Since the 60s, the queer night scene has been a corner stone in the LGBTQIA+ communities daily life, the clubs and pubs where were you met to catch up, socialise and loose yourself in glorious technicolour. The Stonewall riots in 1969 helped solidify the queer movement as one that was not going to slow down, purse first into the fight for equality and the right to do, well, what we want to do. For me, as an openly queer man, my own relationship with the queer scene is different to others. It’s not somewhere I went to socialise, it’s a place I avoided. The bright lights, loud music and larger than life characters would be a welcoming draw for most, but my country boy sensibility and lack of access to these places left a big glitter filled hole in my life. It’s something I regret, and wish I could have experienced whilst growing up in my formative years. I am of the genuine believe that queer people take so long to figure out whom they are, that there is often a 10 year gap between our straight counterparts in terms of where we are in life, our wants, needs and how we view ourselves. This of course, is not true for everyone, hetronormality is a lifestyle that the queer community is expected to conform too, but graciously declines, one stiletto at a time.
This lack of experience of loosing yourself under the glitterball is what lures me to the work by Rhiannon Adam, a queer photographer who makes work on people, place and anything that strikes a cord. Your Disco Needs you is Adam direct response to her early years as a queer woman, expressing herself, finding herself and having a good time. Hairy chests bearing jewellery, bodies entangled with one another and limbs flowing across the frame in time with the music is what greats us with this body of work, a euphoric look at life on the scene and those who occupy the spaces.
The queer scene however used to be a lot busier than this. With apps taking over queer spaces (we can open our phones up and go on an app to fulfil our desires rather than go to the scene) the nights of regular parties, bright lights and a pulsing beat are less frequent, only saved by nights like Sink the Pink and other calendar events to keep our restless dancing feet to have something to look forward to. Adam recalls her early years on the scene, and what they meant to her as snogging gay men on podiums, sniffing poppers on rides at Brighton Pride and getting lifts home from DJ’s and drag queens when the lights go up. Regretting not documenting these moments, Adam’s project Your Disco Needs You is a love letter to the past, as well as a time capsule of the now, preserving what the queer scene has now before even more spaces disappear into the night.
What I love about this work is its energy, the colour, the energy, how candid and care free the images feel. These are more than club photographs which we see all the time, these feel like feelings, a true send up to queerness in all its glory. This work is a fabulous step into the after hours when the norms have gone to sleep, where we can be free, happy, love and let the genders and sounds blend without care. It’s far too often I see work about queer lives, the queer scene documented by straight photographers, and the energy, mood and feeling never feels the same compared to images produced by those who are apart of this community, and scene. Instead of taking portraits of drag queens, people in costumes which some made deem ‘outrageous’, Adam’s has clicked the shutter down when it felt right, when the moment has taken her, when something filled with love and energy needs to be documented. There is no voyeuristic look at the ‘others’ here. These photographs represent a place and a mood where we are all welcome, without sliding into the tropes of ensuring the regular characters are documented.
Your Disco Needs You may be a love letter to the past and a recording of the now, but for me they speak into a much deeper level of how Adam herself, in these places feels. It’s no surprise to anyone, being LGBTQIA+ isn’t easy, despite the steps in equality we get in the West and the more open the media is to treating us as equal, I myself always feel like I’m looking over my shoulder. That someone may take a disliking to who I am. This isn’t misplaced fear either, London for me has been one of the least tolerant places to be queer. With this in mind, these photographs feel like and are a safe port from rocky waters of the big smoke, places where we can become or simply be. Adam has captured her nights on the scene in such a colourful, honest and personal way, I want her to lead me onto the dance floor now and catch up on what I’ve been missing all these years.
See more of Rhiannon’s work here: https://www.rhiannonadam.com/