In Defiance of Any Sense of Normalcy – Dan Briston (University of South Wales, MA)

In Defiance Of Any Sense of Normalcy

Dan Briston (University of South Wales, MA)


In Defiance of Any Sense of Normalcy  is a long-term photographic and ethnographic project that focuses on the Northern Soul scene; an underground music subculture born in the industrial North of England in the 1970s, where dancing to forgotten records of 60s American Soul artists became a way of life for young people, which still thrives today.

The Northern Soul movement has spread to all corners of the country, some events have even sprouted in the Mediterranean, the Czech Republic and Japan, though this work has taken me to North and South Wales, the East of England, the Midlands, Lincolnshire and Gloucestershire, with many more events yet to be attended.

With this work, I am trying to unpick what it means to be a part of a subculture that has stayed true to its roots and strongly sustained itself to be the longest standing subculture, through nearly 50 years of political and social evolution. One thing always remains the same; this music makes you want to dance. You hear it, you dance to it, you want to own it. It’s infectious and all-consuming and that’s why people love it. On top of this, it’s fresh and interesting even now, as people are always searching for and finding new (old) underplayed or forgotten 60s soul records.

Furthermore, a distinctive style seems to have prevailed over many years for the Northern Soul following. A cross between ergonomics and identity which I have been looking at with full-body portraits made at various events.

The project began in 2015 and was made into its first book/zine publication in May 2016, coinciding with an exhibition at the #RelayPhoto2016 Graduate Show of USW Documentary Photography in Cardiff. I intend on continuing this vast and interesting expedition and making a number of publications from my findings in the future. I have also made some short video pieces, one of which is available on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Jrom0aKqs


In Defiance of Any Sense Of Normalcy- A Portrait of 21st Century Northern Soul