Tag Archives: Derek Ridgers

➤ 45 years of soothing egos and arresting our attention by portraitist Ridgers

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“My favourite mid-80s muse”: Derek Ridgers signs his book for singer Sherrone from the 1988 band Savajazz

◼ DEREK RIDGERS BLAMES PUNK for turning him from a self-confessed pop fan who photographed performers into a considered photographer in 1976. “Almost overnight,” he writes, “the audience became more photogenic than the bands.” He didn’t stop shooting Jagger, Clapton, Richards, Ringo, Diana Ross, James Brown, the Pet Shops, Johnny Depp and their showbiz pals who are of necessity brazen exhibitionists. But this softly spoken London-born art-school graduate did then develop the knack of persuading life’s everyday misfits, clubland weirdos and sexual eccentrics to pose for uninhibited and seductive portraits that came to sum up the essence of their individuality.

Ridgers says his latest book, with its understated one-word title Photographs, is “my masterwork – my best photographs from the last 45 years”. In large-format hardback, exquisitely printed so that the ink provides the sheen on otherwise matte paper, its 240 pages capture an astonishing spectrum of moods and lifestyles.

Come to the party: click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow

As an outsider looking in, his photographer’s eye sets out to find people whose appearance is uniquely striking or simply different, yet his instinct is to bring about “a moment of stillness and quiet contemplation” before his camera. By contrast, his book’s printed pages set unfamous showoffs (starting with cover-girl Michelle Carr) in competition with international celebrity egotists. This can create witty juxtapositions of subject yet there’s not an ounce of banality or cynicism. The most powerful images nail the internalised apprehension of the homeless and of some Quite Important People too: study the faces of Peter Cook, Don McCullin and Dennis Hopper; and unknowns such as the Deadhead, the Skin women, Sofia Staks and assorted skinheads.

As Ridgers tactfully navigates all extremes of id and ego, you’re likely to be surprised by how so many individual portraits, such as those of NWA and Snoop Dogg and even Kylie, arrest your attention, as the tragic Tuinol Barry’s has done in earlier books, and likewise Babs, the skinhead girl spotted in Soho in 1987. Ridgers says now of Babs, who had been through a children’s home: “We hardly spoke. Somehow I think we had a connection – even if it was only for 1/125th of a second. We were probably both outsiders.”

Across these varied social camps, note how few people smile at the Ridgers camera: across all these camps, the next page can reveal a real tear-jerker.

More partying: click any pic below to enlarge all in a slideshow

A FOUR-DAY POP-UP EXHIBITION

The Old Truman Brewery, London E1 6QR, is displaying selected images from the Ridgers book, curated by Faye Dowling to include an archive of original magazines such as i-D and The Face. It is open from 5 to 7 October, and our slideshows record an amazingly retro book launch party when faces from Derek’s past caught up with him. Derek Ridgers Photographs is published at £34.95 by Carpet Bombing Culture

➢ In one of Ridgers’ best interviews yet, this week’s Huckmag asks: What’s changed? – “About the only thing that’s changed during my lifetime is that there are different platforms now, mainly the internet. Once upon a time, when you bought a new outfit, you couldn’t wait to get out and show yourself off in it. Nowadays you never have to leave the house; you have Instagram.”

➢ This week’s London Live TV interview

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s: Ridgers casts an honest spotlight on the birth of punk

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➤ 40 years on, Ridgers casts an honest spotlight on the birth of punk

Derek Ridgers, punk ,Vortex , Clare Thom

“I didn’t make a very good punk,” says photographer Derek Ridgers, here snapped by a passing punk at the Vortex in 1977, with future Blitz Kid Clare Thom at right

◼ THE CLICHES ABOUT PUNK are the rage, the nihilism, the safety pins. In fact, punk dawned in 1976, like all British youth cults, as a fashion statement that trumped those clichés. A new and powerful photo book from Derek Ridgers titled Punk London 1977 shows in 152 pages just how considered were its style leaders who had to invent their own iconoclastic looks before they could be bought off the peg. There were no mohican haircuts at the Roxy club when it opened in December 1976 and for 100 days became the platform for Generation X, the Clash, the Jam, the Heartbreakers, the Boys, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees and a raucous wave of rebel music that spread to Soho’s Vortex and the 100 Club.

Ridgers says: “In ’76 the audience became more interesting than the bands.” As he turned his camera away from the stage, he focused on the unique characters in the audience who were creating a new movement through self-expression. “Most of the early punks didn’t look like punks anyway. They just looked like young people who would alter their clothes: very often it would be school uniform or there would be bin liners, a few safety pins but not very many. The ethos of punk is really ‘Do it yourself’. It’s not dressing up in leather and having a mohican.”

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

The book launched last night in Mayfair with a vibrant exhibition of its photos and a swell party hosted by menswear designer Paul Smith and the British Fashion Council. Rightly Vogue.com asked Ridgers yesterday: What did you wear while documenting these kids? He replied: “Often I’d be going to gigs straight from work, so I simply wore what I’d worn there—usually a jacket, open-neck shirt, and jeans. I was not a punk by any means.” There’s a key picture of the Damned playing the Roxy in early 1977 where Ridgers is visible in the top right-hand corner, standing on the stairs, in glasses, open-neck shirt, cardigan, smiling. “I didn’t make a very good punk,” he says. No, just a very perceptive footnote to history!

Dazed Digital probed further and asked: Out of all the scenes you’ve photographed, which have you most felt part of? Ridgers replied: “There must be a part of me that wanted to be part of all of them. I see my photography as a very vicarious thing. I suppose if I didn’t wear glasses and if I’d been a little bit more of a macho type of guy, I would have been a skinhead. I don’t think I could’ve ever been a punk or a new romantic.”

As an observer he carved out his own beat along the labyrinthine path British youth culture took during the exotic 80s and became the go-to lensman for his take on more extreme outsider cults. Ridgers told Dazed: “There were a lot of photographers around but I stuck it out longer. Woody Allen said something about success is 80% just being there. It’s the thing with me – I was there. I can’t make any other claims apart from the fact that I was there. Through everything. On the edge looking in. With a camera I was able to stare with some legitimacy.”

The trash mag Polyesterzine asks Ridgers if he could compare today’s Zeitgeist to any of the eras he had shot. “No, not at all,” he replies. “The late ’70s and early ’80s was a very different, much darker time. The streets of London were a mess. The poor guy [I photographed] who had ‘We are the flowers in your dustbin’ tattooed across his forehead had it exactly right. They did all seem like the flowers in a dustbin. . . Things are very different now because a lot of those little clubs don’t exist. Soho for instance, where nearly half my nightlife photographs were taken, is rapidly changing. There isn’t the same after dark frisson of excitement about the place any more. Gentrification and the need for developers to maximise the profit from every square inch of the place means that there just aren’t any scruffy, little basement clubs left. Those scruffy, little basement clubs were the area’s lifeblood.”

➢ Punk London 1977 is published by Carpet Bombing Culture

Adam Ant, Jordan, Vortex, punk, Derek Ridgers,

Derek Ridgers immortalises the night that the pioneering punk icon Jordan sang with The Ants at the Vortex, and says today: “They played far better music IMHO than when Adam became a big star in the 80s”

A GALAXY OF GALLERIES OF RIDGERS’ PIX

➢ At i-D – light on punk’s incendiary early days

➢ AllAccess Online in the cauldron of youth culture

➢ Dazed Digital pictures Punk London

➢ Accent shoots Brutus SS16 with Derek Ridgers

Captain Sensible , Damned , punk music, Roxy , Derek Ridgers

Captain Sensible fronts the Damned at the Roxy in 1977: spot Ridgers the cameraman top right in glasses and open-neck shirt. Photographed by Erica Echenberg

Don Letts, Andrew Czezowski , punk,Roxy

28 March 1977: deejay Don Letts and club promoter Andrew Czezowski outside the Roxy when it closed, three months after giving birth to punk. Photographed by Erica Echenberg

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➤ Spicy new survey from Derek Ridgers celebrates the wild hours between dusk and sunrise

books, Carpet Bombing Culture,photography, nightlife, London, UK, youth culture, street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers

Clubbers at the Astoria in 2000 photographed by Derek Ridgers


◼ HERE’S A PROMO VIDEO FEATURING some preposterous talking heads who include photographer Yasmine Akim and dancer Constantine Flowerz, describing a new large-format book of spicy photographs from Derek Ridgers’ travels through London clubland… The Dark Carnival: Portraits from the Endless Night is being published next week by Carpet Bombing Culture.

books, Carpet Bombing Culture,photography, nightlife,London, UK, youth culture, street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers, If you’re in it, you’ll be on the list for the launch party on Friday 27th from 5pm at the Lights of Soho gallery, followed on by a free Soho Swag night from 9.30pm at the 68 and Boston bar at the top end of Greek Street, hosted by 80s shapers Christos Tolera and Chris Sullivan.

The Dark Carnival is Derek’s second book published this month. He modestly calls it “my 40-year wander through nightclubs” but this delicous cornucopia selected by Derek himself proves much more of an adult shocker where anything goes on the themes of sexuality, seduction and shame (lack of), with eye-poppers shot at Anarchy, Smack, Submission, Wacko, Wicked, Rubber Ball and coming right up to date at Torture Garden.

➢ Buy The Dark Carnival direct from Carpet Bombing Culture, 216 huge pages for £30

photography, nightlife, London, UK, youth culture, books, Carpet Bombing Culture,street style, Dark Carnival, Derek Ridgers

Anonymous clubber in Brixton 2011 photographed by Derek Ridgers

AUDIO UPDATE: ROBERT ELMS INTERVIEWS DEREK ON BBC RADIO LONDON 9 dec 2015

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Q: Does this kind of nightlife still exist?

“Yes it does. It’s not quite so focussed today and readily categorisable. Hardly any of the little basement clubs are left in Soho. I think the St Moritz is the only one” – Derek Ridgers on BBC Radio London

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1980s ➤ The Ridgers lens lays bare the pursuit of love

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London 1984: if this is you, come to the party! Photo © Derek Ridgers

◼ IF THIS PHOTO SHOWS YOU perfecting the horizontal jig in a London club in 1984, you’ll find yourselves immortalised in the latest book by photographer Derek Ridgers, titled The Others. The collection captures young love in all its clubland guises and if you spot yourself in this gallery why not email info [a t] idea-books.com and ask to come to the London launch this Thursday, 19 Nov?

Between 1980 and 1986 Ridgers and his candid lens couldn’t help following the pursuit of romance among the lovers, the loveless, the lonely and the last to leave in nightclubs as disparate as Gossip’s, Planets, Great Wall, Batcave, Feltham Football & Social Club, Flick’s, Lyceum, Le Beat Route, Camden Palace, Taboo and many more.

These snogging couples represent Britain’s many subcultural tribes who expressed distinct affinities in the early 80s through personal style and musical tastes. The book’s foreword says its intriguingly contradictory title describes the “other” clubbers who had enough attitude *not* to get rejected by the greeters on the doors of London’s finest clubs. It would make more sense to call these kids The Chosen Ones. Once inside a club, however, they got their priorities right and relegated posing into second place behind the down-to-earth goal that was really on their minds.

The Ridgers images capture all the fun and frailty and the frissons of exploring your youthful identity among like-minded tribalists in ways the publisher was probably trying to nail: a sense of “otherness” that characterised many subcultures in that austere and intolerant era. Whether brave or tentative, outsiders or players, they were helping shift attitudes in dark and stylish cellars across the land. They re-energised Britain by mobilising the talents in which the young excel: through music, clothes, haircuts and romance.

The Others is priced £35 for 124 pages in a limited edition exclusively available at Dover Street Market London and New York, Ginza and the Comme des Garcons Trading Museum in Paris, as well as Marc Jacobs’ Bookmarc stores in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Tokyo. And online from Idea Books.

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Big hair, 80s-style: Mohican and his captive. Photo © Derek Ridgers

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1978–87 ➤ British nightlife snapped by Ridgers as it came out of the closet

London, New Romantics, Blitz Kids,  Derek Ridgers, publishing, photography, V&A, talks, youth culture, nightlife, fashion style,

Underground publicity: Derek Ridgers with lavish poster treatment for his photo-book published jointly by Damiani and Transport for London. (Pic by Shapersofthe80s)

❚ THIS FRIDAY AT THE V&A MUSEUM, London photographer Derek Ridgers will try to explain the power of his touching yet confrontational images of London youth taken in the transformational decade of the 1980s. His newly published book 78–87 London Youth can be viewed online. He is best known for these documentary portraits taken on the streets and in the clubs by night, though he has also snapped celebs from James Brown to The Spice Girls, Clint Eastwood to Johnny Depp, as well as Tony Blair, gangster ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser, artist Julian Schnabel, writer Martin Amis, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and more.

The recessionary 70s had precipitated a drone age of rocketing unemployment in the UK, threatening no jobs for school-leavers, ever. Yet from this black hole burst a passionately tribal youth culture that was to create the Swinging 80s, an era of optimism, marked by hedonistic good times and a flair for exhibitionism that played up to Derek’s camera. Ambition and self-improvement were the ultimate goals of the young then, in sharp contrast to the cynical narcissism of today’s lost children.

➢ Derek Ridgers talks on photographing the 80s at the V&A’s late evening, 6.30pm Friday July 18, with yours truly in the chair. Derek will be signing his book afterwards

London,Sacrosanct,  Billie Madley , Twinkle Bunty, Derek Ridgers, publishing, photography, V&A, talks, youth culture, nightlife, fashion style,

Twinkle Bunty comments on this Sacrosanct club pic by Ridgers posted at Facebook: “Just trotted over to Foyles and bought Derek Ridgers’ fab new book. Thrilled to find this pic from 1985 of me and Billie Madley proving that the 80s were ALL about the eyebrows. Mine were jet black Rimmel and Billie’s were red BIRO.” Another from ‪Laura Whitcomb: “When you shaved that eyebrow it was epic… That Westwood shirt and suit and of course those ear muffs your obsession – and the inimitable final touch of a Fosters with a baby blue straw.” Plastic bath cap: Billie’s own.

❚ IN OCTOBER 1982, I INTERVIEWED DEREK RIDGERS while writing the massive survey of London’s newly exploding nightlife phenomenon which became The Face’s cover story, The making of UK club culture in February 1983. Direct from my original notes, here is Derek’s perceptive analysis which helped inform my thinking about the turmoil that was transforming British youth culture…

Derek talking: “The depression of the late 70s made the future oh so inevitable. But from the Blitz club period onward [1979], the feeling has been different. A reaction of ambisexual kitsch. It’s an honesty with the way you look and what you want to do. There’s an enthusiasm to investigate the possibilities. There’s no sense of inevitability.

“As a photographer, I go as the casual observer and stand in the shadows. When I first went to those Tuesday nights at Billy’s [1978] it was like walking into a Hieronymous Bosch painting – furtive but lively, very decadent reflecting what they were into, and yet with a sense of oneness, a dedication that’s never been equalled since.”

In 1980 the Blitz leaders had moved on to another Covent Garden club called Hell which Derek said “was similar but more decadent because they tried to keep it to themselves. In its final weeks, only out-of-towners were going to the Blitz, because by then the media had blown away the furtiveness”.

Click any pic to launch slideshow

In 1982 Steve Strange and Rusty Egan began fronting the 1,600-capacity Camden Palace and the Pose Age went public. Ridgers said then: “At the Palace poses are adopted, yet it’s probably more interesting than the Blitz or Billy’s because it’s more honest… 90% are regulars, 9% out-of-towners, and 1% could be any type of person who’ll choose to go clubbing there, but go nowhere else except their own pub. Sometimes they’re out of their depth and try to dress as they think is expected – they bring with them an unconsidered primitiveness.

“Men are wearing dresses now but not pretending to be women. They are proud to be men – that’s fairly modern.” In autumn 1982 Boy George was in the charts with Culture Club’s first single. “George wants to look pretty, rather than handsome. He asks me whether I find him attractive and I have to pretend he’s a girl and give him an appraisal – which I don’t mind. I don’t feel threatened.”

“What’s important at the Palace is feeling special, being noticed – in a sea of other people. A good club has become a place to go for the right social reasons, rather than just to hang out.”

➢ View more Ridgers portfolio at his website

ESSENTIAL READS

➢ Blitz kids and the birth of the New Romantics – my overview for the Observer Music Magazine

➢ 69 Dean Street and the making of UK club culture
– for The Face magazine, here at Shapersofthe80s

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Cover star Tuinol Barry photographed by Derek Ridgers in 1983. Sadly, Barry was to die young.

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