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Chi Chi Menendez's Dark is the Morning

Having snapped over 200,000 party shots over the last four years, the Paris-born photographer exhibits her selection of hedonistic images

Over the past four years, Chi Chi Menendez has documented the late night party scene as she travlled from city to city, party to party. Menendez has collated them into ‘Dark is the Morning’, an exhibition which delves into the lives of party-goers and captures unexpected, organic moments of the night. The selection was made from a staggering 200,000 photographs taken by Chi Chi and aim to represent the raw and sometimes debauched nature of unassuming individuals. Dazed stepped into the night to see what Chi Chi had to tell us about her exhibition…

Dazed Digital: What made you decide to become a photographer? Are there any photographers that you admire or inspire you?
Chi Chi Menendez
: I didn’t make a conscious decision to become a photographer, I was a sculpture major studying fine arts in Sydney and I left Australia - I was bored. I wanted to travel so I ended up in Paris working with Andre and Lionel designing events and parties- it was during this time that I documented the Paris underground and international party scene. I ended up doing a book for Absolut of the Cannes film festival and covering events for vogue. It all evolved organically.

I am a big fan of classic reportage photography and this is the approach I have taken – even though they are night photos I try to think of it as a war, observe and capture, don’t intervene don’t manipulate don’t stage. Cartier Bresson for me is the ultimate master of this style. But one of the biggest influences for me is mentor and friend Alberto Garcia-Alix one of the most important contemporary photographers in Spain who documented La Movida in post Franco Madrid- in the 80’s. Stylistically, we are worlds apart but I feel that parallels can be drawn in our desire to draw on our immediate surroundings and friends. I also love Larry Clark, his work is very confronting and Nan Golding’s early work. Her approach was quite naïve and she had no idea about film or light she had no technical background.

DD: How do you decide whom to photograph? Is there anything in particular you look for in a subject?
Chi Chi Menendez: I look for Beauty in an existing composition, or a strangeness in a moment of truth. Who the person is, is irrelevant, it’s more about telling a small story or what that image says.

DD: What attracts you to shooting nightlife pictures?
Chi Chi Menendez: It’s been my life for the past faive years - it’s what I saw daily. The extremes and decadence of people’s behaviour at night fascinates me.

DD: Are there any personalities you have documented that are you favorites?
Chi Chi Menendez: I have friends that have become muses that I have photographed over and over again, sometimes because I find them beautiful or interesting or because they are the wildest people at the party doing the craziest things.

DD: You have shot individuals such as Olivier Zahm, Beth Ditto and Kate Moss – do you have anyone that you haven’t shot but that you would like to shoot in the future?
Chi Chi Menendez: I made a deliberate decision not to include celebrities in this series of work - the mere fact that somebody is famous often over-rides everything else you are trying to say or show and to be honest I don’t find celebrity photos that interesting, you can find them on almost any blog. I think the photo should communicate to the viewer regardless of whether the viewer knows the subject or not. I’d like to shoot women in the Middle East next – a reportage of fashion beneath the Burka is something I’d like to explore.

DD: What is next for you?
Chi Chi Menendez: I'm working on my own creative company THEHIVE.FR.  It is centered around the idea of creative concepts, consulting and experiential based events. I will be focusing on this in the New Year but the photography is something that will continue to be a.

Dark is the Morning, Christopher Miro Gallery, 71 East Fagler Street, Miami, until January 31, 2011