I'd been snapping pics of friends on nights out since 2008 and after moving to east London I started club photography for a few of my favourite haunts like Shake Yer Dix, Douchebag and Push the Button, I loved capturing moments of unguarded joy and showing people the fun they'd forgotten!
Nights like halloween weekend were a favourite,with so many of the crowd celebrating their creativity (and themselves). Something I still try to encourage!
As I and my then-partner made more friends in the queer club scene I started shooting drag and cabaret, shows and performers. I started (and stayed!) in the crowd for many of them but I became in-house photographer for the ShayShay Show, shot Harry Clayton-Wright across many of their projects, worked with Miss Behave performing In Edinburgh and on the South Bank, and even got to shoot a few acts at the Edinburgh Fringe.
I was in love with the charisma of performance and the drama of stage lighting. Still am, really.
Fly on the wall
I love the documentary style of behind the scenes candids and felt really privileged to be able to even be in these spaces, especially with a mandate to document them. Back stage chaos, pre show set up, after show parties! I'm an anx nerd, I can't even blag myself into the places I'm supposed to be in, so these were a real thrill. I worked my ass off editing photos most evenings as my way of feeling less like an out-of-place tourist.
A light in the crowd
I started carrying a foldable modifier on my off-camera flash that gave nice portrait style pics, even in the middle of a club. My first taste of really controlling light!
Queer nightlife inspo
I tried to take photos as vibrant as the atmosphere of queer basements, but they were rare, so inspired by places like the NYC Downlow at Glastonbury festival I tried to lean into the feeling being there, editing the visuals back to something paradoxically more genuine.
Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like. - David Alan Harvey
After using modifiers in the field I started experimenting with studio lighting, away from the bustle of nightlife but emulating it. It was a great opportunity to connect with people, and while I loved my documentary style of photography, it meant culling down thousands of photos per week and was exhausting!
When the first few shoots went well I started a collaborative crusade to learn from, signal-boost and celebrate some of the local icons I knew from queer creative nights like Sink the Pink, The ShayShay Show, Sunday Funday, Cybil's House, Savage and Knickerbocker.
An actual Exhibition!
In 2018 I had an opportunity to exhibit at Dalston Superstore; forty portraits of kings and queens, club kids and performers, displayed for two months in the same scene that most of them came up in. It felt right: the circle complete.
Though the truth is I'd been lining up a ton of shoots just to keep busy; the bottom had fallen out of my career, my mental health, and my relationship. Around the same time as this exhibition I was gradually harassed out of those queer spaces I'd found so much safety and sense of belonging.
But then covid!! Another year of isolation and joblessness, though this time it was happening to everyone. With no new shoots I focused on editing; experimenting in photoshop, learning how to retouch and add those neon swooshes I love.
By the time everyone was vaccinated it felt like a lifetime had passed, but I asked on socials if people were still interested in shooting, and was grateful to find that they were.
As of Christmas 2022, I've been in full time work for nearly 2 years. I've taken up meditation, gratitude practice, and the gym. I've gotten a diagnosis and been medicated for ADHD. Life is good rn, and I feel very lucky.
I'm only able to shoot a couple times a month, but I'm still driven to push my practice forward, and love making these creative connections with people, even 5 years in. In learning more about others I learn more about myself, and it will always be a thrill to show people themselves in a different light <3
Thanks for reading, here's some more!
© Light by Dan 2023