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Derek Ridgers: photographer launches latest book with Old Truman Brewery show

PUBLISHED: 13:00 27 September 2018 | UPDATED: 13:00 27 September 2018

Derek Ridgers has captured candid photos of British counterculture across a career spanning four decades

Derek Ridgers has captured candid photos of British counterculture across a career spanning four decades

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The decorated photographer Derek Ridgers presents his latest book alongside a pop-up in east London next week

His latest book - Derek Ridgers: Photographs - is out from September 28His latest book - Derek Ridgers: Photographs - is out from September 28

Derek Ridgers is among the most distinguished of portrait photographers to have picked up a camera in the past 40 years.

Initially drawn to photography as a means to get closer to his favourite bands, Ridgers spent much of the late-70s and 80s capturing the essence of British counterculture; taking to basement bars and clubs after dark where he gathered library-upon-library of skinheads, punks and new romantics.

His command of a camera led to the publication of books like 78-87: London Youth and In the 80s: Portraits From Another Time, filled with captivating images loaded with poignancy and vulnerability just as much as hedonism and angst.

His latest release – called Derek Ridgers: Photographs – launches with a short exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery next week.

The scene from a house party in Stoke Newington, in 1981. IMAGE: DEREK RIDGERSThe scene from a house party in Stoke Newington, in 1981. IMAGE: DEREK RIDGERS

Ridgers can remember his first foray into photography well. “I was a young art director at an advertising agency in Camden Town, and I had an account which was a camera company,” he says.

“My boss told me to take one of their cameras home and practice with it, so I could learn how to use it and write better adverts.

“I went to see Eric Clapton’s rainbow concert, and when we got to the venue we were right at the back, downstairs, and couldn’t see too much.

“When the band came on, I ran down the front and pretended to be a photographer; in those days there was little to no security to chuck you out!

Johnny Depp with Shane MacGowan taken by Ridgers at Holborn Studios in 1996Johnny Depp with Shane MacGowan taken by Ridgers at Holborn Studios in 1996

“I stayed and took some photographs, and when I got them processed they weren’t too bad – one of the photos from that night is actually in the new book.”

“From that moment I got the buzz, and I wanted to try my hand at more amateur photography.”

It was at a gig for punk band The Vibrators in 1976 that Ridgers first noticed the potential in turning his camera towards the audience, rather than at the stage.

“When punk first started I was at this gig at Kingston Poly, right at the front, and when the band came on the crowd went ape s**t.

An image from Ridgers' shoot with Kylie Minogue in Chalk Farm, 1994An image from Ridgers' shoot with Kylie Minogue in Chalk Farm, 1994

“I turned around, looked at them and thought the crowd looked very photogenic. It suddenly dawned on me that you can get very interesting, lively photos when facing them.”

From these modest – almost accidental origins – Ridgers went on to photograph key players in music, film and politics across the next four decades.

His new book presents some of his unseen photography commissioned by magazines like i-D, The Face and NME, and it will launch alongside a three day pop-up showcasing images of Jarvis Cocker, The Rolling Stones and Robbie Williams on Friday October 5.

“A lot of the images (in the new book) haven’t been seen before – or at least haven’t been seen for a long time,” Ridgers adds.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity I’ve been given to show a range of work over a 45-year photographic career – most photographers don’t get that unless they are famous. I feel quite fortunate; 95 per cent of the photos are my first choices and I’m extremely pleased with how it has turned out.

“Very often, the thing I am most interested in is the person, not the quality of the photograph. I’ve done eight or nine books, most of them feature photos of skinheads, punks, people in nightclubs, new romantics – people are not so much looking at the quality of the picture but they are interested in the subjects themselves, and I am the same.”

According to Ridgers, finding a niche and practicing until you are an expert are key factors for any budding photographer.

“You can pick up a camera, set it on automatic and if you’ve got talent you will gradually pick up the intricacies of photography,” he says.

“It’s important to have a USP – you don’t want to be photographing subjects that there are thousands of others doing so, as you’ll never stand out. You’ve got to find something special, and commit to it.”

The Derek Ridgers pop-up is at Old Truman Brewery on October 5, 6 and 7 between 11am and 6pm. His book – Derek Ridgers: Photography is out tomorrow (September 28)

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