Few cultural scenes have been as well documented, or as fetishised, as the 80s art scene in London, when club kids like Leigh Bowery partied alongside artists like Duggie Fields, Gilbert & George and Derek Jarman. Among them was photographer David Gwinnutt, who captured these young creatives against the backdrop of Thatcherism, recession and unemployment.
"Using only his handheld camera and natural light, Gwinnett’s grainy black and white photographs feel unguarded and spontaneous," says curator Sabina Jaskott-Gill, "offering a glimpse into the private worlds of these rising stars who lived, worked and played together, a network of subversive collaborators. Gwinnutt’s photographs serve as a social document of a moment that had far-reaching effects on the cultural landscape."
Most photographers trained their lenses on the glamour of clubs like the Wag and Blitz. But Gwinnutt captured his subjects at home in their squats and bedsits, in moments of intimacy and vulnerability. These unseen images are now on display, for the first time, at the National Portrait Gallery. David Gwinnutt: Before We Were Men captures the moment that gay identity began to crystallise in Britain; the men in his photographs would go on to have as much of an impact on the way gay men saw themselves, as they did on the British music, film and art.