Shooting sexual liberation inside Berlin’s gay underground

Pushing freedom to a new level, this club pays homage to the hedonism of a gay male sauna

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George Nebieridze and Ana Tabatadze
Photography Ana Tabatadze

We all know Berlin as a clubbing paradise, the city of total sexual liberation and the place where one goes to go truly wild. The throbbing feeling of freedom upon entering Berghain at 2pm on a Sunday is hard to forget, and thousands of people from all over the world come to the city to experience it – their stay often too brief to contribute to creating a scene. Luckily, Berlin is teeming with underground parties that become a passion for both the organisers and the clubbers. Berlin-based photographers George Nebieridze and Ana Tabatadze documented one of them, a gay night called Herrensauna.

With its title hinting at a hedonist male sauna, Herrensauna is not just about celebration of the male body and sexuality, it’s about creating a community. “Within the context of the club, niche culture reigns and individual expression is celebrated providing a space which is largely uncensored and embracing. It resolves some of the many divides that continue to exist within our own circles, created by multiple factors related to Berlin's cultural shift and growth in the past few years. With many of our friends having moved to the city in recent years, Herrensauna developed from both the desire and opportunity to build something together which is unique and growing,” the organisers explain.

“At Herrensauna freedom climbs to a fresh new level, it’s a fascinating mixture of magnificent aesthetics and relaxed positivity” – George Nebieridze

“To me, living in Berlin from the very beginning was about freedom as I ‘escaped’ from my conservative and religious homeland,” says Nebieridze, originally from Georgia. “During the time I lived here, my standards and understandings of this feeling were becoming more and more necessitating, and even in big clubs, where everything seems to be completely liberal and bohemian from the first glance, things are still in control and eventually you feel bordered with systematic rules. At Herrensauna freedom climbs to a fresh new level, it’s a fascinating mixture of magnificent aesthetics and relaxed positivity. We were honoured to have the right of photographing there, not even cameras made people feel uncomfortable or awkward and it was pure heaven for us documenting this staggering relation of skin textures with smoke, this pure underground ambience of the vibes that music has there.”

The photographers documented the physical energy alongside outbursts of love and tenderness on the dance floor, where, although darkness taken away by a camera flash, the intimacy remains.

“The club is in the cellar with one dance floor and a few dark sections to hang out. It’s nice to explore different areas. The dance floor is pretty dark, as well and actually feels comfortable to dance in every corner,” Tabatadze recalls. Herrensauna for her is special because of the collaborative energy of the party: “The people involved in organising the night party hard as well. It’s fascinating to see how far the party can go and how wild people can be – in a positive understanding of this word, of course. It feels like all the people at the party find it quite exciting and unique – it’s one of the least commercialised parties in Berlin, and you feel it once you’re there.”

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