It is a collection and perusal of thoughts, films, photography, music and the like that have intrigued and inspired me, that I have returned to over the years.
From the book’s introduction, below is some background and history on the book, which lead towards the site etc…
If you are reading this and happen to not know about London’s Soho area, in the British national psyche and sometimes in actuality, it has been known as a place that represented a certain kind of spice, vice and nightlife.
It is a few intercrossing streets and side alleys that over the decades have been a home and sometimes refuge for sleaze, rogues, raconteurs, suave gents, dapper gals, bohemians, subcultural nightlife, those who swung whichever way they wished to swing, artists, writers, musicians, scandal, the film and publishing industries in various degrees of respectability, independently owned stalls, shops, cafes and hostelries – indeed all walks of life could be found sharing the same square mile.
As a place it has been a little corner of the capital where society goes to dream, to play, to escape and yes to sometimes fall.
Around twenty years ago I stumbled upon a semi-hidden world which only truly came alive well after midnight and which existed in this particular heart of London, in red light-drenched basements behind unmarked doors.
It was a place and time inhabited by characters who could have tumbled from films of their own making. This was a world of modern day spivs, foot-high quiffs, lizard skin-lined cars, tooting saxophones, unlicensed speakeasies and sharp suits.
It drew from previous eras but was not a recreation, rather a reimagining; a sideways glance at an indefinable past, one that existed in a dreamlike myth of a golden age of Soho.
With those who were at the very heart of it there was a sense of something ingrained deeply within them, that they were the right man for the job and would be found behind these unmarked doors fifty years ago or fifty years from now; that the reels of the imaginary film they created would keep spinning whatever the comings and going of fashion.
Back when I discovered this world I was only a part of it directly for around two years, more as a frequent visitor than somebody who existed in amongst the centre of things but it left an indelible mark on me and went on to inspire much of my work and passions.
So, more than a decade later, with this very particular imaginary film still playing behind my eyes, I started to revisit my old haunts (or their modern day equivalents) and companions with the intention of visualising this still flickering, living and breathing celluloid like world and its stories; of expressing my own particular Soho of the mind and creating a tribute to a world where I spent some of my youth and to its spirit.
Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity was the result.
As I stepped back through those doorways and re-experienced the associated mindset, I came to realise that at such times the “real” world, its trappings and inhabitants fade away from view, leaving only this “otherly” world.
Reflecting that, through many iterations Afterhours increasingly became nearer to a film in character, one told via still frames rather than as a continuous flickering of light; it became a fictional Soho noir or film on paper – a photo-roman of a world lost in its and my own thoughts and dreams.
As an almost final note, blimey, has it been a long old journey; nights lost and found in places beyond those unmarked doors a fair few years ago now, nights that became day on what felt like endless adventures with the last man standing, back down into these hidden basements and seven or more years of shutterbugging – staggering home, camera on shoulder in the glare of the sunlight at six in the morning.
Via my travels in amongst and towards a Soho of the mind, I have met some of the best people I have ever known and definitely some of the most memorable.
And all I can say is thanks. Thanks to everybody I have met, thanks to everybody in the photographs.
And thanks in particular to a set of people who have helped, inspired, collaborated and offered me their sofa.
Stephen Prince, September 2015.