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Capturing the Least Glamorous Moments of British Nightlife

A journey into the surreal carnival that is nighttime in Manchester and Newcastle.

First, pour yourself a stiff drink: With their copious bodily fluids and raunchy PDA, these photos are best experienced through a protective haze of alcohol.

Now, prepare to enjoy some of the most intense nocturnal carnage that the U.K. has on tap. "Britain After Dark" is a series of street photos taken by Stewart Honeyman, a 20-year-old university student in Manchester. Inspired by his upbringing in heavy-drinking North East England, Honeyman has been venturing out in Newcastle and Manchester to document the boozy splendor of the cities' pub crowd. The result is a surreal peek into Britain's partying culture.

Honeyman recently took the time to explain a bit about his adventures, which he embarks upon mostly on weekend nights. "The few from Newcastle are from the last Friday before Christmas," he says, "which is known as Black (Eye) Friday." Here's what he had to say:

What inspired you to start this project?

The project started when I got the brief of 'Documentary Photography' for a University project. I started to think about the concept of documentary and the idea of capturing a moment in "reality." This made me think of the often-staged reality that is an event photograph. The typical "nightlife" photograph is a glamorised, staged affair, with the editing backing this up. You're paid to make everyone look beautiful. This is a contrasting idea to how people look for much of the night, especially toward the end of the night. Yet through an alcohol-fueled amnesia often this is forgotten.

Having grown up in the party city of Newcastle, the less-glamorous side is a common sight, and after moving to another party city of Manchester this didn't change. So I thought it would be interesting to go out and capture the all-too-common, unglamorous side of the party.

What parts of Manchester are you shooting in?

I've shot in Manchester and Newcastle and am planning on shooting some of the other popular party cities that England has to offer. Rather than use this to contrast the cities, it will be more to show that this is a common occurrence, and from the feedback that I've been getting this isn't just a British phenomenon.

Do you interact with the people you shoot, or is it more of a voyeuristic thing? Has anyone ever asked what you're doing?

On the whole I take the "voyeuristic" approach: trying to capture candid shots as the moment unfolds, as close to the reality as possible. Yet on occasion I have interacted with people, with mixed results. Some have been more than happy to talk, explain about their nights – their wounds. Others react aggressively. Keeps me on my toes. 

Were you ever one of these party people? 

I was and still am to a degree. My first experience at going out resulted in me having to be taken home. And in my younger, less-experienced days, this happened a few times. Still, being 20 and a student, going out is almost part of the life. However, I have learned my limits and avoid getting myself into such states. 

Photos courtesy of Stewart Honeyman. H/t to Sweet Station

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.