➤ Quietly, quietly, lensman Ridgers talks about capturing life in the margins

Derek Ridgers, Ronnie Biggs, great train robbery,Rio de Janeiro,photography

Derek Ridgers meets the fugitive Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs in Rio, about 1985: “I played pool with Ronnie a few times and he was a lot better at it than I was. I suppose he had plenty of time to practise.” (Picture courtesy of Derek)

❚ WITH 35 YEARS OF EXPERIENCE, Derek Ridgers is one of the UK’s leading documentary photographers, notably of youth culture, its rock stars and its street tribes. “Derek Ridgers’ compulsion to photograph London clubs over two decades was an extraordinary one,” curator Val Williams wrote in his 2004 book, When We Were Young: Club and Street Portraits 1978–1987. Here were “transient beings moving across an urban landscape, flamboyant souls who cared more than anything about how they looked and whose greatest fear was of being ordinary. But it was the ordinariness that Derek Ridgers glimpsed in these costumed characters that makes his photographs so powerful.

Witchity club, London, 1979

An era of conspicuous sexuality: clubber at Witchity, a David Claridge dive in 1979, photographed by Derek Ridgers

“Ridgers’ photographs are an undeliberate chapter in a decade of English social and cultural history which changed the way we thought about music, fashion and consumption. It was the decade of the handmade and the customised, of Oxfam shopping, conspicuous sexuality, of excess, wide success and dismal failure.” Well, that’s a point of view.

His earliest exhibitions in the 70s and 80s featured punk portraits and skinheads, and many seminal images of London’s clubland New Romantics. He has mainly worked for UK magazines and newspapers such as NME, The Face, The Independent, The Sunday Telegraph, Time Out and Loaded. He now runs the Derek Ridgers Archive where limited edition prints are for sale, and he blogs occasionally though thoughtfully at Ponytail Pontifications. Derek has always been the “quiet observer”. He collaborated only once with Shapersofthe80s and his fine shots can be seen on our inside page about the 1983 Face cover story, The making of UK club culture. He also brilliantly articulated what remains today the definitive description of Billy’s, the font of all 80s clubbing. You’ll read it in the feature.

Oomska, a new UK-based online arts and pop culture magazine, today asked Derek to share his views about photography. Here are some highlights:

Other than a camera, my favourite piece of equipment, if one could characterise it as such, is the sun.

❏ The digital age has probably added several years to my life expectancy — when I think about all the wasted time and expense of having clip tests made prior to getting the bulk of my colour film processed, I think I must have been mad.

❏ I love Garry Winogrand but some of his photographs (for instance the ones taken in the Ivar Theatre) suggest that he wasn’t necessarily always thinking about the art.

❏ It’s becoming harder and harder these days to earn a living as a professional photographer … I don’t particularly care.

❏ The most popular camera used on Flickr is now the iPhone 4. The rise of the hybrid consumer appliance will probably continue.

❏ For me it’s whatever works… Photoshop has brought all those darkroom techniques that took years to learn within the reach of everyone.

❏ A static image can still have more power than a moving one because you can live with it and study it and let its whole being seep into you and fix itself into your brain.

➢ Read the full Ridgers interview at Oomska

Derek Ridgers, photographer,Beat Route, clubbing

The snapper snapped: Derek Ridgers at last December’s party at the Beat Route reincarnation to launch somebody else’s photobook We Can Be Heroes. Snapped by Sandro Martini

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