James Mollison, The Disciples series: Dolly Parton concert, Wembley Arena, London, 19 March 2007. “Dolly Parton is the most successful female country artist in history, with a trademark look- blonde wig and astonishing 40-inch bust- originally based on a prostitute in her home town. Some fans carried off the look with conviction, and for others the wig was just a party touch.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Oasis concert, Manchester Stadium, 3 July 2005. “The look of the band- hair brushed forward and green army jackets- had clearly influenced their loyal fans, mainly men in their 20s and early 30s. It felt more like a crowd at a football match than a concert. People arrived there already drunk and there was an atmosphere of latent violence.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Missy Elliot concert, Hammersmith Apollo, London, 28 November 2005. “…The crowd were predominantly committed hip-hop fans, ranging n age from their teens to their 30s….we went for the girls who styled themselves along the lines of the star. It turned out that Missy had injured her ankle, and she performed that night in a blinged-up electric granny-cart.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: McFly concert, Kings Dock, Liverpool, 9 July 2005. “Bedroom-poster teenybopper sensations McFly were ‘the leading light of Britain’s boy-band scene’…The audience of girl was incredibly young- some as young as three and the oldest about 14.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Björk concert, Hammersmith Apollo, London, 10 & 14 April 2008. “On my way to the concert, I felt a sense of regret that I hadn’t photographed her fans ten years earlier, when Björk was at her most avant-garde. But the crowd at Hammersmith turned out to be edgier and more alternative than I had imagined.”
Exploring the idea of the modern-day tribe, English-Kenyan photographer James Mollison staked out arenas and music venues to photograph fans at popular concerts. Curious about the fact that many seemed to dress or look like their music idols (was this conscious or unconscious?), he picked out concert-goers with similar traits, clothing or physiques.
The result is The Disciples, a series of group portraits which reveals a fascinating cross-section of music subcultures. But they are not perfectly neutral or objective images: Mollison seems to have handpicked fans who best fit in with his pre-formed ideas about the types of people who attend these concerts. In that way, is this project really about photographing modern-day music tribes, or about creating them? Either way, these pictures are compelling studies in contemporary culture.
Does your look reflect the type of music you listen to? And could you guess the musician based on the look of the fans alone?
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Madonna concert, The Forum, Los Angeles, 21 May 2006. “More than 20 years after ‘Like A Virgin’, the diverse audience for the iconic queen of pop had a distinctly camp edge.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Morrissey concert, Wembley Arena, London, 8 December 2006. “Men in their 40s made up most of the audience for his comeback gig at Wembley…The quiffs might have been thinner and set a little further back on guys’ heads, but they were still there.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Sex Pistols concert, Brixton Academy, London, 8 & 9 November 2007. “The audience fell into three distinct types: die-hard punks still living the punk lifestyle; youngsters wanting to be a part of history; and men coming to relive a moment of their youth- some bringing along their sons to show them how dangerous they had once been.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Tom Jones concert, Wembley Arena, London, 28 October 2006. “Now in his late 60s Tom Jones’ hips are still thrusting and female fans still throw their underwear on stage… There were lots of glamourous grannies and lots of leopard skin.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: P Diddy concert, Crobar, Miami, 26 May 2006. “The audience for his Miami gig, mainly black and in their 20s, looked ready to audition for his next video. The guys were dressed up in sleek bling shirts and gold jewellery, while the girls were skimpily clad, showing lots of flesh.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Rod Stewart concert, MEN Arena, Manchester, 4 July 2005. “‘Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?’ was the answer I got hen I asked one of the Rod lookalikes if I could take his picture.”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: The Casualties concert, The Winter Gardens, Blackpool, 10 August 2007. “Most of them were already drunk, and it felt threatening. We were surrounded by people using the alley for a piss, and there was a lot of ‘What the fuck are you doing? You fucking wankers!”
James Mollison, The Disciples series: Take That concert, MEN Arena, Manchester, 5 May 2006. “They were nearly all in their late 20s and early 30s, and you got the impression that they had all been dedicated fans when they were teenagers. The atmosphere outside was very excited, with lots of giggling.”
// Images via the artist’s website, and La Boite Verte. All quotes are from James Mollison, taken from his The Disciples book. Big thanks to my friend Edouard Doye (himself a ridiculously interesting performance artist: check out his amazing Chinese pole dancing here) who introduced me to Mollison’s work.
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