When photographer Sabrina Jeblaoui, 26, moved to Berlin from Paris, she fell into a routine familiar to many expats in the German capital: a 40-hour working week followed by an entire weekend of nonstop partying. Now she’s turned those late nights and early mornings into Nachtclubs Berlin, a photographic portrait of Berliners taken in the hazy daylight after the end of the sesh.
Sabrina, who got her first digital camera at 18 but has since converted to analog photography, grew up in Perpignan, southern France. She fell in love with Berlin after her childhood BFF moved to the city, and decided to try her luck there when she turned 25.
Her first shoot for the project was back in 2018, when she’d lost her fear of asking to take people’s photos as they exited some of Berlin’s biggest clubs. Twenty-four thousand Instagram followers later, those late-night party people are now coming to her.
VICE: How would you describe the scene in Berlin, compared to Paris?
Sabrina Jeblaoui: When I arrived to Berlin, I felt that everyone was super nice, open and that they were really different. Everyone feels like they are in the same place, but they are so different from one another.
Did you use to take photographs before this project?
Some but not so much, I was doing some portraits, street photography but not really various things. I discovered photography when I was 18 with my digital camera. I decided to buy a compact analog camera when I was starting here and then I really loved it and decided to continue with it. I do everything in manual mode now.
How did this project start?
The first six months [in Berlin], I was partying a lot every weekend. You know: city job, 40 hours, partying on the weekend. It was super exhausting. But before coming to Berlin, I was taking simple portraits and this idea was in my mind with people partying. I really didn’t do photos then, although I was telling everyone that I was a photographer.
Then I calmed down a bit with the partying around September last year. I just said, “Okay, I just need to try and beat my fears and ask people if they want to be photographed by me.” I decided to create this Instagram page so people could recognize each other and their friends. I started following people in the techno scene in Berlin and it’s grown really fast.
Are people normally willing to be photographed?
Yeah. In the beginning I had to explain everything about the project to convince them to be part of that and I asked them to follow my page and to feel free to send me a message if they don’t want to be featured. Now it’s easier because people know the project more, so I don’t have to argue a lot to document them. It’s kind of easy now to take photos – I know how to approach them better as well.
Can you think of really interesting people you’ve found through this project?
The photo with the Russian DJ all in red? It was for the first shoot I did for this project and I really loved his style and attitude. He didn’t want to be photographed, but I really tried to convince him and offered to cover his face because I really wanted his picture. I remember one weird guy as well – he was young, German… I asked for his photo but I couldn’t publish it because he didn’t want me to. He was on a bad trip – maybe too much ketamine… I was with a friend and he just stayed with us… It wasn’t very nice.
Do you have a favourite club to photograph?
I really love Berghain, of course. There are a lot of crazy styles… I really like that atmosphere and the place.
How do you decide which photos to publish?
I had to delete some people because they didn’t want to be published, [but] even when the photo isn’t super good, I want to publish everyone because they gave me the chance to photograph them. I don’t want to differentiate them and do a selection like in fashion.
Do you think this project could work in any other city?
I’m not sure. Maybe it could work in Paris or London or Amsterdam since techno is everywhere, but it wouldn’t be the same. I think Berlin is perfect because everybody is from everywhere and they come here for the party because it’s just so special.
Where do you find the nicest people?
Sisyphos. It has a lot of colour; I’ve only photographed there two times but it’s my favourite club to party in. It has a very good energy. It’s brighter, it’s not like Berghain.
Are you thinking in continuing with this project for a while or are you thinking of doing something different?
I’m thinking about doing a book. I’m [also] talking about about making a documentary because I would like to talk more about drugs – it’s a big issue here. I grew up in a difficult family where both my parents were drug addicts… They were addicted to heroin and they were in prison, so it makes sense that I came here and I did all the partying… It’s so normal now to take drugs – people take drugs every weekend. It was fun and nice for me, but I figured out that it was all an illusion. I love the music, I love the people… So I don’t want to say it’s black or white, but it can be really dangerous and I want to talk about it.