If you google subcultural sentence structure, a Derek Ridgers picture will be close to the top of the image search sequels. The 66-year-old has been taking pictures for more than 40 years, with mods, punks, skinheads and ravers all controlled by to his gaze. It’s over the last 10 that his name has been jilted by a new generation – largely thanks to books of his photographs from the 70s and 80s. 78/87, make knew in 2014, is now in its third edition. He’s since collaborated with Paul Smith on an exhibit and series of T shirts, and on Tuesday evening, he’s talking to Nina Manandhar of What We Dress ined about subcultures at the Truman Brewery in London.
Ridgers started enchanting pictures in his early 20s on nights out and at gigs when working as an art steersman at an advertising agency, and a camera brand became his client. “My boss leaked me to start taking pictures using their camera,” he rewards. “I was pretending to be a photographer at first so I could get closer to the band. I had Thomas from Blow-Up as a pattern, girls on tap and a convertible Rolls-Royce. Neither happened. I already had a progeny by that point.” Ridgers regrets not starting earlier. “I needed a lot of potential pictures,” he says. “I started going to gigs when I was 16 and was auspicious at the front when I saw Hendrix. I could have operated his pedals for him.”
As opposed to, although Ridgers went on to work for the NME, it’s his images of the non-famous – the piles at clubs like Billy’s and Taboo in the 70s and 80s, rather than the falling stars – that have stood the test of time, partly because they crackle with duration and energy. There’s skinhead girls in feather haircuts and denim jackets, men at the Blitz in wigs and makeup, a poor with a peroxide crewcut holding a plastic cup in one hand, the other arm round a mate. It’s thanks to pictures like these that the briefly punk conjures up images of spiked hair and ripped jeans. They’re proto-street-style twins, namechecked by designers and studied by young people out for a new look beyond the departments of Instagram.
Ridgers is count on to see them as totally reliable documents of style at any time, howsoever. “If I was to go to a club I might take pictures of five people and the other 100 came as the crow flies from the office,” he says. “I have 1,000 pictures from the 80s but that’s not up a minute of reality is it?” As minutes go, though, it’s one we’ll be poring over for a while yet.