Post-punk London, wrestling and strippers: See the shots of photographer Dick Scott-Stewart

By Culture24 Reporter | 27 May 2016

Wrestlers, strippers and cross-dressers feature among Dick Scott-Stewart's works - as a new Museum of London display demonstrates

Vicky Scott's Fantasy Photography (1982)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
Dick Scott-Stewart was a freelance photographer and an admirer of the great European and American black and white photographers, using high contrast and a vivid use of light and dark to distinctively portray those with “a withdrawal from and opposition to the realities of the present”, who he saw “escaping...into their music, their dress style, their meeting places” during the late 1970s and post-punk era in London.

Born in Cheltenham and educated in his art at the London College of Printing, Scott-Stewart remains relatively unknown – although the Museum of London’s new exhibition, Stomping Grounds, aims to correct that by beaming them into widescreen vision via a projector.

Scott-Stewart published a book, Fairground Snaps, in 1974, and the museum is featuring 117 photographs from his finest personal projects, as well as ephemera and a wrestling series, drawn together 14 years after his death.

A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
Inside the Blitz Club (1981)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
Anna Sparham, the museum’s Curator of Photographs, describes Scott-Stewart as an “accomplished” photographer with a mastery for image-making. “He held great respect for his subjects, recognising and identifying with people on the periphery," she says.

“Like many people of his generation he had enjoyed watching the wrestling on Saturday afternoon television. The entertaining pantomime that the sport offered appealed to Scott-Stewart’s humour and photographer's eye.

“He and his friends would regularly go and enjoy the show at Battersea. He had intended to create a book of his project on the wrestling at Battersea Town Hall.”

A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
Jive Dancing, Empire Ballroom (1983)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
The museum has worked with the Dick Scott-Stewart Archive, which has donated the photos, on the display. His wife, Mog, calls the exhibition “marvellous”, and says her late husband’s work is “part of the bigger 18th and 19th century photographic project of humanising London and the people who live here.” His sitters, who are often marginalised figures, often appear to enjoy the portraits.

“This cross-dresser isn’t presented in a sensationalised or over-dramatic manner,” says Sparham, of Cross-Dresser, created in 1981. “The relaxed pose and the backstage context implies ease with the photographer, reflecting Scott-Stewart’s personable and sociable nature.

“Sometimes his photographs are more surreptitiously shot. His images of strippers document both the environment in which they are performing and the vulnerability of the situation.

A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
Wrestler at Battersea Town Hall (1981)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
“This is accentuated through Scott-Stewart’s play with voyeurism and multiple viewers – the photographer photographing a man, photographing a stripper, no doubt surrounded by an attentive crowd.

“His photographs show that his subjects are often conscious of his presence. An engagement with people often really comes through, as does his empathy for the subjects.

“Scott-Stewart related most strongly to those he saw as facing certain struggles in life, who lived on the periphery. His images of youth subculture reflect how individuals congregate, survive in their groups and strive to move against the tide of the mainstream.

A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
Punks on the Kings Road (1981)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
“These images offer a fascinating glimpse into different social groups. His images collectively present a real sense of identity and belonging.”

Stomping Grounds is part of a run of displays at the museum exploring London’s subcultures, including Tattoo London and parts of the Punk.London programme.


What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
Trans women, Pimlico (1981)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
The Blitz Club, Covent Garden (1980)© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
A black and white photo of two young people posing in post-punk or 1970s London
Dick Scott-Stewart© Dick Scott-Stewart Archive / Museum of London
Three places to see photography exhibitions in

, Edinburgh
The self-portrait occupies a core place in the history of European art. Ever since the Renaissance, and in some cases even earlier, artists have self-consciously created images of themselves. The current exhibition, Facing the World, presents an exciting selection of portraits, in various media spanning six centuries, from Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei’s Instagram posts. Until October 16 2016.


In the Frame features the venue's newest acquisition - an early self-portrait by Plympton-born 18th century artist, Sir Joshua Reynolds, set among other paintings of artists including self-portraits by James Northcote and Edward Opie. Plymouth's maritime greats turn up, too - from Hawkins and Raleigh to 18th century Admirals and George Gibbon, the Lieutenant Governor of Plymouth in the early 1700s, painted by Thomas Hudson.

, Merthyr Tydfil
The current exhibition shows photographs taken over the last 40 years by Walter Waygood, a documentary photographer who captures the changing lifestyles of people in Merthyr Tydfil. Until June 3 2016.
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