◼ WE FIRST MET, I VAGUELY RECALL, at the Leadmill in that damp autumn of ’82 when Dave Swindells was still a student at Sheffield Uni. I was the hotshot “Man from The Face” doing a whistle-stop tour of Sheffield clubs for my monthly Nightlife column in Britain’s coolest subcultural magazine, so I was quite used to people standing in front of my camera trying to get into shot. Swindells on the other hand turned his back on me while he lined up his Kodak Box Brownie in a pathetic attempt to capture some new-wave synth band on the barely lit stage. I smiled smugly to myself at his teen gaucheness and leaned in paternally to whisper the advice I’d gleaned from another snapper of the night, Richard Young, himself emerging as the celebrity paparazzo we know and love today: “Give give it f/8 and push the film in the developer.”
The grateful Swindells gushed his thanks and asked: “Please, sir, how do I get into photography for a living?” – “Stick to what you know,” I replied sagely. “Why not photograph what your friends get up to at night?” Ha! I knew full well dark clubs were a nightmare to capture on the slow film of those years before digital, when the trickiest part was having to use flash at close quarters, which reduces faces to a white blotch.
Within two years the little bastard had stabbed me in the back and was toting a very upmarket Pentax as Nightlife Editor of Time Out magazine – a job he then hung onto for the next 23 years!!! His photographs have been featured in i-D, The Face, The Observer etc, while swanning round the world on travel freebies. I’ve been kicking myself ever since.
Next Tuesday 3 May he’ll be telling us all how on earth he got away with it for so long. He’s giving a talk at some achingly on-fleek gallery in Dalston called Doomed, where there’ll be a display of photos and a limited edition Photocopy Club zine to take away. Dave’s title is “Keeping It Real” and he promises “a fascinating insight into the trends, attitudes, and nuances of London’s clubbers. Evocatively shooting the emergence of the rave scene in the late 1980s, Dave follows the journey from the wild attitude of rave to the night-time antics of modern day”.
Frankly, I can’t think of anybody better qualified to tell the tale of the past three decades of hedonism pursued to the hilt as only the Brits know how. Dave’s the one who’s got the proof in pictures, and how.
➢ Swindells keeps it real, 3 May from 6.30pm to 8.30 at Doomed Gallery, 65 Ridley Road, London, E8 2NP