Carolin Saage was twenty-six when she received carte blanche from the owners of Bar25 in Berlin – the only one – to document the milieu. At that point in time, the bar wasn’t even there, just a wooden shed. Here is where you built, lived, celebrated. Carolin Saage was there “embedded” like a war reporter who is allowed to officially accompany the troops to the front. The voyage of Bar25 began with the construction of portable toilets and ended seven years later with a six-day party that has been burned into the collective Berlin memory.
Only over the course of time did the young photographer comprehend what subject was being presented to her there, what a unique chance and source of inspiration. She worked with a 35mm camera, a Nikon, chose a 50mm lens that depicts perspectives and proportions genuinely; only sometimes did she grab her wide-angle lens, for the idea was closeness, intimacy. The equipment had to be easy to handle, she had to be fast in order to capture moments that would never come again. Thus, she was always concentrated, wide awake, often cursed that she “had to go there” yet again, but loved it immediately the moment she entered the Western saloon, when the motives simply plopped in front of her and her creative eye found the right composition. For an entire summer, Carolin Saage even lived in a hippy van on the site – she later welcomed being able to stand back once in a while just for even a short time: after all, she worked in a place where others celebrated.
The pictures that emerged in these seven years reveal the entire range of a club night: from the set-up of the bar to the arrival of the guests and the first climaxes, the crescendo, the discharge and, at the end, the total exhaustion, sleep, breakfast, and the bright sunlight that also illustrates the desolation of the space. These are pictures of orchestral power, bursting with energy, dynamic. But they are also pictures of humble devotion, of affectionate observation, an almost gentle caressing of the faces – as in the cover motive that shows a boy sleeping in the middle of colorful confetti. There are silly pictures, repulsive pictures, quirky pictures. Sometimes you think you’re on a playground, sometimes in a torture chamber. Carolin Saage manages to preserve a reserved, relatively neutral gaze that neither exposes nor elevates. A view that lets people “be” in their passion for amusement.
Carolin Saage’s work may be considered a classic long-term project that shows the transformation of a bar and its guests, but, in this special case, it shows even more: how a rather anarchic culture of fun became a professional fun machinery that fueled itself with joy, with even more confetti, even more mud, even more ecstasy – until, in the end, everyone was happy, including the owners.
Carolin Saage herself also matured during this time: as a photographer and artist. She found her position in the world of images – not as a party photographer, but as someone who makes accomplished portraits, photographs reports, stages fashion. Her series “25/7” on the seven years of Bar25 marks a step in her development toward becoming a precisely working, yet flexible and sensitive observer.
Society needs these “embedded” observers, who swim along in the current of a subculture or party culture and reflect upon the zeitgeist in their pictures. Carolin Saage did this for the years from 2003 to 2010. However this time is judged: the series “25/7” will also be gauged as a symbol for an increasing acceptance of debauchery – at least as long until the wrecking ball comes.