Exhibition: All Night New York

Ruvan Wijesooriya's All Night New York
Daniel Thomas

Photographer Ruvan Wijesooriya, best known for snapping rock's biggest stars, is exhibiting photos from his new book ALL NIGHT NEW YORK at Liverpool Street's Great Eastern Hotel. As a concept goes the idea behind these photos is quite simple: Ruvan has trawled, camera in hand, through the hippest underground bars, clubs and parties of nocturnal New York, in an attempt to capture the essence of the city and its inhabitants. A simple task one might think, but not one that can be pulled off so easily, with the pitfalls of cliché waiting round every corner. But Ruvan avoids these with ease, and seems effortlessly integrated with his partying subjects.

The majority of the photos here capture couples in romantic clinches, wholly unaware they are being photographed, submerged in the innocence of their moment while the raw energy of the city's night life pumps around them. As Ruvan explains: "I believed people went out for three main reasons: to meet friends, fall in love and find the best party. There is urgency in these things, and more importantly a hope therein".

Ruvan's approach captures that space between adolescence and full blown adulthood, with an idealist's take on what he accepts is realistically a jaded subject: "I kept the photographs quite real, but also quite positive in the edit, given a subject matter more crass, dark and selfish than I have depicted".

A photographer of celebrities, there is something of the voyeur trying to escape paparazzo emptiness in Ruvan; a man who has seen too much, trying to see less. Ruvan felt his commercial eye was inhibiting him and sought revellers who weren't seeking self-aggrandisement. Many remain unaware they have been snapped, adding to the peeping Tom quality of these shots.

The result is unforced and works on a number of levels, giving an authentic snapshot on the one hand of New York City's nightlife, and on the other, of romance and youth trying to survive within this high octane environment.

While the couples dominate the Great Eastern Hotel's foyer, in the hotel's plush members club we see a more indiscriminate side to the New York party scene where decadence prevails. Punk girls smoking pot pipes, Hip-Hoppers posing, trend-setters and everymen dancing and drinking - all are guests at the party.

Alcohol plays its role, with bottles and glasses strewn across dance floors and tables, and subjects grasping at cocktails as naturally as they grasp their partners. The focus on booze, juxtaposed with meaningful embraces and tete a tctcs, creates an anything-can-happen atmosphere that invites you to join in.

There is timelessness to these black and white images rarely felt when looking at photos of your own generation. It helps that most of the party-goers are clad in rctro gear, but overall there is so little self consciousness in the subjects that you feel moments have been perfectly time-capsuled, and there is no need to wait ten years to sentimentalise them as part of a bygone age. Ultimately Ruvan's skill lies in his ability to capture the vitality of young adults having their last dance before the onset of adulthood.

All Night New York is on show at the Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street, London until July 17