All Photos by Jason Manning, Courtesy of GALLERY46 and NIGHTBYNIGHT Agency

Hedonistic Nightlife Photos from the 90s and 2000s

British photographer Jason Manning has spent years documenting the chaotic fun that comes from a truly great club night.

Between 1997 and the late 00s, Jason Manning travelled the world photographing hedonistic get-togethers and decadent parties, documenting the narcotic tenderness and cerebral freedom that unfolded in those spaces. “It’s interesting, because you can’t hear or smell the pictures,” he says, almost by way of explanation. The photographs that came out of clubs soundtracked by “lowest common denominator” music had the same visual potential as those where the music hit right, and that was typically why he was there: “There’s also people smoking, but there's no mobile phones – I don’t think.” 


Largely shot for youth culture title Sleazenation, the images were made at superclubs and squats between London and Moscow, Birmingham and beyond, and have now been brought together for new show Night by Night, currently on display at London’s Gallery46 (through 16 April, after which it travels to Paris). “I'm expecting a little flack,” continues the Suffolk-born photographer who grew up on the work of Magnum street photographers. “The moral and ethical landscape has changed over the intervening years, people are more on edge about challenging imagery.” 

With a daring sensibility, Manning’s pictures echo the audacious principles on which Sleazenation was founded – namely to have a lot of fun with a dash of havoc – and the wider cultural attitude of young people at the time, unaffected by social media and the incriminating capacity of smart phones that was to follow. “I'm not sure how I feel about the work,” he muses. “Which probably doesn't matter, as long as other people are getting stuff out of it. I’m like a custodian or something.” Below, the photographer reflects on this and facets of the decade. 

A woman wearing an Agent Provocateur shirt and fishnets

Agent Provocateur, The New Connaught Rooms, London, UK, October 2000

VICE: There’s an overwhelming sense of debauchery in your pictures. Were you privy to those spaces before you started photographing them?
Jason Manning:
I wasn’t going to nightclubs that often; I was staying in doing antisocial drugs. I did photography at art college then went to India on this sort of odyssey to take pictures. When I came back I moved to London and worked as a courier. I’d go to events that I thought would offer up good imagery – Gay Pride on Clapham Common, stuff like that. Quite chaotic and permissive. Friends of friends started Sleazenation, and I was given a couple of rolls of film and told to get my arse to [London club night] Renaissance. I was pretty nervous, but that first roll film wasn’t too bad. I never had an allegiance though, it was never a plan to work in clubs. I just like taking pictures of social situations and people, and those nightspots offered it in spades. 

Bonde do Role rapping at Corsica Studios

Bonde do Role, Corsica Studios, London, UK, May 2007

On that note of allegiance, were you into subcultures growing up?
Not really. When I was 17 I tried to be a goth but was fucking hopeless. I’m not really sure why either, I suppose we all wanted to be rock and rollers in some way, shape or form, to be anti-establishment. I used to listen to John Peel, which would be extreme noise one minute then a slice of Detroit techno the next. I always thought you were cool if you were into everything, and could see a common strand running through all of it.

A couple kissing and groping on the floor of Exclusive Festival

Finland, Exclusive Festival, UK, June 2000

And you translated that to photography.
Yeah, I quite like being outside of the subject matter, and the camera gave me a bit of distance from what was going on in the clubs. It seemed to suit my temperament. 

You worked for various titles, but Sleazenation predominantly. What was that like?
It was an antidote to a lot of the other style or youth-focused publications that were around. A bit of a fingers up, quite irreverent, and funny. There were several key figures but everybody was thinking the same sort of thing. It was permissive, everybody was up for grabs – sort of “I hate everybody equally” – so there was some vitriol. I mean the whole thing was a provocation, but it did have some sort of cultural importance. I remember when it came out in WHSmith, the Daily Mail ran a piece going on about “the filth that was on the shelf”. It must have been a slow news week. 


When I started I was told not to take pictures of anybody dancing, but to go around the outside. The idea was there was another story there, and we were going to run with that. Other nightclub photographers were going out with slide film, really saturated and using slow shutter speeds, [taking photographs of] girls with fluffy bras looking at the camera. We wanted the antithesis of that. What transpired was this other story that perhaps hadn't been told, and I ended up looking for that narrative. 

Boy George smoking a cigarette at his birthday

Boy George's Birthday, Portland Place, London, UK, June 2001

You were shooting around the world at a spectrum of seemingly outrageous parties. Was there a venue or clubnight you prioritised? 
No, I never had a favourite. You could go to your local pub and some chap’s playing records on a Tuesday night, and for some reason it ends up being absolutely fucking fantastic and visually really good. Then you go to some super shiny, all bells and whistles establishment and it just doesn't offer the same thing. I needed to keep an open mind, that was the thing. As soon as you start having favourites you start measuring everything else against them, and I've never been interested in that idea, whether it's nightclubs or anything else. You change as well, so you bring yourself to the environment. And I did get pretty tired, [I] hit a couple of walls.

A topless man in a lucha libre mask holding a laptop at Corsica Studios

Corsica Studios, London, UK, 00's

There’s been a lot of 90s nostalgia recently, particularly in photography with people returning to film and the work of your contemporaries, like Ewen Spencer and Liz Johnson Artur, being celebrated. Why do you think people are looking back?
There's a natural curiosity for young people to look back at versions of their situation, if you like. I'm not sure there was anything inherently valuable about what happened in that time over any other decade, like I'm not sure the 00s were any more or less culturally interesting than the 50s. They look different and different things happened, but important things happen all the time. Nostalgia is quite an odd thing I think, because it presupposes that what came before is better than what you have now. 

A man at God's Kitchen in Birmingham wearing a "I'm Proper Fucked" top

God's Kitchen, Birmingham, UK, April 2000

A man about to bite the butt of a man in red speedos

Happy Mondays, Manumission, Privelege, Ibiza June 1999

A man and woman dressed in period costume giving the finger at Vampyros Lesbos club in Moscow

Vampyros Lesbos, Club XIII, Moscow, May 2000

Yoko Ono performing at Crash in Vauxhall

Yoko Ono, Crash, Vauxhall, London, UK, March 2003