Much of Newcastle-born Ewen Spencer’s photography is connected to youth culture, identity, subcultures, multiculturalism and music. His latest project Three’s A Crowd has seen him work alongside US rock outfit The White Stripes, chronicling their rise from 2001 – 2005. i-D Online caught up with Ewen to talk about the project.
Can you briefly describe the concept behind the project? Back when they were first coming to the UK, I tried to meet up with them to take some pictures. I found Jack White really interesting. It was at a time when guitar music was awash with Oasis spin-offs. There was just something a bit more rock ‘n’ roll about The White Stripes. Maybe they took to me because it was the sort of music I was into. I had worked with the Grime scene and told The White Stripes I thought what they were doing was equally as important and wanted to capture it [Spencer completed a series of images of teenagers involved in London’s Grime scene; the project has been published in a book and included in a touring exhibition entitled Open Mic].
Where were you photographing the band? All over the world! When they came to the UK they would always request for me to be their photographer even when it was for magazines I didn’t work for. They wanted to keep things tight. They wanted someone they could trust and I was lucky enough to win their trust. Then I got asked to photograph them in Sydney. And it went from there. I used to meet up with them when they were in the UK and they asked me to do their press photography. Off the back of that I started getting a few pictures for myself; I became part of the team.
Do you feel your photos capture their low-fi, do-it-yourself approach to music? Have you captured the essence of what they represent within your images? Definitely. I think what you’ll see across the pictures is a sort of progression from them being that low-fi, DIY, dirty sort of bluesy outfit, to something that’s a bit more sort of, stadium. As their popularity grew, they became a more popular rock ‘n’ roll sort of outfit, and they started selling out stadiums with thousands and thousands of people, and I ended up on tour in Brazil with them! There are some really cool images from around that period. I also did pictures with them at Reading. They were fifth or sixth on the bill and blew the place away! It was just great watching that happen. Whenever you were around them you could just feel the rest of the music world sitting up and taking note. They had this integrity about them that really resonated. It was brilliant. As soon as they would step out on stage you’d see the crowd go bananas.
Three’s A Crowd is out now.