Lost in Music: the story of dance music in 500 images

This Friday, theprintspace are putting on a party. Lost in Music is a major exhibition of 500 photographs that document the history of dance music, from the early rumblings of DIY DJ nights to the behemoth that is modern club culture. In conjunction with PYMCA, the world’s largest youth culture picture agency, the Shoreditch photographic pro-lab hopes to create a visual story that includes the full breadth of the movement, including professional photographers as well as personal snapshots from club-goers and DJs. Photographers being exhibited include Normski, Dean Chalkley and Dougie Wallace.

The exhibition will tour the UK starting from February, but on the 4th of December, theprintspace are hosting a club night at Village Underground – the venue will be plastered with paraphenalia from various eras, hundreds of clubgoers and of course, the photographs. Recruiting the likes of Dean Chalkley, Gavin Mills and the legendary Danny Rampling to man the decks, the aim is to present music photography in the most natural, inevitable setting: the club.

I went down to theprintspace offices to find out more, and what began as a chat with the team about the exhibition quickly expanded into a wide-ranging conversation including some of the exhibition’s photographers about music photography, the subcultures that define it and the stories behind the images. 

BJP: How did the project come about? What was the thinking behind putting on a club night?

Pax Zoega, theprintspace: Last year we hosted ‘Bigger than God’, an exhibition of photography from the Britpop phenomenon, and people really engaged with it. One of the best things about it was that we discovered a load of imagery that no one had ever seen before. People got out some amazing old negatives, including one guy who did the first ever interview with Oasis.

He went through about 5 sheets of negs; there was one picture of Noel Gallagher lying in his bedroom on the phone. He’s trying to find Liam – he’d gone off and gotten pissed the night before and Noel’s ringing around trying to track him down around Manchester so he could get down and do the interview. That was him in his scruffy little bedroom in the council estate, before they’d even made it. It was really exciting – we had access that nobody else could have had. 

Goldie, Metalheadz, Blue Note, London, 1994 © Eddie Otchere
Goldie, Metalheadz, Blue Note, London, 1994 © Eddie Otchere

Gavin Mills, head curator: I think the photos have to tell a story of a time and a place.

Pax Zoega: The idea first of all was to find key photographers that have been part of these elements and tell a story. What we actually found, when we started having those conversations, was they’d suggest someone else, who’d then suggest someone else.

So we did an open call to people who were there and had a camera and weren’t a photographer, just a part of the scene, in an effort to have an authentic picture of what it was really like. 

Clubbers dancing at Leigh Bowery's club Taboo, London, UK, 1986 © Hartnett/PYMCA
Clubbers dancing at Leigh Bowery’s club Taboo, London, UK, 1986 © Hartnett/PYMCA

Leo Scott, theprintspace: It’s almost voyeurism when you’re just looking at pictures on the wall in the cold light of day. With this, you’re a part of the party, you’re a part of dance music for that night. It’s bringing together loads of people perhaps haven’t been to a party in six months, or a year, or five years and coming together to do that.

Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, plays to a crowd of thousands at the world's biggest nightclub. Manumission, 2006 © Jocelyn Bain Hogg/VII
Norman Cook, aka Fatboy Slim, plays to a crowd of thousands at the world’s biggest nightclub. Manumission, 2006 © Jocelyn Bain Hogg/VII

Pax Zoega: With the night, the idea is to take people on this journey – the pictures are all chronological – so you can look at the exhibition and you’re taken on a journey through time, from 40 years ago to present day, both visually and through the music. The end of the night is experiencing the actual thing that we’re trying to document and capture in the exhibition itself. 

Magnum Professional Practice all workshops gif