Photographer Matt Moran makes a case for why Ukraine has some of the best nightlife in Europe
For many of us, the first luminous hours of the morning after a rave will be forever among the happiest memories of life. The innocent sincerity of emerging into the world after leaving the darkness of the club has always been worthy of a picture, even despite the dirty shoes and messy clothes. London-based photographer Matt Moran captured such precious early hours in Kiev, the home of renowned bourgeoning rave scene.
Moran first got into photography at the age of 17, after he got a medium format camera passed on from a family friend who used to work as a police crime scene investigator. Since these early days, his main interest in photography has been a feeling of discovery. “I like going to new places and I get inspired when I visit somewhere for the first time, meet people for the first time, see something new or hear the story I haven’t hear before,” he explains. “My work’s mainly documentary and portraiture, and in every place, I’m always looking for people to take portraits of.”
“I was surprised how many were there on their own – they might have come with friends but were dancing just on their own inside... I can’t think of any places that matched that intensity” – Matt Moran
The drive for newness was what brought Moran to the Ukrainian capital Kiev, alongside his interest to architecture of Eastern Europe and its seemingly alien environment. Despite spending a lot of time in libraries and exploring historical monuments and edges of the city, he found his main subject in the youth scene surrounding the renowned party Cxema, which has been running in Kiev since 2014. Set up by Slava Lepsheev in the post-revolution nightlife void, Cxema is renowned for repurposing the city’s empty spaces – from disused factory buildings to a graffiti-covered skatepark on the riverbank — and the support of the local music scene. More than that, it has shaped the new generation’s approach to parties, perhaps more serious and dedicated than that of its Western peers.
“The party was at an old film studio, it was super loud, and the music quite,” the photographer remembers. “I literally stood at the side of this rave for 45 minutes looking at people, and I was surprised how many were there on their own – they might have come with friends but were dancing just on their own inside. I’ve been to parties in London but I can’t think of any places that matched that intensity.”
For his series, however, Moran has picked the post-rave morning rather than the darkness of the dancefloor. He came out of the club as soon as the sun started to rise and photographed the ravers as they were going home. The result is intimate and personal, but all the same time it reflects the unifying spirit of the scene.
“There seems to be a definite style among Kiev ravers. A lot of sportswear, sunglasses – people were wearing stuff to dance and sweat. But also there was a feeling of connection, of a scene. In London there is a lot more separate groups of people, like kids who are into grime or into electronic music, you’ve got a very different dynamics. In Kiev, Cxema seems to be the party to be at,” Moran says.
“I also got the impression that the organisers aren’t so worried about making money – they’re putting the nights on mainly because they care about it” – Matt Moran
Moran also had the opportunity to appreciate the unique circumstances which shaped Kiev’s rave scene, which make it so different to most places in Europe. “I’d say I had more fun there than at a lot of nights in London,” he says. “There is more emphasis on good sound, unusual venue, interesting acts which are not in the mainstream. The kids going there are getting a different experience each time, and it’s a great quality of nightlife. At the same time, there are no places like this in London, there are no abandoned film studios, you’re not allowed to turn the music volume up that loud, you’re not going to be able to go on till nine or ten in the morning. It felt like something which used to happen in London but probably not anymore. I also got the impression that the organisers aren’t so worried about making money – they’re putting the nights on mainly because they care about it.”
Overall, the rave scene truly channels the hopeful DIY spirit of the city, which defies a lot of existing preconceptions about Ukraine. “I thought the city was so interesting, it’s an amazing place to walk around, and there was a lot more creativity than I thought,” Moran admits. “There’s definitely a real sense of opportunity – I felt like these were a lot of possibilities to do things for yourself.”
Follow Moran here