FF Mixtape #173: Frankie Casillo - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

FF Mixtape #173: Frankie Casillo

From festivals to performances, Berlin-based photographer Frankie Casillo reflects on his experiences documenting nightlife spaces and communities. His ability to capture precious and fleeting moments leaves us yearning for more—and his craft-like attention to detail is reflected in his impressive selection for FF Mixtape #173.

Nachtdigital, 2019, ©Frankie Casillo.
Beijing, 2018, ©Frankie Casillo.
Nachtdigital, 2019, ©Frankie Casillo.

In a time where nightlife around the world is left in a constant state of flux, remembering the significance of nightlife scenes is important to building a more resilient future for these spaces and their communities. Italian-born and Berlin-formed photographer Frankie Casillo plays his part by documenting the invaluable contribution of nightlife to the “cultural heritage” of cities. Whether he is photographing at raves, festivals, performances, or at the intimate after-hours of people’s private homes, Frankie knows how to be in the right place, at the right time. In many ways, nightlife resists documentation—whether through strict club and event policies that prohibit photography, common in Berlin, but also through the very dynamism of the environment—yet Frankie manages to capture what would otherwise be distant memories in his evocative photography. Importantly, Frankie approaches these spaces with thoughtfulness and respect, avoiding a voyeuristic depiction while never shying away from a cheeky or explicit shot. His images give us something to look forward to—a night out on the dance floors, a great concert, an amazing party with new and old friends alike—reminding us of what attracts many to these spaces and experiences in the first place.

GALA, 2021, ©Frankie Casillo.
  • How did you become interested in photography?

    Photography satisfies my creativity best. I see it as a tool and meditative process that allows me the ultimate freedom to capture the beauty and absurdity—and everything in between—of the world around me. While I naturally became more interested in photography, my first time working for a publication was by accident: In 2009, Spex Magazin reached out to me after finding some of the photos that I took of the Fischerspooner concert at Lido on my Flickr.

  • In addition to curated nightlife, you have documented other subcultures in Berlin as well as the city’s streets. What attracts you to these subjects and spaces?

    I am attracted to diversity—anything that doesn’t relate to my background inspires me. In many ways, Berlin feels very far from where I come from. At the same time, the last 13 years in this town have shaped me into the person I am now. Berlin is evolving everyday, and has a variety of spaces and subjects. I don’t think I will ever get tired of what the city can offer me personally and professionally, and I am always looking to dive into the next twist.

Bucht der Träumer, 2017, ©Frankie Casillo.
Nachtdigital, 2019, ©Frankie Casillo.
Nachtdigital, 2019, ©Frankie Casillo.

“You can tell from the final selection whether I had a great time or not.”

Naked City, 2021, ©Frankie Casillo.
Naked City, 2021, ©Frankie Casillo.
Fusion, 2018, ©Frankie Casillo.

Draaimolen Festival

“Another place where I keep collecting amazing memories is Draaimolen festival. The people behind it are visionaries. You should go and check it out yourself—you won’t regret it!”

  • This is not DRAAIMOLEN, 2021, ©Frankie Casillo.
  • How have the last two years impacted your practice—for better or for worse?

    At the start of the pandemic, I was shooting often because I wanted to capture the absurdity of the times we were living through. But after a while, I became bored of living in this locked-down world. I decided to focus on improving my technical skills and raising the quality of my work. I joined the Safeflight team and I took full control of the processing of my film. The last two years have given me more than I could have expected, which I think is reflected in my latest projects.

  • This summer, you were able to photograph some festival and club events in Europe, which were open for the first time since the lockdown. What was it like to be back on the dance floors?

    Pure relief. As humans, we need interactions between our bodies and souls that make us feel good and alive. Dance floors are the perfect space for this kind of exchange.

  • What are some of your most memorable moments photographing nightlife in the last few months?

    The second half of 2021 was really memorable. Walking into Kraftwerk after such a long time was something else. I’ve spent many long days there since 2018, when I started my journey with the Berlin Atonal crew, and I will never get used to the visual impact of the place. caner teker’s KIRKPINAR performance in October was my favorite of the Atonal Metabolic Rift series. It was so well executed: part dance, part combat, part ritual. The bond between the bodies was so powerful and intimate at the same time.

Berlin Atonal

Berlin Atonal, 2018, ©Frankie Casillo.
Berlin Atonal, 2018, ©Frankie Casillo.

“These spaces are part of our cultural heritage and they need to be documented.”

Berlin Atonal, 2018, ©Frankie Casillo.
Berlin Atonal, 2019, ©Frankie Casillo.

KIRKPINAR

  • caner teker, 2021, ©Frankie Casillo.
  • How does your identity as a raver influence your identity as a photographer? 

    My work is inseparable from this part of my life. Merging my passions through the work that I produce was natural for me.

  • Based on your experience, what is the difference between entering a nightlife space as a guest/participant and entering it as a photographer/observer?

    Accessibility is the biggest difference that comes to mind, but there’s not much of a difference with how I approach these spaces. Obviously, when I’m working, I’m on the hunt for diverse and interesting situations, but I try not to force it too much—I want to keep the experience real. You can tell from the final selection whether I had a great time or not.

  • In most Berlin clubs, photography is not allowed so as to protect the guests and the atmosphere. How do you navigate photographing in such precious spaces?

    These spaces are part of our cultural heritage and they need to be documented. Documentation is the tool through which we can pass this treasure onto future generations. I started my career as a street photographer, and over the last decade living in Germany, where people are very aware of their privacy, I have learned how to read situations and body language. I am able to frame unique and candid images in the different environments I photograph.

Fusion, 2016, ©Frankie Casillo.

“As humans, we need interactions between our bodies and souls that make us feel good and alive. Dance floors are the perfect space for this kind of exchange.”

Fusion, 2015, ©Frankie Casillo.
Nachtdigital, 2019, ©Frankie Casillo.
Fusion, 2018, ©Frankie Casillo.
  • What are you working on now?

    At the moment, I am planning my next season, which I will mostly spend in the UK. There are many different projects coming up, including some that are not connected to nightlife. I’m also working on a book, which I am aiming to release at the end of the year. I’m still finalizing the concept, but it will be quite crude—that’s as much as I can say for now.

  • What are your hopes for the future?

    Regarding my personal life, I usually don’t hope or wish for specific things. I like to focus on every single day with a plan, and then adapt myself to what organically comes next. In a more general sense, I’m confident that the divisive time we are living through will eventually bring us closer than we’ve ever been. It will be tough and take some time, but I trust that we will get there.

  • Finally—how did you select the tracks for this mixtape?

    I picked these tracks from my playlist for Mysliwska, a bar where I sometimes play music on Friday nights. It’s one of the most wild and eclectic bars in town, where you can find all sorts of people there. They’ve been keeping it real for 31 years.

Berlin, 2020, ©Frankie Casillo.

Frankie Casillo is a Berlin-based street photographer and festival documenter. In addition to parties, performances, and public sidewalks, Frankie goes where many others tread lightly, traversing through fields such as Berlin’s annual adult entertainment fair Venus. Whether partygoers or U-bahn passengers, he portrays his subjects with thoughtfulness and respect, avoiding a voyeuristic depiction while never shying away from a cheeky or explicit shot. Keep up with Frankie’s adventures on his Instagram.

This interview is part of our growing FF Mixtape Features collection.

Text: Anastasiya Varenytsya

Photography: Frankie Casillo