For over 30 years Derek Ridgers has proven to be one of the most influential British photographers around with multiple batches of images that have preserved the spirit and looks of various subcultures from England during that time. A music fan from an early age Ridgers attended a whole host of landmark gigs in late 60’s and can claim to have been present at many of the counter cultures most pivotal music moments.
In the mid seventies Ridgers ducked out of of his job as an Art Director to concentrate on taking pictures full time. His timing couldn’t have been more spot on. Assignments with music weekly NME and the newly created Face magazine led him back to the music scene where he continued to relish in the excitement and energy of the outsiders making waves on the newly emerging punk scene:
“Then something significant happened to me one night, in late 1976, at a Vibrators show at Kingston Poly. I was crouched on the side of the stage, about three feet to the side of the band’s speaker stack and, as soon as the band came on, the audience started to go crazy. It was my first live sighting of ‘punks’.
“And I felt a frisson of something that night and I wasn’t quite sure why. Apprehension certainly. The punks were ostensibly fairly violent looking and some were none too careful where they aimed their globules of phlegm. But there was something else too. There was an excitement, a rawness and a vitality about them that was completely different to anything I’d encountered before.
“I felt a compulsion to try to record of what I saw. So, a few weeks later, in December of that year, when ‘The Roxy’ (the UK’s first punk club) opened its doors in Neal Street, Covent Garden, I was one of those standing in the queue.″
Ridgers found himself at the very dawn on this exciting new scene and the photographs from this period capture the intensity and craziness of both the bands and more importantly the fans offering up a unique view of the myriad of looks to be found on the original punk scene.
Ridgers continued to shoot images all over Londons music and nightclub scene and also documented the flamboyance and nerve of the early Blitz Kid/ New Romantic scene at venues across the city. Once again he was on to it early, shooting a series of pictures at the infamous Bowie Night at Billy’s back in 1978. During this period he was also ‘invited’ to take some pictures of some local skinheads:
“In early ‘79 I was already engaged in what eventually turned out to be a lengthy photographic study of the New Romantics (though back then they were not known as such). I’d been documenting this nascent scene in the Soho nightclub ’Billy’s’ and, one evening, a group of about half-a-dozen skinheads turned up. They saw me taking photographs and one of them, a guy called Wally, asked me if I’d like to take some photos of them too. They seemed pretty friendly and not at all camera shy. I took a few snaps, we got talking and Wally suggested I go with the whole gang on one of their Bank Holiday jaunts to the seaside. That was what led, eventually, to five years of photographing skinheads. In those five years I got to know some of the skinheads quite well and liked many of them.”
Over the years Ridgers work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and several books many of which appear to be out of print.