María Balboa sat down with Sabrina Jeblaoui, a photographer based in Berlin, to talk about how they feel music and fashion are intertwined through the techno scene.

I think that fashion has also allowed to democratize  techno culture and this music often stigmatized in society”

Maria: Which were your first references when you started in the world of photography?  

Sabrina: I started Photography when I was 18. I did an internship in NYC and bought my first  reflex there. I didn’t know anything about photography but I used to like fashion. I spent some afternoon in the streets of SoHo to do some street style for my Tumblr “Fashion World is Weird”. As far as I remember, Bill Cunningham was one of my first references in fashion photography.  

M: Why did you choose to portrait people leaving the nightclubs in such a natural way?  

S: One of the reasons I moved to Berlin is because I was fascinated by the parties! I wanted to  do a documentary series and wanted to show the world how people look in clubs. The  idea popped up in my mind many times until I took my courage and went for the first time in  front of Berghain.  

M: You once labelled the Berlin club scene is “both beautiful and terrifying”. How is this  duality transferred to photography?  

S: It is beautiful because you can experience yourself in so many ways (style, dance,  connection with people and with your spirituality, knowing your own limits, etc) and it is also  terrifying at the same time for people who are lost in their lives and use drugs and parties as  a solution to their problem. Also terrifying because you can experience bad energies and  bad trips in clubs. I don’t think I show this “terrifying” side in my photos. Before covid I was  only doing a little prevention about drugs like GHB in my Instagram stories. 

M: What makes Berlin different from other cities? Which do you think is the major feeling  when you arrive? Is there a sense of community related to music?  

S: For me, the major feeling is this sense of freedom. The freedom to be whoever you want to  be every day on the edge of this careerist and capitalist society. I find that Berlin is the  place where a lot of special people come together and are not afraid to experience life in all  its aspects. It’s a city where you can be very, very happy and very, very unhappy at the  same time, where it can be very easy but also very difficult. The contrasts are strong (the  seasons, the emotions for example).  

M: On other occasions, you talked about the project of NachtClubsBerlin as a  materialization of the techno tourism industry of the city. According to this, your work  could be read as the brutalist portrait of the impact of night clubbing. The way the techno scene was often relegated to a suburban reality but then joined the mainstream…  How is this clubbing scene integrated in our contemporary society?  

S: People are excited about escaping reality, connecting with people and finding a sense of  belonging. Fashion has used techno culture as a source of inspiration and like every time,  fashion becomes mainstream until another fashion trend comes along. In this case, I think  that fashion has also allowed to democratize this culture and this music often stigmatized in society. On the other hand it has destroyed it and made it mainstream. I wanted to show  these two sides in this report.

I find that Berlin is the place where a lot of special people  come together and are not afraid to experience life in all its  aspects. It’s a city where you can be very, very happy and  very, very unhappy at the same time”

M: According to you, which is the real connection between fashion and music? Clubs are  often shown as a liminal space where looks play a leading role in the game of  perception. Do you think people feel free to show their “true self” in this kind of  place?  

S: The main connection in my opinion is self-expression. Music and fashion are fabulous tools  to express yourself and show the outside world who you really are (in the moment). I don’t  think you show your true self in such an artificial paradise as the club. You deliberately  choose to show a character you want to create or parts of yourself. But I’m not sure that  you can usually show who you really are in a few hours. I also think each club has its own  personality. That’s why I understand that clubs refuse some people at the entrance so as  not to destroy the atmosphere that wants to be created inside. 

M: Which is the most fascinating thing you attended to portrait? Do you think it’s easy to  show the inside of a person just in a visual shape?  

S: Each person is fascinating because each person is unique. It’s a bit of a cliché what I say  but there was no one moment more special than another. Every encounter is a delight.For  me photography shows the mystery of a person and a moment of his life. You can see the  intimacy of a person in his eyes when a photo is well taken. It is this connection established  between the photographer and the subject in a present moment that must be  photographed. The emotion is photographed. However, I don’t think you can capture the  entirety of a personality with a photo (or even a video). You can never capture it even when  you are in a relationship with the person.  

“You can see the intimacy of a person in his eyes when a  photo is well taken […] The emotion is photographed”

M: Why do you shoot on film? In which way does it modify the aesthetic?  

S: This allows me to stay in the moment and focus on what I am photographing. I like to have  this surprise when I receive my photos. I like to think about the photo before rather than after by retouching the photos. Aesthetically it gives a nostalgic/vintage feel that I love of course. It  gives character to the photo. 

M: According to you, which is the biggest difference between clubbing photography and  the portrait of the people who’re actually leaving the club? Do you think both of them  could be part of a bigger concept?  

S: Interesting question. Photographing people in clubs can show the dynamics of a party or it  can just ruin the moment that people are living. Photographing in front of the clubs can  document when you cannot take pictures in the clubs LOL. To be serious, I think that  shooting in daylight in front of clubs makes the photo more realistic and shows that the clubs  are open during the day on weekends and not only at night.