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1992-1994. Brighton Terrace, Brixton, London. One hundred yards or so up on the left, turn left again then ahead, through the concertina lift doors and then down.  

There was something beautifully transcendent about the idea of descending in order to be elevated that drew parallels with the idea of a baptism from the culture in which I was raised. The rest of the week this subterranean club was something else that didn’t seem to matter, but Sunday evenings religiously belonged to a musical ascension. That was the Aquarium at The Vox.  

Like a well-kept secret in contrast to the more familiar venue such as the Electric Ballroom, Dingwalls, and The Jazz Café, in Camden, north London which had their own legendary status and documentation in the jazz funk movement. The Vox was understated, under represented and in south London, defined by its particular connoisseurs; a generation of a culturally eclectic mix driven by the love for rare groove, jazz and equal predilection to dance with the vivacity, class, style and originality that echoed in the diversity and quality of music. 

Documenting this space and what it represented held a significant resonance, not just because of the value of recorded engagement but the context. When and where it sat, along whom it ignited in a musically fragmented time. In its form, on another level is the idea that it was a panacea, to the socio-political, economic and cultural climate that defined those on the margins in the early 90s. This brief respite laid arms open and we were comforted! 

In this experience there was spectacle. Never the voyeurs, we contributed to the energy; a palpability gifted by the love the emancipation of the music offered. We listened, we danced, we socialized and I photographed all with an intoxicating fervour. After around eight months, as a regular and with a little negotiation, persistence and process the management more or less gave extended access. Regularly exhibiting the prints in the club over that time precipitated in a dialog that reflected a collaborative consciousness. We became self-aware! 

It’s easy to look back nostalgically, but to recognise it when you are in it and to take action, requires a different kind of understanding.  

These photographs are a testimony to a time, passion and consciousness of the club goers and DJ’s who were unapologetically naked in echoing some of the fundamental and universal truths to which we are all in some way bound.


Franklyn Rodgers

Franklyn Rodgers is an award-winning photographer. He was described by the late Professor Stuart Hall as part of a generation of artists who redefined the idea of Black British representation at a critical moment in the struggle for cultural identity. Rodgers’ work was recently shown in Somerset House’s landmark exhibition, ‘Get Up, Stand Up Now’ (2019), as well as Autograph ABP for the solo exhibition, ‘Franklyn Rodgers: A Portrait of Loretta’ (2018). His work is held in the permanent collections of Autograph ABP, the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and the Wellcome Collection.

© Franklyn Rodgers