NIGHT PEOPLE ZINE
// IN CONVERSATION WITH ESME TOKER
When did you first start experimenting with photography and styling?
I have always been obsessed with clothes, photographs in magazines and catwalk shows but it was only when I first started The Styling and Image Making course in University that I realised that my obsessions were possible career opportunities. I hadn’t really taken a ‘professional’ image until I was 18, not having any place throughout school or college to experiment within photography. I always say that this has almost worked in my favour as because of this i have gone on to create images without any pre judgements, methods or restrictions, i have just thrown myself into it and it has been, and probably always will be a forever trial and error process with my imagery, yet this has enabled me to curate and formulate my own aesthetic specifically moulded to me.
What sort of things do you find yourself looking to document through photography?
I am constantly referring to the art of the mundane. The extravagance in normality. Documenting the everyday is a constant within my work. I take pictures of things my eye is drawn to. Diamond in the rough. That’s why for most of my work, you will see an average/normal/grotty background with an over saturated, overcompensating, extravagant character(in nature or style) as the subject. I think this is a reflection on how I see people.
In what ways do you find these things intriguing and inspiring to shoot?
Personally, these kinds of documentary style photographs are the aesthetic that my eye is drawn to. The images from the likes of Rob Bremner and the British Culture Archive have constantly captivated me, as well as Martin Parr, as showcasing the everyday as plainly as it is. I can stare at these pictures for hours. This is what I love about documentary style images, more so than planned pictures. They carry an honesty and a relevance to people that you don’t really get from a studio shoot.
How do you decide who/what you want to cast/document for your photography/styling?
Who I shoot is very important to me. I have never shot with someone who I have never met before. I find that knowing your subject and them knowing and trusting you, your work and your vision allows for a much more free and experimental shoot that curates the best images. I am drawn to people that stick out. I am a magpie for people. My diamonds in the rough. Who I am surrounded by majorly impacts my creativity. From one person’s style and energy you can curate a whole editorial. This is so important to me and why I make it part of my job to be constantly meeting people and introducing myself to who I am immediately drawn to.
Can you tell me a bit more about your ‘Night People Zine’?
Night People was made to document my family. My family means much to me, being inspired and surrounded by these people 24/7 it only made sense that I would document them where we first met. The images within this zine document 5 of my friends at events such as HOMOBLOC/HOMOELECTRIC, KISSMEAGAIN and other manchester queer club nights over the course of a month. It’s weird because before I started taking my film camera out with me we never ever took pictures of our nights. Our nights were just stories without a face. I think this is why I am so connected to these images as they were taken in the moment, unplanned, each picture unapologetically personal.
Which of your ‘Night People Zine’ series do you like the most? Why?
My favorite photograph has got to be of my gorgeous friend Matt at HOMOELECTRIC at Hidden. He’s standing in front of metal cage bars it looks like and his whole body embraces the camera. This picture was taken at the end of the night when everyone was walking up the stairs, trying to get out from the basement and we stopped dead in the middle of the crowd to get this picture, with a que behind and a queue in front. After the flash went off, the queue cheered and pushed on out and we laughed. It was one take. My last shot on my film roll. It carries so much joy, It’s got to be my favorite.
How would you define ‘identity’?
Identity to me is the joining together of your surroundings, your interests and your exposure/willingness to expose yourself to new and old ideas and concepts. For me, I see identity with a fashion eye, as I always have. I think this is one of the main outlets for creativity and experimentation of identity. I don’t think that we ever stop developing our identity. It continues as long as you are constantly absorbing everything.
Do you have any other projects you personally really like? If so, why?
0151 ALL GROWN UP is a zine that I made in the summer 2019. It was a zine that was a physical demonstration of the climate crisis. It highlighted the pressure on today’s youth to grow up faster and stand up for their future. It showed images of 6 kids from Merseyside dressed up in my Mums and Dads clothes. Pearls, suit ties and heels etc to put into play how they are acting/have to act older in the current climate vs political status. Protecting the climate is something that has been at the heart of who I am for a long time so focusing on a project surrounding it was personal and because of this the outcome produced some of my favorite images so far.
Are there any artists/photographers out there that inspire your practice?
My inspirations are very fashion based, looking at stylists such as Harry Lambert and his work with Harry styles, curating his character a romanticised, flamboyant femininity aesthetic, using the garments of Gucci and their floral daydream granny chic fabulousness. Jamie Marre Shipton, a London based stylist who champions using graduate fashion designers pushing the question of what fashion can even be, combined with her colour clashing, patterned enthused over accessorized style. Photography wise, I love the work of Charlie Engman and Hugo Comte. Engman using direct flash and heightened saturation using his mum as the subject of his work is to die for, I AM OBSESSED. Hugo Comte is just next level, he has a 90s grunge cool girl aesthetic but he is then able to turn commercial subjects to fit his aesthetic. What he did with the Dua Lipa album art is unreal.
Have you got any new upcoming projects you can share with us?
(NOT ATM BC COVID-19)