Like bushbabies, omelettes and David Cameron, clubs are difficult things to photograph. How do you capture their magic – the intensity, the aura, the sheer unadulterated pleasure of them – on something as literal as film? (We’re just talking about nightclubs now, btw.) A flashbulb freeze-frame of the greatest night of your youth would probably reveal only a dingy room full of fag smoke, cheap lasers and spotty oiks with red-eye. How then, do you do photographic justice to the best club in the world?
This was Swedish photographer Hasse Persson’s dilemma shooting Studio 54, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s temple of Seventies disco cool to which he had regular and seemingly unfettered access. His photographs, collected in his new book, named after the club, feature everyone from Michael Jackson and Liza Minnelli to Truman Capote and Andy Warhol – plus a bevvy of bare-naked ladies and mustachioed gents in leather chaps – and throb with the hazy energy that hangs over the fondest of misspent memories.
So how did he do it? He got in for starters – no mean feat, given that the queue of hopefuls could reportedly sometimes reach 300m (though as Persson modestly puts it in his introduction, “I have no idea if the lines were that long, since I never had to wait to get in”). He was bold, staking out the middle of the sweat-drenched dancefloor and the darkest something-else-drenched corners. Or, for the more technically inclined, he used a flash and a 30-second exposure. (Killjoys.)
Studio 54 by Hasse Persson is out now (Max Ström)