Why is Berlin’s Club Rule “No Photos” so Important?


It’s sometimes difficult to imagine a space still removed from the omnipresence of social media and camera phones in modern society. Where a person’s actions aren’t instantly recordable and uploadable for the world to see, left instead behind closely guarded doors, shrouded in mystery.

But that’s a huge part of the allure of Berlin’s club scene, and what’s helped advance its mythos as an adult playground hidden from proper society, where people can be whoever or whatever they want to be. You can dance in Berghain to Wagnerian industrial techno while wearing latex and chains on Sunday evening, and return once again to your banking job on Monday morning. It’s an integral part of the Berlin clubbing experience.

“People are here to let go, not to take selfies,” says Sascha Disselkamp, founder of Berlin’s Clubcommission, and owner of Sage Club and Fiese Remise. “Sven—the bouncer at Berghain—if he sees people looking at the phone in the line, and bragging about how close to they are to the door, and he tells them to go home to play on Facebook,” Disselkamp says.

It’s not just privacy that fuels suspicion of social media and camera phones throughout Berlin’s underground scene. Phones are a vibe killer, so totally unnecessary to the clubbing experience that many Berliners simply choose not to carry them on a night out. Switch it off, disconnect yourself from the outside world, and make some new friends. It’s an ethos many hold dear outside the clubs too, favouring human contact in bars, restaurants and even the streets, where pedestrians buried in their devices are an unusually rare sight. Which of course makes enforcing the rules that much easier.

“For us, it’s a choice that we’re making for the sake of our patrons,” says a club promoter that prefered to remain anonymous. “If they think that they are being photographed in here, they won’t come back. Privacy is a very important thing for us to maintain.”

The decision to ban photos is an easy one for this promoter. His club’s reputation depends the trust he shares with his patrons. And while he admits a few mid-party photos would probably entice more customers, the control over who shows up would be out of his hands.

“It would be a different atmosphere and mood,” he says. “It would bring people with other worldviews.”


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