Connor Rosewell discusses the cultural obsession of filming every moment of your night out.
Getting ‘lost in the moment’ is a common phenomenon to many nightclub dwellers, deciding to fully immerse themselves in hedonism, until the night is old, and curfew comes around.
For what will forever feel like a fleeting moment, all responsibilities are temporarily cast aside. Individuals indulge in everything from the overbearing noise emanating from the PA system, to the utterly nonsensical chatter in the smoking area. To more sober observers, the occurrences that take place in nightclubs appear ludicrous, and quite simply unenjoyable. Yet one only has to gaze at the images captured in a different time, to see how the antics of clubbing today pale in significance when compared to London in the 1980’s. When nightclub photographer Dave Swindells was interviewed about his memories of capturing the mania at the time, he reflects on having to refrain from the excitement himself. If he too remained caught up in the haze of brash sounds and jittering bodies, it’s easy to imagine many moments left uncaptured, and memories lost forever. Dave explains his different approach to clubbing back then quite simply; “Someone had to take some pictures.”
“If it wasn’t caught on camera, then you can be sure that it didn’t actually happen – a mantra that many are taking literally.”
A visit to a nightclub in this day and age is vastly different from the events experienced by those in the 80’s, but it is the necessity of people like Dave at the time that fascinates me the most. Take a look at any dance floor in the overwhelming majority of nightclubs across the nation, and it seems that most people take on the role of the photographer. With social media applications such as Snapchat and Instagram providing the platform for individuals to present themselves to the world, many feel obliged to document their nocturnal adventures constantly. Yet the argument persists that there is something unnerving about the activities of those who dance with a smartphone glued to one hand. Things were different in the 80’s; the vast majority danced the night away, whilst only select few immortalised the evening. Today, the rise of social media has lead to nightclubs consisting of a multitude of photographers, persistently filling their own personal visual diary throughout the night. Living life through the lens of a camera is now a common way to spend what was once an evening dedicated to socialising and dancing with friends.
The contrast between nightclubs then and now appear stark – it now seems that everyone takes the pictures. An authentic experience on a night out is a dying art; it’s far more fashionable to update our news feeds instead. Dance floors are now congested with zombified party goers clinging to technology, an alienating sight akin to some of the more dystopian episodes of Black Mirror. These members of the crowd with a phone constantly between themselves and the performers or DJ, do not give their full attention per se. If it wasn’t caught on camera, then you can be sure that it didn’t actually happen – a mantra that many are taking literally.
“An authentic experience on a night out is a dying art; it’s far more fashionable to update out news feeds instead.”
Yet this trend of those who dance and film simultaneously has not gone wholly unnoticed; in 2015, Phonox nightclub opened in Brixton, which enforced a strict no photography or filming policy whilst on the dance floor. The aim is to reverse this infestation of technology at clubs, creating a more wholesome and collective feel to clubbing more akin to nights in the past. Clubbers should wish to live the night, not film it, and the argument follows that the atmosphere has notably soured since smartphones became the norm.
Of course, there’s always reason to believe that those who object to serial photographers in the club are just trying to ruin the fun for some people. Clubs like Phonox that desire to limit phones on the dance floor can be interpreted as creating a draconian seatbelt on the leisurely drive of a night out. After all, surely nobody would dare argue that a nightclub should be viewed as sacred as different attractions around the world that prohibit photography. Sub Zero is not exactly as holy as the Sistine Chapel, and if a bouncer reprimanded a student for taking pictures of Big Narstie the same way security does to tourists who try to sneak a picture of the Creation of Adam, we’d think they are just limiting the fun for some people. So, what if they want to capture the night in snippets to keep? We were once deprived of this ability as technology was not advanced enough; those who want to ignore what our phones can be capable of want to retreat to a previous time, where the nights seem mysterious and lost forever. We should strive to hold onto these memories, and a blanket ban on photography on the dance floor would contribute to many gaps in the digital scrap books of many.
“Sub Zero is not exactly as holy as the Sistine Chapel”
Maybe the solution to this problem lies somewhere in between. It’s easy to see why some would rather take their own photos instead of borrow those taken by a club’s official photographer – I know I am not alone in waking up, checking the freshers page and being horrified to see that I looked like that in a particular moment. Plus, it’s far more satisfying taking your own picture of the DJ in action, instead of borrowing someone else’s. But it’s called a dance floor for a reason, and immersing yourself in the night without using your phone is now as rare as photographers like Dave Swindells once were. Whilst I’m not suggesting a policy of segregation much like Chongqing’s infamous ‘cellphone walking lane’, the atmosphere is far more pleasant when everyone involved is doing the same thing – dancing, not filming. For me, the ‘snapchat generation’ leave a lot to be desired; with my phone firmly in my pocket, I know I’d rather be ‘lost in the moment’. These memories may very well evade me the next day, but I’ll remain satisfied that I danced the night away, whilst technology was put to one side for a few hours at least.