Club photography is integral to Dublin’s nightlife. However the day of an Ian Dickson capturing an event in one classic photograph has given way to the amateur-pap with a Nikon strap draped around their neck machine-gun shooting through the night. Theo Weatherall rues the ascent of the Facebook photoset and demise of the iconic club shots.
Club photography has always been there, from the dancehalls of the 60s to Sides and the Electric Ballroom but the last decade has seen the digital age shift it’s quality and responsibility.
This is not to disregard the notable photographers. Talented artists like Dmitry Rozental, Oliver Smith, Jade Costello, and Shannon Purcell capture the Dublin club scene and shoot for a range of different club nights, and all literally shooting below their means.
We see the change isn’t forced by a lack of talent but what is demanded by the clubs. Naturally, after being uploaded to Facebook for all to tag, these photos define what a night is about – they create the narrative. The photos aren’t just taken to keep the punters happy, but for the clubnight to be able to characterise and individualise their night.
After all, those who do not attend clubs, have nothing to go by – except the photos. One of the most upsetting factors here is that many clubnights feel that without a photographer their event never happened .Digital has changed the essence of clubbing
Gavin Paisley, long time music journalist and promoter told us what he thought of this phenomenon: “Yeah, the night was great but you don’t need 19 million photos to prove it. That’s Facebook though, Myspace wasn’t like that. When I was running Neon Love with Ciara (Cunnane) in the Shaw there were barely any photos each week. We’d put up a few but not necessarily every week and people still came. “
That is the difference though between now and then, between Facebook and MySpace. It’s like two different generations only a few years apart.
This can’t be blamed just wholly on the promoters, but also on the punters themselves, that have expectations of what their next Tumblr or Facebook profile will be. Photography has never before been such a hugely vital part of clubbing.
We can take photos of ourselves and have albums dedicated to our own faces, posed as if the camera isn’t there. Essentially, the vanity of people is the root cause of this phenomena.
Digital has changed the essence of clubbing – it now seems that it is simply not enough to just be there doing what we always did, chatting, drinking, flirting or just enjoying the music it now must be documented for all to view, comment and like.
You may have found a photo of some sexy hipster, with larger eyebrows than Daniel Radcliffe drawn on, and you in the background looking awkward as fuck. The reason for this being you are not as attractive, cool or sexy as them. Clad in awful 90’s throwback gear from American Apparel, considered to be the height of “high fash-un”, the youth that are dressed like this dominate Facebook clubnight photo albums.
This is not the case for all clubnight photography though. Mainstream clubbing never quite understood the concept behind what the more alternative clubs were doing and inadvertently ended up ripping the piss out of themselves.
CUNT has sexy Trinity girls in lace dresses and Doc Martens, Alchemy has anal fingering on a Monday night (yes I am talking about THAT photo). Hours of laughter for us, a lifetime of shame for her. The internet never forgets.
Through photography, it seems that a clubnight hierarchy has been introduced, more visible and more apparent than ever before. The clubbing Kings and Queens of Dublin, sipping cans backstage and not mingling with those who had to pay in.
Always to be seen in the photos of Hussle, where it appears almost anyone can now dj. To this day I don’t understand how promoters like Emergence, who were exciting, new and innovative go from bringing KiNK, and Mike Dehnert over to running Strangeways, Here We Come and Hussle.
The same club monarchy that are seen backstage are those we see the most of in the photo albums. In ways it feels like a reversion of the documentation of the NYC Club Kids, Michael Alig, James St. James and Gitsie, except the photos today hold no shock factor and no originality when it comes to those who are in them.
We don’t see the flamboyancy and character that the NYC Club Kids emitted, instead we’re served 18 year olds in flat peaked caps, all posing with their Jagerbombs in hand, arms draped around each other, usually giving the middle finger to the camera.
Are these photos a reflection of the majority of nights in Dublin? Or are these clubs just as transparent as the people in them?
Yes, logically photography is harmless but this trend in photography is a deeper issue. It would be a travesty in the future, to look back at the generic clubnight photos and think that was what it was like back then .
To those who are most apparent in the photo, yes it will be a true representation of clubbing at the time, but to the rest of us who don’t really care to have our photo taken, we will carry different memories.
The number of photographs contrasts with the one or two photos that our parents treasure from when they were young, and completely devalues our personal memories. Long gone are the days that we bluetack our photos to our bedroom walls.
In a short chat with Gary O’Neill, the man who compiled the anthology that is “Where Were You”, he told us what he thought of photographs in the digital age.“I don’t think it will devalue/undermine the cultural memory of events, it will give us a bigger but not necessarily better resource pool for the future, I think there will be less photographic surprises because so many people will have already seen so many of the photos from those events, I think they’ll have less of an impact then unseen photos from the pre digital age that have lain in a box or photo album for decades”.
How can you evoke a sense of nostalgia by having to scan through 10000 photos of other people before getting to one of you and a friend? Alas, we have taken the camera for granted, instead of capturing these photos ourselves we want others to take them for us, to edit them so we look good, and to upload them so that everyone can see, like, comment, and share.
It’s all temporal. It’s tumblr and Facebook profile pictures. It’s about the individual and how good they’ll look in the photo. It no longer captures a moment in club history.