The photographer whose party pictures made it to the front page of the Daily Mail
Matthew Kelly's new book 'Fine Dining 2099' pays tribute to his hedonistic twenties.
“When I look at the book, I feel proud of the crazy shit we were doing at the age of 19.”
Matthew Kelly was born in London, but lived in Australia between the ages of seven and 19. “It was a rural town called Galston, where I spent most of my time doing normal small town things,” he says. “My grandad was a photographer -- most notably he photographed a Beatles tour, but apparently some groupies had stolen the negatives from his apartment -- he gave me my first camera around age 16.” Matthew found his ‘in’ as the ‘photographer guy’, and he remembers “going to all the parties with the cool kids and taking cheesy party pics.”
At 15, he travelled back to the UK alone to stay with his grandma, and it was during this trip that he met up with old primary school friends. “There was this one kid called Carlo, and we just clicked... he showed me London music and culture and took me raving at Cable and Fabric.” Having returned to Australia armed with Carlo’s iTunes library on a USB, the two of them reunited right away when Matthew later moved back to London permanently at 19. Carlo introduced him to his crew of friends -- a collective of people who refer to themselves as ‘Fine Dining’. “The name was originally a reference to good drugs,” he tells us. “And I totally immersed myself into this life for the next five years.”
His first photo zine, out this week, shares its name with this collective, and takes a deep dive into the many different parties the group shared. “The common thread with Fine Dining was music and the lifestyle surrounding it, but it was a special group, seemingly disparate; different backgrounds all meshed together perfectly. DJs, drug dealers, MCs, artists, bike-life’ers, taggers, hippies and skaters. We ran parties internationally -- festival stages, illegal raves, afterparties, Room 2s, and radio sets with our own brand of music, usually multi-genre sets of garage, grime and drum and bass.”
Becoming the group’s unofficial photographer, his pictures grew in infamy -- “One of our raves even made the front page of the Daily Mail, my first proper sale of a photograph!” -- and, like many informal event photographers before him (Seana Gavin, Vinca Petersen, Ewen Spencer), now act as an invaluable document of an era in London’s ever-evolving nightlife.
These days, working as an assistant to Hanna Moon, work has become a much bigger priority, and making this book has been part of a process of closing a chapter in his life. “There came a point where the partying became more self-indulgent and destructive; there’s no good vibes when it comes to addiction, or seeing people purposely going to the edge of overdose. We recently lost our close friend Bailey to a drug-related problem at the age of 26 and it was a blow for a lot of us.”
“As I was partying less, I began to look back on my archive,” he says. “I think one of my cues was trying to explain the magic we’d experience through our parties. Some people just don’t understand! The objective was to put on paper the proof of a unique bond, a glimmer in one's eye. The people I was surrounded by during this period were so present in life, something I always admired deeply. They rarely looked back, or forward, just lived in the moment. I wanted the book to immortalise them, to give something back showing how cool they really are from my perspective.”
FINE DINING 2099 is available to purchase here.
All images courtesy Matthew Kelly