Home News While you were sleeping – Giovanna D’Ascenzi (Photo)

While you were sleeping – Giovanna D’Ascenzi (Photo)

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While you were sleeping – Giovanna D’Ascenzi (Photo)

During the 2020 lockdown, the English photographer Ewen Spencer finds old photos inside a hard disk. Next to him is his son, Kuba, born in 1998, who, surprised by the shots on the screen, asks: “But where was I while you were doing this?”. The father replies: “You were asleep.” While you were sleeping (while you were sleeping) thus first becomes the name of a folder on the desktop and, in 2022, the title of a book published by Damiani that tells a special moment in the life of the author and beyond.

In fact, in 1997 Ewen Spencer graduated from the Brighton school of art with a photographic reportage on the evenings northern soula genre born in northern England in the late sixties thanks to the discovery of American soul and r & b by young people of the working class and especially local DJs, who fished out less famous names than those of labels such as Stax and Motown.

These photos open the doors of a regular collaboration with Sleazenation, a monthly specialized in fashions and youth subcultures founded in London in 1996 and to which Spencer feels very close in style and language. From the evenings in Brighton he moves to the great metropolis, but his interest remains the same: to tell what happens when it is night and you are young.

He often frequents 333, a local in Shoreditch, an industrial and disreputable area in London’s East End, which is however becoming the most creative and fashionable center of the city. At parties and concerts, Spencer tries not to get noticed but doesn’t want to take pictures in secret either. He prefers to blend in to have time to observe without people posing in front of his Mamiya 6.

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While you were sleeping 1998-2000 collects two years lived at night, in the evenings with the most disparate genres of music: acid house, garage, nu metal, skinhead, jungle, mod. These photos capture the sense of abandonment and freedom in the period between the apex and the end of cool Britannia, a time when the UK had once again become a reference point in music, fashion and art and when the country was pinning its hopes, later disappointed, in Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair. These are also the last years in which people’s lives are not marked by mobile phones, the internet and social networks; Spencer’s girls and boys have fun, dance, get drunk and take drugs without worrying if and how their image circulates online.

“I wanted to portray all of this celebrating it, and I felt I had to make it clear that it was fun,” recalls the photographer. “There was an extraordinary convergence of acceptance between people and I think we have recently forgotten how to do it. For some time we have been good to each other and I hope these photos prove it ”.

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