Around seventeen years ago I stumbled upon a semi-hidden world which only truly came alive well after midnight and which existed in the heart of London.
It was a place and time inhabited by characters who could have tumbled from films of their own making, a sideways glance at a reimagined indefinable past; a world of modern dav spivs, foot-high quiffs, lizard skin-lined cars, tooting saxophones, unlicensed speakeasies and sharp suits.
It left an indelible mark on me and went on to inspire much of my creative work and cultural passions.
More than a decade later I began to revisit my old haunts and companions with a camera slung over my shoulder: I wanted to try and create a tribute to a world where I spent some of my youth and also a photographic soundtrack to the imaginary film it inspired and which has played behind my eyes ever since – an attempt to capture my own particular Soho of the mind.
Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity is the result.
This site is a documentation of my the work from that journey; my shutterbugging and cultural exploring.
Thanks for reading, viewing and perusing.
While we’re considering bars imbued with a sense of speakeasy-ness…
One of the places that I kept finding myself returning to (or rather being drawn to) while I was taking photographs for the Afterhours Sleaze and Dignity book was Ye Olde Axe in London’s East End.
This was a traditional bar, with traditional British bar fittings – quite opulent in fact, ornate and velvet walled, although admittedly in its own particular slightly worn manner.
Earlier in the evening it was a bar where shall we say gentlemen could enjoy the appearance of gals in various states of deshabille – not in a contemporary playful burlesque manner, more in an overtly prurient / transactional (and possibly curiously traditional for East End / central London) manner.
It would then be filled with a fine mixture of East End hipsters, suavely attired older gents and gals who had been enjoying their own versions of reimagined culture from the past for a fair few years before vintage / retro trends became fashionable / mainstream, a scattering of sharply dressed arty-mod-soul chaps and the like.
All of whom would be carrying out the time honoured traditions of imbibing, staying out too late and one over the eight, carousing, wooing, staggering and the like while cutting a rug to a soundtrack of classic rock’n'roll, garage punk etc.
As with The Black Gardenia (see here), it was a world unto itself – something that seemed to be highlighted in the summer / spring months when you would step out from its dimmed fug to find that the night had become day, the sun was now out and things had started to feel surreal.
The photograph/collage above is from I think the first time I went to Ye Olde Axe.
It seems to capture or conjure up a mixture of the reckless late night suaveness (and indeed the surrealness) of the place rather well and I’ve stayed rather fond of it (a touch of the Deborah Turbevilles / Sarah Moon to it as well, if I say so myself).