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David Gwinnutt: Before We Were Men


10 Portraits in set

Against a backdrop of financial recession and rising unemployment in the early 1980s, a new generation of young creatives emerged in London, centred around the city’s vibrant underground club scene. Youth culture became a dynamic power house for renewed vitality, ‘a burst of energy at a time when London seemed so stagnant’. Clubs such as Blitz in Covent Garden served as the epicentre for a group of innovative and ambitious artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers and performers. Most were studying at art college by day and transforming into fabulous poseurs by night, escaping the bleak realities of Thatcherite Britain through outrageous handmade clothes and elaborate make up which blurred genders and refashioned identities. The club scene was implicitly interwoven with an underground gay scene, which had previously played out behind closed doors, but emerged out of the shadows and became publically visible for the first time. The photographer David Gwinnutt documented this scene while still at art college himself, having moved to London from Derbyshire in 1979 seeking fame and adventure. Away from the lights and publicity of the clubs, he captured these sitters in the intimacy of their own homes, often squats or rented council accommodation. Using only his handheld camera and natural light, these grainy black and white photographs feel unguarded and spontaneous, offering a privileged glimpse into the private worlds of these rising stars who lived, worked and played together. Gwinnutt’s photographs serve as a social document of a moment that had far-reaching effects on the cultural landscape.

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Sir Norman Rosenthal, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199667

Sir Norman Rosenthal

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1981-1982
NPG x199667

Gilbert & George, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199670

Gilbert & George

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1981-1982
NPG x199670

Duggie Fields, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199661

Duggie Fields

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1982
NPG x199661

Derek Jarman, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199665

Derek Jarman

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1982
NPG x199665

Stephen Linard, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199668

Stephen Linard

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1982-1983
NPG x199668

Derek Jarman; John Maybury, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199674

Derek Jarman; John Maybury

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1982-1983
NPG x199674

John Maybury, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199675

John Maybury

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, 1982-1983
NPG x199675

Leigh Bowery, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199663

Leigh Bowery

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, circa 1983
NPG x199663

David Holah, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199662

David Holah

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, circa 1984
NPG x199662

Cerith Wyn Evans, by David Gwinnutt - NPG x199669

Cerith Wyn Evans

by David Gwinnutt
modern bromide print from original negative, circa 1984
NPG x199669