“The way you get out of the toxicity of the scene? You drill down to the core of why you love it. That regains your magic in it. Once you’ve reclaimed that, you just have to ask yourself, ‘What do I want to do with this?’”
Sarah Ginn is in a philosophical mood when we meet on Zoom one winter evening, late 2021. As we speak she’s neck deep in the edit, combing through thousands upon thousands of images to compile her forthcoming book Super Sharp Shooter, a book that compiles her work since the very beginning of her career specialising in underground bass music from 2006 to the present day.
Some of these images should be regarded as iconic. Shared across the scene’s many digital threads countless times, galvanising her vibrant, often experimental and colourful signature. Photos such as the famous Arcadia spider, Outlook’s fortress or a Red Bull Culture Clash. Or shots of legendary figures – young and old – lost inside the very moment of their performance, and ravers just as lost inside their own manoeuvres, living their veritable best lives in that one split second.
Other images she’s not looked at since she saved them from her SD card the day after the shoot, archived for good professional practice, but never really expecting to return to them. Surprised at their level of quality, they’ve consequently taken her aback and back in time.
“Years ago I would only give them [Fabric] 15 photos after a night,” laughs Sarah who was Fabric nightclub’s in-house photographer for well over a decade and worked closely with brands such as Ram Records, Deep Medi and Critical Music for many years. “I look back now and think I was a bit harsh on myself. I’d only give my absolute best from the beginning.”
Her deep and meaningful mindset isn’t just down to the passing of time, however. Looking back over her 17 year tenure-so-far as a music photographer – and all the many digital, musical and emotional archives that come with such a process – is always going to come with a poignant sense of reflection.
But for Ginn, this digs many levels deeper.
Packed with over 800 images, the book is built around Sarah’s essay: The Feedback Loop Theory dissects and considers the unique energy and emotional dialogue that happens on the dancefloor between the DJ and dancers, and how artistic expression echoes through these moments and people’s wider relationship with music.
A genuinely unique body of work, not only does Super Sharp Shooter capture almost 20 years of bass music and festival culture, it also takes time to discuss and consider where music lovers are at, and where underground electronic music is at, in the hyper-connected digital matrix of the 21st century.
Taking in the influence of art and how that’s transferred and echoed over time, and celebrating how much value artistic expression and pure creative intent truly has, Sarah’s book thoughtfully navigates you through your own relationship with music just as much as it guides you through her own work. Arranged in a spectrum style of colour themes, it captures her style and ability to catch split-second exchanges, encounters and expressions with clarity and a real vibe.
“The intention for the book is to inspire people to be creative,” explains Sarah who fell into club photography in 2006 when she quit her job as a designer and was invited to shoot the famous live act The Bays. Already a hobbyist photographer, she went armed with her trusty analogue Canon OM10, a camera her dad had once used to take family photos as she grew up. She continued using it for several years until she switched a digital camera in the late 2000s.
“Whether that’s to make music, to continue pursuing their DJ career, or document the culture or write about it. Whatever you want to do. That’s the only intention. The book is the sum of its parts – the music industry is all of these things and they’re all reflected on these pages.”
You don’t need to wait for the book to come out to read Sarah’s Feedback Loop Theory. It’s on her website and is well worth your time. Each chapter is coupled with a recommended piece of music, framed and contextualised with academic references and brought to life with her own personal observations and thoughts from her years of participating on the dancefloor… As a raver, a photographer and as a female in the male-dominated music industry.
Written during a hiatus from music photography in recent years, following a series of toxic, abusive, and grossly unprofessional situations, The Feedback Loop theory is the result of Sarah analysing her years in the industry and digging as deep as possible in order to find out why she continued to support and contribute to scene that seldom reflected the energy she invested in it. Despite her experience, talent, artistic authenticity and professionality, Sarah explains how over the course of over five years in the 2010s she experience high levels of gate-keeping that kept her out of music photography.
“This is due to the inherent nepotism and sexism,” says Sarah before flipping things to an inspiring positive.
“But if I had had it as easy as my male counterparts then I wouldn’t have started writing. I wouldn’t have done this book. All these situations I’ve been through have made me stronger and more resolved. I’m not alone, any female in this industry would be able to relate in some way. But where I’ve got to is much more inspiring, to me anyway, than what led me to be here. I made a positive print out of a negative space as such.”
Fundamentally, Sarah’s Feedback Loop Theory is the result of this journey. In this sense, Super Sharp Shooter is perhaps one of the most personal photography books published so far in bass culture. But rather than being an inward and biographical, Sarah energetically serves up thoughts, colours, techniques and eras and discussion points and fires them back at you.
It’s a literal reflection of her Feedback Loop Theory… Art influenced by art, with the hope and pure intention that it will continue influence and trigger more tremors of creativity. Through this process she’s given herself space and time to explore and question why she loves this music and culture so much.
“I had to drill down into the centre of the earth,” laughs Ginn who, at one point in her essay, reflects on dancing being one of the only times she was truly in-tune with her emotions. “I had to really question what it is about music and this culture that I really love and why I do. Through this I re-discovered how it put me in love with my true self and that essentially makes me really happy.”
For Sarah she puts her deep connection with music down to her upbringing. An army child, often moving around the world from base to base (she lived in four different countries by the age of 16), music was her only true consistency.
“It’s always been in my life, always there whenever I needed it,” she explains. “It’s funny as I wasn’t brought up in a culture of music. None of my family are into it. Or most of my close friends actually. I like that balance though. In more recent years I’ve valued that balance more and more as I’ve been able to step out of the industry when I’ve needed to.”
Now back from her hiatus, working closely once again with brands such as Rupture, Hospital Records and Arcadia, and set to release her book in May this year, Sarah is armed with a refreshed perspective and approach to the industry. No longer just in love with the music, but now also in love with her love of music, Sarah is forever in appreciation and awe of the creative exchanges and ways dance music, DJ culture and raving helps to channel and feed our creativity. Adding a whole other level to the Zinc-inspired title, her break from the industry and the time taken to create her book, the whole process of Super Sharp Shooter has given Sarah a revised sense of clarity and a renewed sense of authenticity, regardless of the ever-mutating challenges the industry serves.
“Over the years event photography has become gnarly and competitive,” says Sarah who became one of Fabric’s earliest in-house photographers back in 2006. Trusted with access and space at a time before social media even existed, and most venues only had a photographer on board if a magazine was doing a review, she cites the iconic London venue as both her school and her creative playground. A place where she shot for free for many years, honing her style and technique out of pure love for the art and culture. It means that many of the shots in Super Sharp Shooter have never been published before, adding another exciting and unique layer of realness to Sarah’s body of work.
“There are people who are doing it to be cool, or they love the status of it. For me, though, it’s never been about that. For me it’s a much more holistic experience. And for music to retain that magic that I’ve reclaimed, it always has to be.”
On that final philosophical note 1 More Thing leaves Sarah to her edit. Enjoy some of her own personal favourite photos throughout this article and pre-order Super Sharp Shooter here.