, Christiane F.’s hometown, where she was born in 1962. While the 1980 portraits were black and white, Ruppert produced the Hamburg series in colour. The iconic images show the young woman at her private retreat. In bed, stroking a guinea pig, smoking, framed by empty Coke bottles and in a chaotic apartment with her flatmate FM Einheit.
These are Ilse Ruppert’s photos of Christiane F., taken in Berlin in 1980 and Hamburg in 1983.