New photobook is documenting the vivid 90s European free party scene - Features - Mixmag

New photobook is documenting the vivid 90s European free party scene

Photographer Mattia Zoppellaro pays homage to the dancefloors, soundsystems and hairstyles that have come to embody rave culture

  • Megan Townsend
  • 1 October 2021

A new photobook by Italian photographer Mattia Zoppellaro is documenting the wild and wonderful world of the 90s European free party scene.

Dirty Dancing, published by UK/Hong Kong-based electronic label Klasse Wrecks and design studio We Make It, looks at the exhilarating illegal rave scene across cities such as London, Milan, Barcelona, Turin, Graz and Bologna.

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Zoppellaro shot the series between 1997 and 2005, whilst travelling across the continent with a convoy of battered old vans, massive soundsystems and a vast family network of ravers.

The photographer credits his love of dance music and rave with his "unique and intimate access to the lives of the free party collective and everyone and everything they have touched along the way."

Zoppellaro has gone on to specialise in reportage and portrait photography, for clients such as The Rolling Stone, Fendi, Vanity Fair, Jeep, Christian Louboutin and The Financial Times.

Summing up his feelings about the book, Zoppellaro said: "I’m not a writer, the only way to express my feelings about this project is with a snippet of dialogue from The Shanghai Gesture a 1941 movie by Jozef Von Sternberg, when Gene Tierney, describing a sleazy gambling house/brothel says: 'It smells so incredibly evil! I didn't think such a place existed except in my own imagination. It has a ghastly familiarity like a half-remembered dream. Anything could happen here, any moment.'”

To further pay tribute to rave's glory years, Dirty Dancing is wrapped in a white sleeve, to resemble a 12" vinyl record.

Dirty Dancing is out on November 5, you can pre-order here.

Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Digital Editor, follower her on Twitter

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