I met David P for a shoot at his home near Warschauer Straße station. When I arrived it brought back memories of a weekend trip I took here a few years back. At the time I was living in Warsaw, and Berlin was a quick, cheap and easy train ride away.
Then I stayed at a gay hostel called Gay Hostel, out in Schöneberg. It was, by the way, directly opposite Eisenherz, a shop that now sells Elska. I remember going in there, having a good browse, and just loving the place. I had no idea that I’d end up making a mag that would be on their shelves one day.
Anyway, me and some of the other guests teamed up and decided to go for a drink. After some debating it was decided that we should go to lab.orartory, a place that was said to be very “only in Berlin”. While I knew that there would be some debauchery going on, I didn’t realise until I arrived that you were supposed to be naked. Yet the idea of propping up the bar with a beer wearing nothing but shoes was not scary to me but rather, well, interesting. I was up for the experience, and with my new international hostel posse, I felt in safe company.
Located at Berghain, a former power station turned mega club, outside of which we shot Luca R for Elska Issue (02) Berlin, The Lab is in the depths of the complex. On arrival you are given a black bin liner into which you put everything but your shoes. Then you hand the bag over to someone who writes a number on your chest that you’ll use to order drinks against and claim your clothes at the end of the night.
I started with a couple of drinks, staying in the bar area, but soon felt curious enough for a wander. I recall seeing an old bathtub in the middle of a dark room, inside of which was a naked man fiddling around with himself. Other areas were more typical darkrooms, but less dark and much bigger. I was only there to look, trust me, and there was a lot to see.
The biggest impression of the evening was left, however, by a trip to the loo. There was this wall of about six urinals, the sixth of which wasn’t made of porcelain but rather was a large, middle-aged man sat on the floor with his mouth wide open. I stopped for a moment and considered which urinal to use, but in the end I was far too British about it and just assumed that it would be impolite to piss on some dude without being directly asked to. By this point the evening couldn’t shock me any more, so it was time to get my bin liner back and head off.
During the Elska Berlin shoot week, I considered going back, especially to try and shock my assistant Andriy, but there just was no time. And really, even though Berlin is famous for this level of filth, there is more to Berlin than nastiness. You don’t have to like fucking in public and pissing into mouth-toilets to feel you’ve had a proper Berlin experience. It’s like thinking that Bangkok is all ping pong popping shows and happy ending massages. Berlin is a great city with much more to offer than its notoriety. But it is there, and is worth seeing at least once.
To see the real Elska, visit www.elskamagazine.com