Party Hard - Bittersweet Goodbyes with the Fuji 18MM

Shot with the Fujifilm X-E2, 18mm f/2 and the EF-X20 Flash.

Let me tell you a story...

There was a place in Cardiff loved by many. It housed exhibitions, works of photography, paintings, sculpture and performance by local artists well-known and obscure, dedicated and dabbling. For a year and a half it was that rare thing for Cardiff - a lively and ever-inventive haven for the arts smack-bang in the centre of the city, embracing the public and lending support to charity and community projects. For that beautiful, brief time it was a giddy and wild ride. The passion that went into the place was thrilling to witness, the grief it came to with the numerous burglaries heartbreaking. And after an all-too-short eighteen months the council announced it would be not renewing the licence, and that the premises would have to be vacated to make way for a Boots chemist, the building itself to be later levelled to make way for the new transport hub development.

Like the proverbial Roman Candle blazing bright and abruptly fading, The Abacus met a sad fate common to many music and arts venues in Cardiff. But it was not destined to fade quietly into that good night. The message went out: Artists Assemble! The doors were flung open to the public for a finale that had the raucous, incredible energy of the greatest of Irish wakes...

One wild party with plenty of nibbles and practically free beer at £1.50 a pint. Despite that I only had a couple of beers in me but I was completely wired with the energy of the crowd, moving to the thrashing, flailing anarchic music of the band - a band which swelled its ranks with a gaggle of new members by the hour, until half the room was filled with an amorphous shifting mass of drummers, trumpet players, guitarists and howling mad-men. Somehow the music came out good, Lord knows how. Yes, it was elbows and knees of the front-line, every single one of us was twisted by design. Myself especially; wriggling and clambering as I was around people onto chairs and tables, standing precariously swaying on bar-tops and windowsills, pushed this way and that by the pressure of the swaying crowd, shooting and popping the flash from every angle I could twist myself into conceiving.

I was firing blind. My little Oxo-Cube sized Fuji flash on a cord. And that night I felt I couldn't miss. They were mourning, they were celebrating, they were trying to do the Abacus proud. Most were unfamiliar faces, but that night I felt such harmony in the room. We were all united. And we had the illicit joy of staying up past our bedtime, heedless of the calls to clear the building by the authorities assembling outside. We bluffed. We hid until they went away. We came out to party again. It was the stuff of legend. 

You cannot be a neutral observer. You need to be swept up in the madness. Drink, dance and shoot by the sway of the beat. And it's with these gigs that you've got to travel light and compact. I brought with me that poor maligned little Fuji lens, the 18mm f/2. You can see so many of them drifting around on Ebay, spurned by those who pixel-peep too closely, who fall for the siren-lures of the faster 16mm f/1.4 and the wider and sharper 14mm. But for parties, for that giddy chaos of flash-photography on a night out, there's no better companion than Fuji's 18mm. It has the best colour rendition, the best three-dimensional pop and stopped down with the flash freezing the action it's sharp as a tack. With Classic Chrome enabled, it's one cool, colourful, punchy beauty.

There. That's your mandatory little public service photography bulletin. If you photograph parties, get the 18mm. You don't need any other lens when you're working flash.

Anyway. Back to what's important.  Dance away the heartache. Dance away the pain. Dance to Andrew WK. PARTY HARD!