The 90s have been having some what of a resurgence as of late with runway designers like Jeremy Scott, Ashish and young kids across London, New York and LA rediscovering this defining era of teenage style. With denim being such a huge element of the decade, we were excited to hear from Antenne Books on their re-release of, W’HAPPEN – a limited edition publication documenting the defining British fashion photography from 1990s. Edited by Jason Evans, the book features the early work of photographers like Corinne Day, Nick Knight, Wolfgang Tillmans, and David Sims, all of whom produced work that responded to the artificial and manufactured fashion images of the time.
From grainy street shots of Kate Moss, to Shoreditch teens and suburban east end youths, W’HAPPEN presents a rare look into the 90s when the world of young Britain started to go underground. The images throughout the book capture the stars of the 90s that emerged out of this underground world of London in the early days of the anti-marketing concepts taking place. From Levi’s campaigns, to early Dazed and Confused editorials, the book reflects the real and authentic aesthetic of the 90s, a contrast to the false fantasy of the 80s. The images feature second hand clothing, little, if any make-up, models cast on the street and shoots in unexceptional locations.
Below are a few words on the book from the Editor, Jason Evans:
I was encouraged to make Whappen by Val Williams, one of the UK’s most innovative, supportive and genre defying photography curators. At that time I was assisting her at the short-lived but groovy Shoreditch Biennial as she put together a survey show of late twentieth century British fashion photography called ‘Look at me’. She showed me how to make a book (with Tom Hingston’s help) and Levis stumped up the money to print it.
I tried to collect together an extensive range of work from what was historically sealed in the ‘grunge’ fashion era, notorious for ‘heroin chic’. The point of Whappen was to broaden the debate, to show that the range of documentary style photographic responses in the early 90s was a much broader, more idiosyncratic and less nostalgic phenomenon than the appointed flag bearers and their associate stylists were held responsible for.
As 80s ‘references’ have been bled dry in a visual culture fuelled on pre-ordained consumption those ‘in the know’ are turning to the 90s for an alternative visual fix. Similarly, we are witnessing a new cult of yearning for perceived authenticity and ‘heritage’, a disingenuous disguise in this time of social crisis. Look beyond the aesthetic surface of the work in Whappen and consider it’s various levels of engagement and critique, it’s definition in opposition and it’s responses to a shifting economic and political landscape, not unlike the ones we are witnessing here and now.
Jason Evans, May 2012
The book is available now from Antenne Books for £15.