Nightlife Nostalgia: A Look Back at the Scene Before COVID-19

November 07, 2020

Nightlife Nostalgia: A Look Back at the Scene Before COVID-19

Photographer Adam Ross captures the intimate moments from the nights we never knew we’d miss so much.

The initial COVID-19 shutdown swiftly claimed the nightlife industry as one of it’s first casualties. Eight months later, not much has changed. Nightlife photographer and drag documentarian Adam Ross shared some of his favorite photos as we indulge in some well deserved pre-COVID nostalgia.

We caught up with Ross for a (distanced) chat about nightlife, community, and our way forward.

HUSH: What do you try to capture about nightlife in your photos?

Adam Ross: The moments that I always find important are little one-off, candid moments. That's where you capture somebody really in the moment. I'm always much more interested in people reacting in a way that's real, and not some staged picture.

I'd rather get those moments because that's where the honesty of it lies, especially with something like drag which is, you know, impersonation on impersonation on impersonation. It's the little in between moments, where you're like this is what makes a specific performer, unique, or different.

H: How can nightlife, and those small candid moments you’ve captured here, nurture and engender community?

AR: That was very much what drew me to it in the first place. It was this sense of everybody getting together exactly like that, and everybody kind of sharing these moments together in a way that, you know, prior to this year we didn't really have to think about. inevitably when you get a group of people in a space like that, everybody ends up on the same wavelength of excitement, and gets into the shows and their being there is just as much a part of that energy as the person performing.

H: What do you miss most about the pre-covid nightlife scene? The crowds? The energy?

AR: Definitely the sense of community, which is something that, when you get everybody together – and even if it's just a random night –everybody's kind of on the same page. And, for obvious reasons it's really hard to do that right now. Even the places that are open and making some attempt to add shows, or normal service – it still feels like they're reaching for something that's just not within realistic grasp right now.

H: Do you think the crowds are kind of integral to the ‘losing yourself’ of nightlife?

AR: It’s definitely part of it. There's a group mentality, and, you know, I get wanting to be there. I get missing it, and wanting to see it, and feel like things are normal, but it's very hard for me to shake the fact that it's just not like that.

I've noticed that there are groups of people who are still out every night, doing shows, trying to get parties together, and trying to do it in a way that's however responsible they can make it. Then, there are people who are kind of taking it as a moment to step back, and be like maybe this isn't what we need right now. Maybe let's stop trying to focus on recreating that, and let’s redefine it in a way that's safe.

H: That's the question of the year, I guess, for people who work in nightlife. What is the future of nightlife?

AR: I think the biggest mistake people can make right now is setting the end goal to be how it used to be, because I feel like we're just…That's not something that we can achieve.

So I think that, as the expectation, is just a mistake in and of itself. I think, really, the goal should be – you know, if digital drag is the way to do it right now, how can we do that in a way that is more accessible to people that is not reliant on things like Twitch, or, you know, a subscription based thing? How can people still be creative and still use drag as a platform?

H: But we’ll figure it out, right?

AR: We’ll figure it out. 

Adam Ross can be found on Instagram at @gaystrychef

This interview has been edited for clarity.