Oyster Photo Essay: Zac Handley x Berlin
"The youth have basically said 'Fuck it, let's just do whatever we want'."
Zac Handley was the camera whiz behind our Nike shoot a little while ago, and occassionally we'll see him hanging out in our office hallway and we'll high five. He recently went to Europe and took this series of photos which he wanted to share with us. His email said, "I took some pictures on my little 35mm point and shoot in Berlin of some of the fruity characters we came across. A bit of everything in there: teen drug dealers, homeless drug dealers, squats, Marilyn-signed babes, bike riders, mechanical bull vehicles, deep house music, little skaters, tired inline skaters, chicken carcasses..." Naturally, we jumped at the opportunity to put them on the site. We also wanted Zac to tell us more about his trip.
Ingrid Kesa: Hi Zac! How long were you in Berlin for?
Zac Handley: We were meant to be in Berlin for about a week but stayed for two, which wasn't nearly enough.
Was it your first time over there?
It was my first time in Berlin and my first time in Germany, but, they say that Berlin is a separate entity in itself.
Why did you decide to go?
I was — and am — so interested by the idea of what Berlin is. With such a dark modern history behind the city, the youth have basically said 'Fuck it, let's just do whatever we want'. Berlin had always been Germany's cultural hub; liberal and art-oriented... Socially and culturally, pretty much anything seems to go. Berliners seem to respect whatever his neighbour may decide to do with himself, as long as it won't have a negative impact on anyone. No one seems to pass any judgement; a granny on the train sits next to a hardcore punk in complete harmony.
How would you describe Berlin to someone who has never been there?
The city is known for its drug and club scene. Did you have any wild nights?
Berlin is home to the world's best and most authentic deep house and techno music, and in turn, the best clubs. When I say the best clubs I don't mean that they're fancy with rich people and a scene crowd. The good Berlin clubs are understated, weird, sort of creepy but in an uplifting way, loud and open-minded. I already had an appreciation for deep house, but Berlin inspired a strong interest.
What was the craziest shit that you saw while you were there?
I think the winner would have to be the heads going around at about 10am at a club called Sisyphos in East Berlin. It is an old Soviet bread factory which includes the warehouse and surrounding grounds. They have turned it into a dystopic, futuristic, apocolcalypic wasteland with burning 44 gallon drums and carwrecks. Basically it runs from Friday night through til Monday morning and doesn't close. People party for three days straight — when people need sleep they will take themselves outside to the old couches, nap for a little while, then get up and keep partying. All the fruitiest characters I have ever seen collected together, depraved of sleep and put into this odd apocalyptic factory area fuelled by the best German techno and deep house music.
So I'm guessing you made friends with some locals?
We made great friends with a group of Berliners we met at Wilde Renate in East Berlin, in particular a 26-year-old half-Russian half-German circus girl Sofia who showed us all the best places. Sofia ended up coming to meet us in Spain to drive from Barcelona to the North West coast.
Can you tell us the story behind the graffiti wall and the caravan?
It was a big open space behind an artists squat in the middle of East Berlin. Someone had obviously chosen the position to set up a temporary caravan home with a quad bike as a mode of transportation for going around the city. The graffiti wall behind was massive and featured artworks done by some of the most notorious street artists.
And what about the girl with the fan, how does she fit into the story?
The girl with the fan is my good friend Solange Frejean. I met her and her boyfriend Roland when she was here from France to model with Chic. They're legends, I always catch up with them for as long as possible when in Europe. She's a model with Marylin in Paris and she's killing it!
Yeah, what a hottie. Now some more general questions about photography... Do you remember the first photo you ever took?
Probably a picture of the USS Nimitz when I was young and it came to Woolloomooloo.
What do you usually shoot on?
Depends on what I'm shooting — for paid jobs I use a Canon 5D Mark II and for everything else I shoot on a collection of different 35mm cameras I have accumulated over time. For the series in Berlin I shot with a (probably) late 80s plastic Pentax point-and-shoot 35mm that I got at Bronte Vinnies for $3.
Nice one. What has been your favourite job so far and why?
I have had heaps of favourite jobs but I think my favourite was shooting Burberry eyewear for two days in Sydney with the English band Life In Film. We shot an acoustic session at The Observatory as the sun was going down over the harbour with some beers. It was epic.