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Vinca Petersen’s No System
Photography Vinca Petersen

Capturing ten years of Europe’s illegal raves

These photos embody life of the road in 90s Europe where nomadic ravers split their days between avoiding the police and finding the next party

“Unique, reassuring and fascinating.” That’s how photographer Vinca Petersen describes her decade spent travelling around Europe, setting up illegal music festivals, parties and raves in the 90s. A ‘discomfort’ towards the education system and difficulties at home when she was 17 led to her moving into a London squat, marking what she calls ‘the start of it’. While it might sound romantic and nomadic, a life of fun in lieu of responsibility, Petersen is quick to dispel any notions that it was always just ‘one big party’. “Of course we partied much more than most; that was our way of bonding with people and being creative, but it was not a constant party. For me and others trying to survive on the road and keep the sound systems going, daily life could be tough,” she explains. “The physical side of life is amplified by living on the road; getting water, fixing engines, cooking, are all more difficult when you have 'no fixed abode'. Life was a lot about practical tasks, and constantly playing cat and mouse with the authorities.”

A candid look at life on the road and these moving communities, Petersen says, “I was witnessing extraordinary events and living through situations that memory alone was incapable of recording in all the vivid detail. Photography became a way of storing images of the scenes which I could then use as aids to remembering.” Her book No System is now home to these memories. Published in 1999, she explains, “Back then, I did not realise the images would ever take on the cultural value they have today,” and if anything wishes for her work to give others a taste for such freedom. “Personally I hope they give people a trigger to imagine a different way of living, a type of freedom accessible to all, if not physically then through a philosophy of life.”

To see more of Petersen’s work, click here. No System is available from here