Berlin’s Underworld Gets Immortalized In This Must-See Book

Berlin’s Underworld Gets Immortalized In This Must-See Book


Berlin’s Underworld Gets Immortalized In This Must-See Book

Photographer Maxime Ballesteros taps into the deepest depths of Berlin.

Photographer Maxime Ballesteros taps into the deepest depths of Berlin.

Text: Nadja Sayej

Imagine a younger Helmut Newton and then you’ll start to get the idea of what Berlin photographer Maxime Ballesteros is all about. The Berlin-based photographer and V Magazine contributor recently released his first photo book called Les Absents, which features over 200 photos of nightlife, fashion, models, bondage and high heels. It personifies the beauty and wonder of Berlin.

The book showcases photos taken from 2009 to the present, whether it’s the sexy nightlife, behind-the-scenes at fashion weeks and even lonely moments on the subway. Some of the more surreal moments include a pair of heeled shoes burning on a stove. “Half of it is a self-portrait, maybe,” writes Ballesteros in the book. “All of it is a lie, from a certain point of view.”

Ballesteros, who is originally from Lyon, always wanted to be a writer and the photos here tell a fictional fairy tale through the eyes of one smoking Frenchman – which he describes as “stung by the flower you love.”From five-star hotel swimming pools to fake blood and random nylon legs, there are gothic-tinged shots and a recurring model – his wife, the Canadian fashion designer Jen Giplin from Don’t Shoot the Messenger.

Part autobiography and fantasy, the photos are a romp through Berlin, Bretagne, Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, Venice and beyond – and are a cross between Tom Wolfe, Salvador Dali and Richard Avedon. There is a mysterious air to capturing everything from quiet beaches in San Miguel to a flock of unruly pigeons in Paris, cross-legged models in Mexico and many pointy high heels up in the air. “Maybe it’s a book about fear,” writes Ballesteros in the book. “Fear of the truth. Of reality.”

In many ways, this book is an ode to Berlin as a creative capital, which is quickly changing, and has evolved since he arrived eight years ago. There are more people moving to Berlin, yet it’s lonelier than ever. The words “love story” come up several times, but the photos are not necessarily romantic. “This is a love story with the world and some of its inhabitants, broken-hearted every other day,” he writes. “A world of 14 billion eyes to attest your existence and 7 billion pairs of arms to hold you. Yet: the loneliest species.”

With the raw sexuality of Newton and some tinges of Mario Testino—but without the glossy aesthetic—Ballesteros’ work has often been compared to Nan Goldin and Ryan McGinley for their stylish—and sometimes chilling approach to documenting their era.

To Ballesteros, he could be living the dream, or something quite like it. “It’s like those moments when you wake up from a dream,” he writes in the book. “And for an instant, the dream seems more real than the world you see with opened eyes.”

View the slideshow below and witness the stunning Berlin images.


Credits: images courtesy of maxime ballesteros


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