Noughties Nightlife


Written by Emily Hobbs
Photos and illustrations by Antony Price
06 Monday 06th September 2010

This September, Shoreditch’s Rich Mix plays host to an exhibition of images curated by photographer, DJ and London College of Fashion lecturer, Antony Price. Noughtie Nightlife is a retrospective look at how the styles and culture of the underground have shaped the first decade of this new century; its history described in images taken by photographers who were there. 

The show – featuring work by prominent club, trend and fashion photographers including Billa Baldwin, Ellis Scott, Matthew Brindle and Thom Will – was inspired by Price’s own students. 
“I noticed my students were becoming interested in what photos had been put up on different nightlife websites after the weekend, and seeing who was where and what they were wearing”, he explains.
Photo: Antony Price
As a former DJ with a lifelong interest in music and clubbing, Price was the ideal person to curate the show, described as ‘encapsulating the feelings and creativity of the Noughties London club scene’. Those who were at Cashpoint, Trash, Nag Nag Nag every week experienced firsthand the excitement and creative energy that was bubbling up through the underground.
However, on a macro scale, the Noughties will likely be remembered as a bit of a cultural wasteland. After the electronic dance music explosion of the early 90s, followed by Britpop and then the phenomenon of girl power, the WAGs and manufactured karaoke stars of the most recent decade pale in comparison. Unlike the 90s, whatever was going on in club land somehow failed to translate.
Price disagrees: “I think a lot of good music came out of this decade. Bands like Bloc Party were big in the underground scene for a while before crossing over and becoming well known for example. Any decade has its own culture of celebrity, though. If anything, the fact that clubbing culture has stayed underground and not become mainstream is a good thing.
If underground culture has failed to connect upwards, the advent of social networking media has meant that it has been able to reach infinitely outwards. There are now a million different ways to share and disseminate images, which have changed the photographic medium massively. 
“The technology has been great for helping youth culture to retain its freedom and autonomy but unfortunately the quality of the images being presented does suffer because there’s no editing going on”, says Price.
Which just reinforces the point that club photography is not as easy as it might seem. The ‘point and shoot and hope for the best’ technique, as evidenced on millions of facebook pages all over the world, is rarely put to flattering effect. When dealing with so many variables working against you – sweaty hair, bad lighting, gurning – what’s the trick to taking a good photograph in a club?
“Most importantly you have to understand your camera so you can work with the lighting”, says Price. “It also depends on the photographer’s style. Some like to use the light in a harsh way to show the grittiness and realism of the scene, others prefer to create slicker and more polished looking images.”
Photo: Antony Pice
“But you see the worst results when people don’t get involved in what’s going on and set out purposely just to take photos. The thing is to not try too hard, get in the middle of it all and then have your camera ready for when that right moment happens. If you’re at a night as one of the crowd and having a good time, then your subjects are more likely to open up to you.”
Price sifted through over 100,000 images during what he describes a labour of love and hate, to put the show together. Its main purpose is to showcase the achievements in fashion and culture of the six London Colleges of Universities of the Arts. “But the secondary point to it”, says Price, “is that a lot of these images are just out there in the ether and only exist on the net. It’s important to archive them and present them in a cultural context so they can be looked at. It’s a chance to capture these images for future students but also a chance to show these images to a wider audience.”
Photo: Nico Trevillian
“I think the Noughties need a line drawing under them”, he says. “It was a decade that was very much about drawing influences from the decades before and mashing them up – a bit of 70s, a bit of 80s and some 90s. But I feel like we’ve run out of ideas and ways to rehash the past now.  We need to look and appreciate at everything that’s happened during the past decade and then we need to move on.”
Noughtie Nightlife is showing at Rich Mix, London from the September 9 to October 2.


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