What’s your favourite outfit to dance in? Photographer Anna-Rose McChesney wants to know
Over the pandemic, the Glasgow School of Art student took to the doorsteps of the city, asking her subjects to put on their dancing shoes and strike a pose.
- Olivia Hingley
- 5 September 2022
It’s safe to say that the pandemic was a pretty awful time for creatives, especially those who were in the midst of their practical education. A lack of access to studio spaces and the inability to be inspired by a full and diverse life left many without both material and drive. It was when Glasgow’s third lockdown was continuing to take a toll on the city that Anna-Rose McChesney decided to weave the lockdown – and its wider impact – into her upcoming university project. “I was missing my dancing shoes, live music and art events,” she tells us here at It’s Nice That. “But, I was not only seeking an opportunity to find the joy of performance and eccentricity we had all been missing, I also felt like I needed to record this particular time in our lives.”
After some planning, Anna-Rose set herself on photographing those who felt the same way as she did. Asking them to stand on their doorsteps (for a sense of unity and to also reflect the enclosure of lockdown) and put on their favourite gladrags, the series became a homage to nightlife and dancing. Originally, the brief set by Anna’s tutor was to take three portraits; at the project’s conclusion she had photographed 172 young people across Glasgow.
The city of Glasgow and its thriving subculture plays a vital role throughout the series. A place renowned for its vibrant nightlife and art, Anna-Rose tells us that it’s no surprise so many creatively minded people come to study there, many often staying after graduating. This creative freedom and eclecticism comes across in the subjects’ styles; flowing skirts, mesh tops, rave fluffies, waistcoats and an array of brilliant hats. The ensembles on show depict a melting pot of references from all eras and subcultures, resulting in a mix of truly unique outfits. “In the series you can see fashions that have evolved from Glasgow’s scene,” Anna-Rose says. "They're people from different places, genders and sexualities with a shared appreciation for the music and the art that can be found in the city.”
Anna-Rose’s love of photography solidified in high school, where the school’s dark room and a prolific art technician gave her the confidence to develop and print her own photos. She was particularly interested in literature, history and music and how these disciplines “can be combined to communicate with people”, she explains. This combination of interests later resulted in Anna-Rose producing her own books, as well as reportage of photography with interviews and written words. “I guess my love of photography stems from a never-ending curiosity in making sense of the world I live in,” Anna-Rose says. “In a time of such political turbulence and ‘post-truth’ politics, there are daily reminders of our changing world and the importance of our past and present which I carefully try to record.”
To get the series rolling – which is aptly namedWhat’s Your Favourite Outfit to Dance in? – Anna-Rose began by contacting a few friends and then, equipped with her camera and tripod, she would head to their doorsteps where she would play music, with the hopes of getting her subjects in a suitable mindset. Soon, momentum started to build and Anna-Rose began photographing friends of friends, to then complete strangers – “curating a community of people in mourning for a night out,” she says. "The whole process did cause quite a stir," Anna-Rose adds. “Neighbours were certainly amused, or sometimes unamused, but nevertheless we always managed to considerately capture a striking pose.”
Now, Anna-Rose is in the process of turning the series into a photo book, alongside her friend Tom Ive who has designed it. Soon, she will also be hosting a launch night in Glasgow where everyone who participated is invited to come along and, of course, have a dance in their outfits.
Anna-Rose McChesney: What’s your favourite outfit to dance in? (Copyright © Anna-Rose McChesney, 2021)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.