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‘In Concert’: capturing a decade of lost nights in Liverpool with photographer John Johnson

Liverpool born and bred, photographer John Johnson has found himself caught up in the throng of Concert Square, the beating heart of the city’s nightlife, for over ten years. Capturing countless characters and chronicling their nighttime escapades, John’s collection of street photography ‘In Concert: John Johnson’ has now been curated into a limited-edition book and street-side exhibition, a mere stone’s throw from the square itself. 

On the edge of Liverpool’s Georgian Quarter, once an affluent neighbourhood of grand townhouses and gardens inhabited by the city’s prosperous Victorian merchants and traders, lies Concert Square – now a hedonistic playground of bars, djs, live music, karaoke, students, football fans, stags and hens… everything can be found here, and anything goes. The drinking, the dancing, and the dressing up. Some make it a weekly affair, some avoid it completely, some simply pass through on their way home; running a gauntlet of debauched revellers passing from bar to club to chippy and back again.  

There to capture scenes from this Scouse ‘bacchanalia’ is John Johnson, who has been photographing countless lost nights in Concert Square and its surrounding streets for over a decade. 



Born in North Liverpool in 1974, John’s work is steeped in the culture of the city and northwest England, touring with and photographing bands such as Echo & the Bunnymen, The Stone Roses and The Real People. Extending beyond the stages to the streets, John also immortalises the everyday life of the city, from the mundane to the ordinary, night and day, and is renowned for his unique vision on the urban environment, capturing angles and views we may not usually notice, or take for granted. 

This year, to celebrate ten years of photographing the madness and mayhem of Liverpool’s nightlife, John has curated his favourite images in a limited-edition book and partnered with JACK ARTS to bring the photographs back to the streets in which they were made; taking over our site on nearby Slater Street.  

On the eve of his first ever outdoor exhibition, we caught up with John to find out more about his work, his influences, and what drives him to keep picking up the camera…

Could you tell us a bit about you and your background, how did you get into photography?
I’m a Liverpool-based photographer, primarily known for my music photography work having spent almost two decades documenting the live scene in the north west of England and beyond. 

I’ve always had a passion for photography, but it wasn’t until I came back to the UK at 30 having spent my twenties traveling the world and getting into mischief that I decided to immerse myself fully into a world of photography.  

Like a lot of lads from Liverpool I played a bit of guitar and wrote songs a little, but I knew I was nowhere near the standard required to make a career out of it. So, I had to devise another way of making it onto all those stages I’d dreamt about performing on as a teenager. 

Music has obviously been a huge part of your work, who have been your favourite bands or artists to photograph and why?
I’m a music obsessive and it’s still my oxygen. I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked with so many artists at varying levels of their careers over the years so it’s always tough to pick out favourites. However, the five years I spent documenting The Stone Roses during their comeback shows from 2012–2017 still remain a huge highlight. From Warrington to Wembley via Amsterdam and Heaton Park, being just inches away from John Squire, Reni and Mani every night and watching these masters of their craft at work made for a truly memorable few years.  

I’ve also been fortunate enough to contribute to album covers by some of my favourite artists such as Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band and The Real People and although maybe not household names to most, just knowing that my photographs accompany the work of some of my musical heroes fills me with a huge sense of pride.

You are also known for documenting the streets and the people of Liverpool, almost on a daily basis. What does the city mean to you and your work? 
I think the time I spent away from the city, almost a decade, meant that when I did decide to head back, I had a new-found love for the place. I feel extremely fortunate to be from Liverpool and I genuinely think that there’s nowhere else quite like it on earth.  

Forever punching above our weight, be it in music, sport, comedy, art or architecture. A truly wondrous place. 

But more than anything it’s the people. With an unrivalled sense of humour and a determination to get things done that is second to none that I love most about documenting this city. We also know how to have a really good time! 

What are some of your favourite places in the city to photograph and why?
There are so many that it’s difficult to choose any particular favourites… Whether it’s the lads heading the match, the girls at Bongo’s or the absolute madness of Concert Square and Mathew Street of a weekend. People really know how to enjoy themselves in this city and to be able capture a little bit of that is a huge honour and a wonderful way to spend my days.

Tell us about the importance of Concert Square, how did you start documenting it and what has kept you coming back for over 10 years?
Concert Square is a bit of a rite of passage in Liverpool and is usually the place you gravitate to when you first start going out as a teenager or if you’re a new student arriving in the city. I initially began documenting Concert Square for no other reason than it happened to be right between point A and point B as I’d make my way home from photographing gigs across the other side of city. 

It soon became apparent that it was the thing I loved most about those journeys. Expecting the unexpected and never knowing just what ‘celebrity’ / celebratory sight lay around the next corner! 

What do you hope passers-by will feel when encountering ‘In Concert’ (and maybe even pictures of themselves) on nearby Slater Street?
I guess I just hope it raises a smile and a knowing nod that most of us have ‘been there’ at some point. Also, as you make your way to or from another day at the office or another lecture it’s a great little reminder that the weekend is just around the corner! 

What influences you and drives you to keep picking up the camera? 
Like all photographers I’m always searching for ‘the next shot.’ That elusive image that strives us to continue doing what we do and make it seem all worthwhile. Plus, there’s nothing like a healthy dose of imposter syndrome to keep you pushing forward!  

What’s next? 
To coincide with my street-side exhibition, I have just published my first ever book ‘In Concert’ which is released on the 16th April. 

I’m also currently working on a football project with the aim of exhibiting a few images towards the end of the season in May and then I’m heading back over to New York in June to start work on a new street photography project. I’ve also started making tentative plans for another book and a huge retrospective exhibition for 2025 as next year it will be twenty years that I’ve somehow managed to keep getting away with it! 

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