From the gilded hell of Parisian life to the artificial paradise of Berlin clubs, Sabrina Jeblaoui has long buried her unease in her daily life of glitz that was not always glamorous. With her photographic project NachtClubsBerlin, she is finally in tune with herself. More on the inspiring and moving journey of this young audacious woman.
“I started photography when I was in New York City for an internship, at the age of 18. I was really poor there and I spent 450 euros on a digital reflex! I got myself into financial troubles… I used to go to the streets of Soho to take photos of people’s style. I wasn’t paid, it was just a hobby. It was fun to go and see people, talk to them, they looked really cool. It was in 2011, the year the homosexual marriage was legalized in New York City. So I went to the Gay Pride. I realized that photography made it easy for me to connect with people. Technically, the photos weren’t that great. But when I was younger, I just had the confidence. I didn’t think about what people were going to say. In fact, my intuition has always guided me: buy this camera, leave the fashion business, learn acting. It taught me to ask myself what I really wanted to do deep inside.”
The impossible Parisian life
I prefer to let you know that Sabrina is spontaneous and unfiltered. Her experience proves it. At just 17, she left Perpignan, South of France, the city where she grew up in a foster family. She went to Paris. One thing led to another and she found a job in event management in the fashion industry. She then entered the select circle of small Parisian celebrities. “I realized I could fit into a class that was completely foreign to me, but I felt out of place.” Away from the trendy parties, Sabrina lived in a modest 17m2 and wore second-hand clothes. Bored and overworked, she decided to take a break… far, very far away, in Argentina, enroling in a WHV program (Working Holiday Visa). After a few months, once again, she realised she didn’t have any direction in Buenos Aires. “There was a lack of meaning in my life. I never felt good where I was.”
There was a lack of meaning in my life. I was never felt good where I was.
Actually, there was still something she really wanted to do: acting. Without a second thought, she went back to Paris. She didn’t have a penny in her pocket but remained determined. She went to a theatre school where she trained 17 hours a week. Aside from it, she was working in restaurants to pay her rent. “After 6 months, I couldn’t take it anymore. You are surrounded by people who have been acting since they were kids, who have parents who can support them. They have time because they don’t work. I was still feeling a little out of place. Back then I didn’t trust myself, I didn’t know who I was. When you’re not in the moment, you can’t play. I decided to quit. I guess it wasn’t the right time.”
The trap of the Berlin night life
She decided to move to Berlin on a whim. “When I came back from Argentina, people from the fashion industry didn’t pay attention to me anymore. It was hard to take. I guess I wasn’t bringing them anything anymore.” She already knew the German capital, especially the clubs and parks, because her best friend moved there a few years ago. She arrived in Summer 2017, found a job in a call center. “I came here with high hopes. I was partying a lot. I worked 40 hours a week. July through to October/November was fine. And then…” It was her first winter in Berlin. The dreary weather, being single and the dull job weighed her down and pushed her into the vicious circle of the “made in Berlin” parties. “I could go out for 20 hours straight. I was taking a lot of drugs, and more and more because I had built a tolerance to them.” She admits, “I didn’t really see the dangers. In Berlin, because everybody does it, you think it’s normal, you’re in control.”
I was in foster care because my parents were drug dealers and drug addicts. I realized I was doing the same thing but in a more modern way
Still, it’s a tough day after a party. Her past caught up with her. “I’ve had flashbacks from my parents. I was in foster care because they were drug dealers and addicts. I realized I was doing the same thing but in a more modern, trendy way. When you see yourself taking lines, it’s hardcore,” she says bluntly. Fortunately, Sabrina is one of those creatures who draws their strength from an innate optimism. “I said to myself, ‘You have the choice to dive in and never get up again or you decide your life and take responsibility’. I started doing a ritual every morning. I would meditate, I would write down my thoughts, I would look in the mirror and say positive things.” Gradually, clubbing became less and less common. Then she met her boyfriend.
The light in front of the door clubs
A few months later, the desire to take pictures resurfaced. Since Buenos Aires, she devotes herself entirely to analog photography, whose retro DNA suits her well. “I’ve wanted to take pictures of people leaving clubs for a long time,” she says. One Sunday in September, her courage led her to the concrete fortress of Berghain, Berlin’s most famous club. “I was scared, I wanted to go backwards, but I told myself, ‘Just try it, just try it. I didn’t think anyone would accept being photographed. But I was wrong! When I saw my pictures, I realized it was exactly these kind of photos I liked.'”
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Right after partying with @marquee.de.phuck at @berghain_ostgut 🔥 Photography by @sabrinajeblaoui.photography and support of @pocketstudiofr #berghain #egyptianboy #berlin #35mm #documentaryphotography #technoberlin #techno #raveculture #technoculture #raveparty #berlinclub
The virtuous circle is set in motion. Every Sunday or so, she’s shooting the sophisticated-looking night owls on their way home. As in New York, when she pulls a camera trigger, she “connects with people”, without question. “It reminded me of the times when I was in a club, but now I don’t have to go in,” she smiles. From there, everything went super fast. The Instagram account she created, @NachtClubsBerlin, is a huge success. It now has more than 20,000 subscribers. The media takes an interest in her work (Trax Magazine, Blind Magazine, Electronic Beats, the Tagesspiel…).
This project didn’t earn me any money, but it gave me a lot of faith and self-confidence
“I’m still surprised at what I did,” Sabrina laughs. When you have an idea that constantly pops into your head, you have to do something about it. There’s a reason it keeps coming back. It’s your soul telling you something. But don’t have expectations. It wasn’t my goal to have 20,000 followers. If you think like that, you put pressure on yourself and you lose the essence of what you’re doing. This project didn’t earn me any money but it gave me a lot of faith and confidence in myself. I realized that I could see a project through to the end.“
This small victory was life changing for Sabrina. She quit her job. Then she decided to learn German. “I’ve got up to B1 level. After that, I refused to do jobs paying less than 1,500 euros.” Today, she has adopted other passions. “I’m not confined to a job. I’m not just a photographer. I also want to help people. I’m going to start training in intuitive therapy, an alternative medicine that slightly mirrors hypnosis. I’ve been in denial for a long time but helping others is very important to me. I’ll do lots of jobs in my life,” she says with her sunny southern French accent.
There is, however, one thing that contributed to Sabrina’s sometimes-irrational choices: the connection to others, simple, with no fuss. Far from the artificial filters of the digital world, the sneaky trendy circles or the illusionary happiness of drugs.