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LOOKING FOR THE UNDERGROUND IN BERLIN – AND ELSEWHERE

Photographer Aghia Sophie used to cover some of Berlin's most famous nightclubs. She spoke with us about her work and her view of the cities past and future.

PHOTO: AGHIA SOPHIE @ GEGEN

What is your relationship to Berlin? ”Did you ever have a long, deep and chaotic love-relationship in your life? Full of moments of happiness, big emotions but also pain and sadness? This is Berlin for me, one of the biggest loves of my life, a place that made me grow up and partly helped me to become who I’m now. But that's the past, my present is really different. Every time I come back to Berlin it has been different from the last time; the city changed a lot and so did I. I would never come back to my past as I never come back to my old relationships.”

How did your interest in photography start? ”It started when I was around 20. I had a small, none professional camera, that I always brought with me. I started taking pictures of the world around me, my life. At time I joined the European free illegal techno parties scene and that was my first major photo-project. I was studying fashion design in Milano and almost by chance I attended a secondary photography course. I showed my free party pictures to my teachers and they pushed me to continue with photography. Then I got a professional camera and I started to use it - and thought myself. I also loved to photograph abandoned and industrial places. After that my photos got published in a magazine for the first time.”


PHOTO: AGHIA SOPHIE @ GEGEN

What inspires you when it comes to photography? ”When it comes to documentary photography I am certainly attracted to minorities, whether they are queer, ravers or aboriginals from the Amazon they have this common denominator. I am allergic to the masses and tend to reject all that is commercial, I like subjects that are unique and not at all obvious, perhaps because, somehow, I am reflected by them, after all I’m freaky too. I also really like photographing nature. After Berlin I started living in close contact with it and I developed a strong connection, I happened to experience very poetical moments when I was immersed in nature. I photograph it only when I feel converging energies that create a magical balance. At that moment I usually take out my camera and shoot. Surely light also has a strong influence, I like photography in its most literal sense, writing with light"

When did you move to Berlin and how come? ”I visited Berlin in 2008 for the first time and then I decided that I wanted to live there, I barely knew what I was doing, but I was attracted by the air of freedom, the copious alternative scenes and the “less is more“ philosophy, I just knew that I wanted to call this place home and one year later, after finishing the Academy of Fine Arts , I moved there . My first year wasn’t easy, I didn’t have so many contacts, and it was complicated to find a place to stay back then as well. I didn’t speak German and I think that it was one of the coldest winters for the past 15 years. Therefore, I think if you move to Berlin without a specific plan it could be really austere in the beginning but then, with a bit of effort, you learn to surf the flow.”



PHOTO: AGHIA SOPHIE @GEGEN

How would you describe Berlin as a city? ”Berlin is a big bubble, apparently a wonderland , a city on a human scale (as far as I can consider a city on a human scale from my current point in life), all accessible by bike, free, full of art, culture and counterculture, history, beautiful people, parties and scenes. Or at least it used to be like that. Now I’ve the impression that it’s homologating to other European capitals and increasingly losing its uniqueness, my favourite neighborhoods have all undergone the process of gentrification, I almost don't recognize them anymore. I could never think of moving back to live in Berlin in a place like Moabit or Wedding to have a home at a decent price, I barely know where they are and at the same time I can't accept sharing "my Friedrichshain" with a mass of hipsters and see the same houses I lived in turned into luxury apartments, it makes me very sad. The poor but sexy Berlin is the one I loved."



PHOTO: AGHIA SOPHIE @ GEGEN

You took some incredible photos on the club scene here. What clubs did you photograph? ”My biggest collection is from KitKat Club, I was for many years a resident photographer for the party Gegen, I worked mostly at parties then, but I occasionally photographed in clubs like Tresor, Shift, Bi Nuu... More than working for the clubs themselves, I worked at different parties, some changed locations at each edition, but all belonged to the dark-techno-queer scene!

How did that start? ”Since the beginning, I have always photographed the parties for fun. One day a friend and one of the Gegen's organizers, asked me to take pictures of their incoming event, they were happy with the result and from that moment we began a long collaboration that gave me more visibility and created other contacts and connections."



PHOTO: AGHIA SOPHIE @ GEGEN

Can you tell us the story behind these rave photos? ”The story behind these photos is the story of a phase of my life, I never took these photos as a professional photographer, but as a party buddy, a friend. This is the only way to catch the intimacy of these moments. It's a story of youth, of journeys on the road and trips in other dimensions, of trucks and dogs, sound-systems, pirates and police roadblocks, of techno music, long dances, tribes, friendship, synergies, love and freedom.”


PHOTO: AGHIA SOPHIE @ GEGEN

Now you live in (Italy/ Switzerland) how has your photo style changed since you left Berlin? ”Part of the year I live in Italy. I live in a tiny house just within walking distance lost in the woods of the Alps. The Alps is the place where I grew up and it’s really important for me to be connected to my roots. My boyfriend and I are carrying an aspiring off- the grid project based on permaculture and eco-building but during the winter we escape to Colombia where he owns a piece of land in the jungle together with some friends, a project very similar to the one in Italy. South America is my new source of inspiration and that's where I continue to carry out my photographic projects. Although the west is apparently the fulcrum of the new trends, I feel Europe as an old and tired continent. On the contrary Colombia seems to me all so new, a wave of freshness, a cauldron of new ideas that is about to explode. I am also very interested in indigenous traditions and their sacred use of plants; it helps me to understand what happened centuries ago in the places where I grew up."

”My style has certainly changed, but, as I mentioned before, I'm just looking for my underground elsewhere."

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Playful is a daring magazine telling personal stories of legendary people who help create Berlin’s reputation. Nothing is too crazy, too naked or too strange. If you’re interested in pitching us a story or idea:

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