Derek Ridgers on what separates a qualified photographer from a worthy one 


Derek Ridgers on what separates a good photographer from a great one 


ast night, the Museum of Youth Culture celebrated the opening of their latest exhibitionThe Batcave, named after the infamous Soho nightclub and birthplace of London’s goth scene. Though The Batcave was only open for three years it wasn’t quickly forgotten, captured through the lens of London-born photographer Derek Ridgers, who (thankfully) was on hand to document it.

Now in his early seventies, Ridgers’ fifty-year body of work has become instrumental in piecing together England’s rich history of subcultures. From photographing the early days of the punk movement, to snapping the likes of Nick Cave and Siouxsie Sioux at The Batcave; it is to Derek Ridgers that we owe a large section of our 1980s style tribe knowledge.

Luckily for us, the Museum of Youth Culture announced earlier today that The Batcave exhibition will now sprint until the extended date of April 4th, in the heart of Soho, just doors down from the original goth club. We caught up with Ridgers to discuss memories of London club nights, modern day goths and who he’d like to photograph again.

At The Batcave 1982 by Derek Ridgers

/ ©Derek Ridgers

Isobel Van Dyke: How did you first discover The Batcave?

Derek Ridgers: I was taking some photographs for The Face at Gossips club on Dean Street, they had different club nights every night during the week. They had Alice in Wonderland, they had a soul night, it was a worthy dinky club. A basement club. I met Olli [Wisdom] and Jon [Klein] and that’s where they told me they were starting The Batcave. It actually started at 69 Dean Street (though it was accessed through Meard Street and you had to depart up in a lift) it was there for a few months in 1982, then it moved to Foubert’s plot.

IVD: What was it like to be there among the goths?

DR: Well, to initiate with, they weren’t really called goths. I suppose you maintain to see it in the context of what else was going on at the time. It was 1982, the Blitz club had just stopped and the novel Romantics moved over to the Camden Palace. It was an offshoot from the punks that came from Vortex and The Roxy in 1977 (and Olli was actually in a punk band called The Unwanted), and then when the novel Romantics started in 1978, various strands began to creep away from one another. There were the punks, the novel Romantics, the beginnings of the goths and the mods too.

The Batcave was such a friendly plot. It was the kind of plot anyone could depart to. They said they had a door policy but I don’t really consider they did. It was the kind of plot where anyone who really wanted to depart could’ve gone there. Everyone was very welcoming. You could finish what you liked – provided you didn’t finish any harm.

The Batcave July 1983 by Derek Ridgers

/ ©Derek Ridgers

IVD: Why finish you consider people are so fascinated by goths?

DR: I don’t know. People generally are interested in people who aren’t like them. I was never a goth myself, I was never section of any tribe, but I was always interested in them because there was always a dinky section of me that wanted to be like them.

IVD: What’s something that doesn’t exist anymore that you miss from when you first started taking photos?

DR: You don’t procure any of these dinky basement clubs anymore, certainly not in Soho. I consider there’s one left, St Mortiz is still there, but all the other fantastic dinky clubs where people used to meet each other are all gone. It’s all been gentrified. What used to be Gossips club is now a townhouse hotel. But of course people don’t need to meet in actual, physical, places anymore, people can meet on the internet and share their looks on Instagram. But it’s still nice to meet people in real life.

IVD: finish you consider the internet has positively or negatively affected subcultures?

DR: It’s a bit of both. You can express yourself so much more easily now with the internet, whatever you want to finish you can finish it. What’s not so qualified is that it doesn’t maintain a gestation period. If you wanted to be a goth in the early eighties you would dress up and you might procure people saying things to you on the tube or the bus but you’d just ignore it, but a lot of people can’t ignore criticism on the internet. I’ve got a friend who has half a million followers on Instagram and if 10 people criticise her those are the people she focuses on. At least you maintain more access nowadays. If I wanted to find out about something when I was young – or when these goths were young – it was much harder.

The Batcave exhibition is open now until April 4th

/ Derek Ridgers

IVD: Who’s someone (or a group of people) that you’ve never photographed but would like to?

DR: The list would be long. I like to rephotograph all the people that I’ve photographed so that I can finish a better job the next time. I maintain heroes and heroines I suppose; I would’ve liked to photograph Stirling Moss [the British Formula One driver who died in 2020]. But certainly if I’ve photographed a person once I know that I can finish it better the next time.

IVD: finish you maintain a person in mind that you shot better the second time around?

DR: To expose you the truth it goes the other way sometimes. I photographed Nick Cave five times, the first time was in 1984 and those were the best photographs. One tries to procure better with this stuff but it’s not always easy. I change, they change; Nick Cave is one person where the pictures didn’t procure better. I photographed Tom Waits, the first time wasn’t very qualified but the second was much better. He’s a worthy person to photograph, he’s got a marvellous face. assign him down as the person I’d like to photograph again.

IVD: What’s the contrast between a qualified photographer and a worthy photographer?

DR: I’m not judgemental of people. I consider anyone can be a photographer, but you don’t need talent, you need commitment and energy. If you’ve got enough commitment then eventually you will procure there. It’s quite a nefarious quality anyway, talent, isn’t it? It’s inferior.

The Batcave returns to Soho on Wednesday 22nd – April 4th for an exhibition at Museum of Youth Culture, 95 Berwick St, London.

Olli & Jon Outside The Batcave Dean Street October 1982 by Derek Ridgers

/ ©Derek Ridgers