Opening tonight at KK Outlet is a new show from photographer Ewen Spencer. Capturing the modern in an effortless, astute way, his most recent project explores what it means to be male in the 21st Century, focusing in particular on one group of males that interests him most. To me or you, a ‘metrosexual’ guy who spends too much time in the bathroom plucking his eyebrows, to Ewen, ‘The Modern Dandy’. We caught up with the man himself to get to the bottom of the curious moniker and subject of his latest gallery show.
Hi Ewen, can you tell us a little bit about your show at KK?
Over the last decade My primary interest has been youth culture and adolescence. More recently I’ve focused on ideas around arrested development or the exstension of adolesence. We seem to want to become grown up sooner and remain younger longer. The latter applying to men in a more supprissing manner or maybe a less visited way. As we see less of this in mainstream culture. I began by making pictures of very classicaly heroic men cage fighters marathon swimmers that type of man. Basically the opposite to where I have ended up with these pictures.
What exactly is a ‘Modern Dandy’
I believe many creative processes can be biographical. I ended up searching out a more extreme version of how I may have been as a young adult. Lots of guys imeet who are say a decade younger than me are very interested in their appearance. There is nothing unusual with this. Although there seems to be an accepted level of self awareness that may have not applied previously. I grew up in Newcastle during the ’80s, I pranced around as a teenager. Being tough was important but looking good was everything. I went from mod to casual to poseur! We pampered ourselves and pursued women with little shame or idea or consequence. So nothing too unusual there then. Today a similar type of man takes an awful lot of care of themselves. A sunbed once a week is not enough – several sunbeds and a washbag filled with product is the norm.
For me the existence and goals are similar but 20 years since my days prowling Newcastle’s city centre the cultural differences are of course very different. Today we have the internet as apposed to style mags and the tube on a Friday night. Premiership footballers are the staple rolemodel for ambitious working class kids. The glitz and glamour are no longer to be ridiculed but embraced and lorded.
What can we expect to see hung at the show?
You can expect to see 12 – 15 large prints showing different characters I have been working with over the last 6 months. I spend time with the fellas going about their everyday business. It’s fairly revealing and honest but made with great compassion.
Is it important to have gallery shows for your work, or are you happy for people to see them through other means?
To show your work on a wall in this way at a gallery such as KK is a fine way to begin leaking a project like wag lad. Eric Kessels is a terrific advocate of photography and design he’s almost impulsive in his desicion making it seems very natural to show this work here. Of course I could have spent a lot of time courting photographic curators and book publishers but this work is in it’s infancy and Eric asked if I had anything going on and here it is. I once worked for fashion and style mags (I-D, The Face, Sleazenation) that reached out to a youth audience but all that seems to have been replaced by cracking websites like yours. KK is a good place to sit.
Exhibition runs 1 — 29 October 2009
Private View on Thursday 1 October 7pm – 9pm
42 Hoxton Square