No Photo Policy in Clubs

Sebastian P.
Oct 21, 2017 · 8 min read

Not so long-ago you didn’t even have mobile phones with cameras that could take pictures in the dark club environment. At least not in a sneaky way. But technology progressed and for some club owners it became a personal issue. That’s when they decided to ban phones from the dancefloor and permitted taking pictures inside the club.

One of the first clubs ever to ban photos was Berghain. The big B. A techno club that opened its doors 2006 in Berlin. In 2009 the club was selected the number one club by DJ Mag which brought huge attention. Especially since normally only big mainstream venues (e.g. Las Vegas Hakkasan) entered the top spots. Even now that Berghain isn’t number one anymore it is still by many considered the best techno club in the world.

This bit of history is important to understand that for a lot of people who visit berlin Berghain became some kind of hotspot — a must see. And like it is common for sightseeing people take pictures as a memory or to show friends/social media. But for the regulars at Berghain that for sure wasn’t pleasant. Especially since the “old Berghain” — the Ostgut — was a known place for very extravagant parties. Ranging from fetish and sex parties to drug excesses. The freedom to do whatever they wanted without judgements, that’s what brought people to the Ostgut and still brings them to Berghain. But making photos of such “No-go’s” is fatal and scares people away.

Clubs that protect guests’ privacy by means of a strict photography prohibition ensure that the participants of the events show more openness and act without a façade. Thus, the musical experience and the personal interaction with like-minded people is at the forefront.

They fear to pop up on social media, which might cost them job, family or dignity. Especially clubs with quality electronic music (should) act as an open-minded space following the ideals of libertinism. And a huge part of that is privacy. It can’t be guaranteed that if a photo is taken maybe someone in the background doesn’t want to be in it.

The big B got a lot of public attention first of all through the DJ Mag rating, but also about rules the club implemented like the no photo policy and strict selection at the door. Especially coming from a mainstream perspective these rules seemed crazy and totally uncommon. A club which rejects people because the doorman thinks they wouldn’t fit in or can’t handle the lifestyle of the other people inside. And a secret location with nearly no pictures existing? But the concept worked and as always if competitors see something successful they try to adapt it.

Berghains No Photo sign when entering (https://thump.vice.com/en_us/article/3dev53/berghain-no-photos-loophole-berghain)

The thing is, I’m not agreeing with everything some famous club is doing and what is hip at the moment. I’ve lately seen many clubs trying to copy no-photo or door selection but only for a handful of them it is really useful. For the rest it’s cringy — making them look try hard.

Not every city is Berlin or has a similar vibe. People have different mentalities and only some are truly open minded allowing them to let go, express their feelings and sexuality.

Two years ago, I’ve moved from Berlin to Munich which is probably the biggest change in mindset you can experience in Germany. Munich is very conservative! And the mentality is also mirrored by the clubs and the people in them. It’s only logical for people growing up with such a conservative mentality to keep a lot of that in the back of their heads. And if the city itself has a very repressive standpoint you can’t expect that people will suddenly act differently despite of all the features the club offers like no photo etc.

No matter if it’s allowed to take photos or if it is strictly banned. At the end it is only a club and people will decide by themselves how they’ll act and what they want and won’t do.

There are three different stages of NO PHOTO policy.

Loose:

It stands on the door if you are entering the club but if you are inside you’ll see people taking pictures and no one cares or says something. That’s a prime example of trying to behave cool as a club and honestly, just put away the sign. Nothing will change, clubs without an opinion considering photos existed and still exist and everything is fine. It’s just a bit absurd if a club is taking videos of a club-night and publishing it on their social media account. But at the same time you can see the no photo sign in the back.

Example: Concrete Paris … oh the irony

Medium strict:

Two examples that pop into my mind are Robert Johnson in Frankfurt and Watergate in Berlin. You won’t get kicked out of the club for snapping a picture, but if someone of the staff sees you taking one they’ll ask you to delete it after which you than can continue partying. And as often, not seeing everything in black and white — allowed or not allowed — being in the middle is the fairest solution in my honest opinion. There are people who just want to capture a moment. We are a modern society which means that we constantly evolve. Photography has become a part of that and it’s fine. I for myself love to take some pictures of the venue if I’m there for the first time.

Cameras Forbidden @ Robert Johnson (https://www.residentadvisor.net/images/feed/2016/robert-johnson-pictures.jpg)

I even have a small photo album where I save my memories

Sure, people who constantly take pictures (with flash on) will be seen by security and asked to stop it. This rule alone will already prevent a lot of pictures leaking and people being too focused on capturing a moment instead of living it.

Strict:

Prime example for this one is the Berghain, sure. But also, some other clubs — often coming from the fetish scene: e.g. KitKat Club and About blank (sorry that I could only think about some in Berlin). By the way all of these clubs have darkrooms so you can guess why they don’t want pictures to leak. You enter the club: your smartphone camera gets taped and you’ll be told multiple times that you aren’t allowed to take pictures inside. If you break that rule you’ll get thrown out of the club and aren’t allowed to return.

I get it these clubs have that approach. Their strong sexual and drug indorsed background. With Berghain the fact that the lowest floor — The Laboratory — is a hardcore fetish club plays a big role. Sure, photos of that shouldn’t be taken. But even than throwing people out of the club and effectively ruining their night… I don’t know if that’s the best solution.

Cameras will be covered up ( https://images.wired.it/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/1415112030_Schermata-11-2456966-alle-15.19.15.png )

Since nothing can be prevented 100% someone will always manage to break your rule unpunished. And as for other clubs. I don’t think it is necessary to have such an aggressive no photo policy. Club owners, take a look at your crowd, take a look at the mentality of your city. Is the stuff happening here really that crazy and intense that no photo makes sense? Is it really necessary to ruin someone’s night only to have this trendy rule? Is it justified?

And you. Dear clubbers. Take a look at yourself. Why are you snapping pictures? Is a night-out in this particular city or club something you’ll be looking forward for weeks/months in advance?

I think: Take some pictures. Turn of your flash and watch out that you won’t bother someone else. Then put your phone away and enjoy your night.

Scenario two: Are you taking pictures to show off that you got into a club or that your partying super hard? Snapchat, Instagram Stories — these aren’t memories. It means you want to show someone (maybe only subconsciously) that you are so cool because you are in a club and drinking booze or whatever…

Why would I watch my phone when I could listen to the band? Who even looks at these terrible, low quality videos after the fact?

I can assure you: no one cares. Snaps out of a club look always the same and no one will be impressed. We aren’t underage. If someone wants to go to a club that’s no big deal. Your photos will most likely be blurry, your videos distorted. Save the hassle and just enjoy your night-out. A night away from social media. By turning of your phone and taking a break. Talking to new people — to strangers. That’s how you’ll impress someone and you’ll entertain others making their experience at the club even more pleasant. You should try it. It will blow your mind!

A last rule which I think should be respected by everybody: Please don’t take photos at an (club) after-hour. Timewise the after-hour starts when the sun comes up. It’s getting brighter, the atmosphere relaxes even more and in my opinion the after-hour is the most fun and socially open time of your night-out. But since everyone has been out partying for multiple hours, no matter if they are drunk, drugged out or sober: They will look wasted and sweaty! Everyone looks that way! Please respect the people and don’t take pictures of their not very glamourous appearance!

Epilogue:

This article was inspired by the Blitz Club in Munich. It falls under the category (kind of) strict no photo policy. They have “PHOTOS FORBIDDEN” written all over the club and when you enter your camera gets taped. I’ve been there a couple of times. Maybe I’ll write a more comprehensive article about the club itself. But I’ve always seen someone during the night snapping a picture. So, I also took some for my photo album and I published one on Instagram. After that the club messaged me very aggressively to take down the photo which I did. But Blitz — you are just a normal Munich club. There are no excesses that need to be hidden from publicity, no long after-hours and you close your doors at 8 like every other club in Munich. As I explained above it’s the general mentality of the city. Trying to force that internally by throwing people out if they get caught by security and externally by communication via social media — that’s not going to work in the long run. What is the point of such a strict no photo policy? The reason given by Blitz is that people should feel free and should not fear outside prejudices — I don’t see that here. Clubs: adapt to your audience. Bring in new fresh ideas instead of something that worked in another city for other clubs. And clubbers: you usually know the feeling your club tries to achieve. So, help your favorite night destination, reduce your phone-time, interact with others and then we won’t need rules or restrictions anymore because it will regulate itself.

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