The leisure and looks of late-nineties London students

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Marc Vallée’s self-published zine takes us into an East End student house, featuring queer fashion, pop culture, and newfound freedoms

Marc Vallée’s 90s Archive: Volume One is a homage to the 10×8 print and a showcase of work shot in London in 1996 and 1998. Indeed, Vallée’s discovery of a box of 10×8 prints in his studio, which he printed in the 90s, sparked the idea for the new photobook series, the first instalment of which collates studied colour and black-and-white portraits of friends from the Cass School of Art and the indie and alternative queer club scene. 

The majority of subjects are pictured in their homes, including Vallée’s east London student house from his art-school days, vibrant and dilapidated at once. However, one series captures Vallée’s friend Cal against the distinctive backdrop of London’s Soho; the iconic Raymond Revuebar in the distance.

The pictures are autobiographical; a window into Vallée’s life in 90s London. However, they have a wider historical and political significance, capturing queer youth as the gay community slowly emerged from the horror of the 80s and early-90s global AIDS epidemic, Margaret Thatcher and Clause 28, which was in effect until 2003.

The simple photobook allows the photographs to breathe; their rich formal qualities and multilayered meanings given space to unfold. And despite being an ‘archive’, as far-right governments come to power across Europe and the world, Vallée’s celebration of queer culture feels as poignant as ever.

90s Archive: Volume One by Marc Vallée is out now

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she was Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.