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hoxton mini press, orlando gili
Photograph: Orlando Gili

This photo captures the London nightlife scene we know and love

Remember clubbing?

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We chat to Orlando Gili about how his photo of a Shoreditch club has taken on a new meaning when big nights out have been off the cards for months

Do you remember the last night you had in a sweaty club? Maybe someone accidentally spilled their pint on you, maybe you danced with a stranger, maybe you got a questionable kebab on the way home. For obvious reasons, it’s been a while since any of us have had a Big Night Out, but this photo (above) at Jaguar Shoes in Shoreditch, captures everything that’s great about London’s nightlife.

Taken in May 2018 by London photographer Orlando Gili, the photograph is part of his new Hoxton Mini Press book ‘Trivial Pursuits’, in which Gili documents ‘the British at play’ – festivals, events, club nights. He came up with the idea as a response to Brexit, as a way of showing that maybe we weren’t totally divided as a country. ‘I thought leisure was a good way to look at people’s characteristics,’ he explains. ‘The more I shot, [the more] my feeling was that we’re all quite similar in the way we have fun.’ He couldn’t have predicted how these images would take on  a new meaning in light of the pandemic.

‘So many of the photographs from the book are of people tightly pressed together, whether they’re friends or complete strangers. It seems quite profound now,’ says Gili. ‘It’s so natural for people to be around other people and this image highlights that.’ The photo at Jaguar Shoes was taken at a grime night organised by Croydon artist DJ Argue. ‘The guy with the mic is called Flirta D; he’s a legend from the first generation of grime,’ explains Gili. ‘He appeared out of nowhere and everyone went crazy.’

Gili says there was a real energy in the room that night. ‘You can see how much joy there is in that image. It’s not just the person who’s centre stage, it’s all the reactions around him. I don’t know how you’d recreate that to such a rich extent if you weren’t in such close confines.’

He’s hopeful that he’ll be able to photograph scenes like this again. ‘We need these interactions, whether it’s  a large event or a more niche one like this, it’s all important. You take it for granted until it’s gone.’ 

‘Trivial Pursuits’ is published by Hoxton Mini Press, out now.

London’s clubs are still closed, but live music at the Barbican is coming back.

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