Claire Mahoney talks to Owen Harvey on the eve of his Mod UK exhibition at the Subculture Archives in Carnaby Street, London.
One of the joys of getting out The Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ album was the opportunity it gave you to pour over the black and white booklet of photographs tucked inside its gatefold while you listened.
The photographs were taken by renowned music and documentary photographer Ethan Russell. Townshend once said of Russell’s work: ‘Ethan is the civilised eye of an uncivilised art-form: rock ‘n’ roll.’ And his photographs for The Who’s most iconic ‘mod’ album were one of the reasons why young photographer, Owen Harvey, 27, decided he wanted to pick up a camera.
‘They were the first images I saw that I really loved and where I understood that images could tell a story of some sort. So I was really turned onto the scene through those pictures and listening to that album.’
This week the Watford-born photographer will be showing a collection of photographs as part of his guest exhibition ‘Mod UK’ at the Subculture Archives in Carnaby Street. The pictures have been taken over the last five years for his project in locations across the UK, including London, Margate, Liverpool and Brighton. The show runs for one week and features some stunning black and white pictures of some of the most stylish mods on the scene today.
Harvey began taking the photos as part of his final year project at the University of Wales in Newport. He was made aware of subcultures and its associated music by his father – an ex-skinhead and Chelsea fan – who luckily let him sample his music collection. But it wasn’t until he visited his first mod club night that this particular project really came to life.
‘The first people I started talking to and photographing were people like Jamie Parr and Scott Fraser Simpson, who I had got to know anyway – but then more and more people heard about it and wanted to be involved in the project..’
It was at this point that a friend suggested he go to his first mod night to get a proper insight into what the scene was all about. So off he went to his first New Untouchables ‘do.’
‘I decided to go right in a the deep end and and went along to the Brighton weekender and shot there for three days solid. The first night I was amazed at how good the people were at dancing and also and how immaculately dressed they were. Everything about it was super exciting for me.’
Harvey has tried to incorporate a range of ages and styles of mod in the shots and looking at the pictures its easy to see that the subjects enjoyed the process as much as the photographer.
‘If you dress well, you want to be seen, says Harvey. ‘A lot of these people put real time and effort into looking brilliant, which makes my job a lot easier easier. But most importantly they are passionate about what they are into. All the people that I’ve met in the mod scene, whether they are 60 or 15 and 16 – all have this infectious enthusiasm and energy about them which I hope comes across in the pictures’.
All the photos are shot in black and white and on film – nothing is digital here. ‘It goes with the idea of authenticity – maybe they could have been shot in the 50s or 60s and hopefully a lot of them still have that timeless feel about them,’ says Harvey.
Following the exhibition, he plans to carry on with the project over the next five years with the aim of producing a book that looks at Mod over a decade.
The exhibition opens at the Subculture Archives, Carnaby Street, Soho, London W1F 9QG on 27 July and runs until 3 August. If you can get along, there is a launch party tomorrow (27th) with DJ’s spinning ‘mod friendly’ music between 6pm-10pm.
If you want to find out more about the launch night, you can find the details here.
Owen Harvey’s own website is here if you want to find out more about the man and his work.