Light Clubs
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Light Clubs

On any given night, a few thousand photos are snapped inside one of Toronto’s clubs. Packs of friends bring their own digital cameras. Professional or semi-professional photographers move from venue to venue, party to party. And other clubs employ their own staff photographers to shoot the action and make their place and its patrons look beautiful. But that massive amount of documentation is also inherently limited: the clubs are rarely captured dormant or off-guard, never shown absent of people or activity. So for In Praise of Shadows, Ryerson photography student Eugen Sakhnenko fought and obtained permission from three different clubs in different areas of the city—Embassy Night Club (117 Peter Street), Loki Lounge (577 King Street West), and Baby Huey (70 Ossington Avenue)—and shot them vacant of almost everything save for light to, as he told Torontoist, “[shine] the light into the shadows, both physically and metaphorically, to show what these spaces really are.”
In Praise of Shadows explores, Sakhnenko says, “how artificial atmospheres, music, light effects, crowds, affect our perception of space….Many of the photos feature ridiculous objects that are very unnaturally juxtaposed with their surroundings, [and] most of these environments are beat up and not very pretty at all when looked at in the full light, during the day, when they are empty and the artificial atmosphere is not present.” But “when experienced at night, the way most people see them,” says Sakhnenko, “they appear beautiful, at times even surreal.” He’s right: the photos are eerie and vacant, as if a front has come down and exposed the venues for what they really are.
The project itself took three months, from September to November, though the bulk of that time, says Sakhnenko, was spent “calling and trying to get access to various places to shoot.” “Permission,” he said, “was really difficult to get. In my work I aim to explore places that interest me, which happen to be environments with restricted access, either at certain times or all the time.” Sakhnenko wanted to shoot at CiRCA—”just the size and all the objects in it would have been great”—but couldn’t get approval. “Often times,” Sakhnenko says, “I would have the support of someone in the club and a link in, but the manager or owner wouldn’t approve it or just wouldn’t reply.”
And while he has been introduced to many people who “are either in the industry or really love the culture, [for whom] this is life everyday,” Sakhnenko maintains he’s “not particularly a club person.” His fascination with them isn’t over, though—he’s hoping to add to In Praise Of Shadows soon, provided the clubs are willing to let their guard down and a bit of light in.
Sakhnenko’s photos are above.

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