Back in 1977, hard-up young artist John Goto ran evening photography classes at Lewisham Way Community and Youth Centre. Equipped with a few East German Praktica cameras and a small darkroom in a store cupboard, he taught portraiture to young people from the area who often attended the lovers rock reggae nights at the centre.
These took place on Fridays, when giant sound systems were brought in and the basslines had a physical impact, reverberating through the floor. Just before leaving London to study in Paris, Goto set up a makeshift studio next to the dance hall and photographed the attendees about to enjoy their night out.
In 2018, photographer Des Willie was introduced to Goto’s images by the community group Made in Lewisham. He decided to recreate the series with young people living, studying or working in Lewisham today, taking many of the portraits in a tent at the council’s annual People’s Day festival.
This month, his pictures will appear alongside Goto’s 1977 images at a free exhibition, ‘Then & Now’, in Catford. According to Willie, projects like this are ‘really important as a document, but also to help work out who we are – especially in the current climate.’
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