Spring 2015. Before Martina Cirese left the house, she swallowed a whole cup of coffee, put the camera in her wallet and immersed herself in the night of Berlin. “When I got to the party, I realized this was my first time entering a sex club.” Her black dress, “too classic, elegant”, did not impress the wearers, who asked her for “more love” for their next visit. The camera and the phone stayed on the door, but Martina entered. “Today I know that there is a before and an after that night,” the Italian artist told P3 in an interview.
He passed the foyer and looked around. “A couple in their sixties, completely undressed, had a cocktail in a bar full of people who looked like they were from an episode of Twin Peaks or a Fellini movie. The atmosphere was dark and festive at the same time. “He didn’t take any photos that night, but everything has changed. “It’s impossible to categorize the people I’ve met from that day,” he says. His diary, which combines photography, text and drawing – which he calls Silence is Sexy and shares with P3 – not only shows portraits of people he has met in sex clubs. It also includes snapshots of meetings that took place in broad daylight and were “equally inspiring”.
At the age of 26, Martina went through a period she calls “Shadow Line” in relation to Joseph Conrad’s novel. “The end of adolescence, the transition to adulthood,” he explains. “I moved to Berlin to distance myself from a visceral and suffocating relationship. I wanted to find out what I really wanted. “He ended the relationship and began a journey of self-awareness. “I felt the need to question everything: my habits, my education, my principles became a burden. So I caught my thoughts and followed my instincts. “
So he opened space in his life to meet people who refused to accept any kind of label, “people who asked themselves the same questions” as Martina. “And I’ve taken some of the answers I’ve heard to extremes. I immediately felt that I wanted to hear. Approach me And write, draw, take photos … “
Silence is sexy is a hybrid work. Pages full of handwritten words, drawings and photographs describe the daily life of a woman whose lifestyle, in her words, has “limits that are as blurred as the nights in Berlin”, the city in which she found freedom for the first time. “I allowed myself to dance freely, enjoy my body while being swallowed up by music, and feel part of a collective body of fascinating strangers. New wave, techno through to daylight, dark rooms full of smoke that I immerse myself in and lose sight of the hours, ”he remembers.
Cirese opens the backstage curtain on the portrait of Tim and Luka, who stick to the sex club he attended in 2015 to show a little of his creative process – which he says is erratic and unpredictable. “We met several times on the dance floor, at night and then over the next few days by the pool, smoked cigarettes and relaxed.” Tim and Luka had recently met when the photographer was taking her portrait. “She was Filipino, he was Croat. I watched them dance and was drawn to the way their bodies fit together. “Martina told them that she wanted to photograph them and made an appointment.
“It was summer, it was hot, and there was a mattress on the floor – I photographed them kissing, playing for as long as they wanted.” It was the first time he’d photographed a couple in their privacy. “While I was undressing, I discovered that Tim is transgender and I was fascinated by the way his body lives. She tells me that she came to Berlin as “the place where I wanted to experience how to be a person”. “From that moment on, Martina never stopped photographing people and their relationships. The project is still under development. “I want to capture this unique connection and the energies that are released when their bodies meet.”
The photographer, whose work has already been published in The Guardian, Time and National Geographic, has lived in Paris since 2017. She continues to take pictures. “Today I realize that Berlin was just the beginning,” he concludes. “The clubs I fell in, the people I met, the music and the smell I felt on my skin in the first few months in a new metropolis… It is possible to feel everything again, and doors to open to other locations. A lesson that has stayed with me ever since. “