This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.
A night out in Berlin’s fetish scene can raise some interesting questions. Who’s the man with leather pants crawling on his knees in the urinals? What’s under that latex pig mask? What does the half-naked neon elf actually do for a living?
Photographer Kseniya Apresyan took portraits of ravers in both their work attire and in their fetish party outfits. Her photo series Dresscode not only shows two sides of the same people, but the same city, too.
Apresyan is originally from Moscow, and first went out in Berlin five years ago. The city immediately captivated her. Now she's been living there for the past two years, working as a freelance graphic designer and studying photography on the side. But by night, she goes to clubs like Berghain and KitKatClub, and events such as Pornceptual. There, she meets people in leather, latex and chainmail. They're also the tour guides, lab technicians and account managers you see in her pictures.
VICE: Hey Kseniya. When do you think the people in your photos are truly playing dress-up? When they go to work, or when they head out clubbing?
Kseniya Apresyan: That’s a good question. When they go out they are their true selves. It's something special for them.
How did you come up with the idea of showing both sides?
A guy who I met in the club told me the craziest rave stories. Then I realised he was also working in an embassy. He had all these white shirts hanging in his apartment. It wasn’t the only time I was shocked by how big the contrast can be between people’s daily outfits and their nightlife outfits. So the project is about something deeper than an outfit. Some of them have two different personalities.
How do you notice that?
The way people behave in front of a camera changes with their outfit. In their club outfits, the quality of their movements becomes more refined, they show more emotions. When the guy working in a bank put on his rave clothes, the straps and high heels, I had the feeling he really became himself. He lost his fear in front of the camera and seemed very happy.
Some of you subjects are quite young; others are old-school ravers who could be their parents. Did you spot any differences between them?
Not so much. But the people who’ve gone out a lot already have become pickier. They say the scene used to be less commercial and more underground.
What brought all these people to Berlin?
Some of them are German, many are expats. Some told me they moved here for the nightlife, but most came for a job or a relationship.
You also came from Russia to Berlin.
In Moscow, this nightlife would be impossible. The social classes are very defined. Someone with a conservative and 'normal' life wouldn’t dress up and go out like this. I studied computer programming and it would have been unthinkable for a programmer to do this. But here in Berlin, even start-up guys go partying all the time.
How do you approach dress codes in your own life?
I work as a graphic designer, so I never wear something strict and official. But sometimes, I wear my black dress from the club to work.
What have you learned about yourself while working on this project?
I was thinking: why do people go out so often, even every weekend? Then I realised [clubbing] is the model of a perfect society. In the club, everyone is happy, you never get rejected, nobody will get angry with you because of your behaviour. Well, most of the time. And people support each other.
Meanwhile, fetish and rave fashion has become a trend.
In the flea markets here, you sometimes see people selling these clothes, saying: "This is how you get into KitKat!” But for my heroes, it is something that comes from deep inside of them. They don’t follow any trends, they don’t copy others.
Was it hard to find your subjects for this series?
Some of them were friend. I found the rest through an open call I posted in a Facebook group for the KitKatClub. Before that, I approached people in the clubs, giving them my card. Somehow they all forgot about it. I don’t know why, haha.
Is it easier now for you to guess who’s behind the harnesses and the masks in the club?
You mean, if someone works as a kindergarten teacher? No, that remains unpredictable. Even to me.
Scroll down to see more photos from this project.