Prologue | Epilogue
An Exploration in “Nightlife Nights”
Documentary Photo Story by Jason Trutner
Photography as Communication
Professor Krista Niles
Nightlife is a critical component to our urban fabric. Often a staple to urban neighborhoods, their nightlife can define the character of a place and its people, or vice versa. In order to adequately assess the events surrounding nightlife, one must first associate a relationship between a time and an event, or in this case, a “nightlife night.”
A nightlife night has all of the elements of a story; it has a beginning, middle, and an end; it has a specific setting, often a plot, and characters - plenty of characters. However, this story takes place at the destination; the bar, the club, etc. and the so-called beginning to the story of a nightlife night starts after going through the doors, and ends when you come back out. This story is well documented and many writers, journalists, and photographers all have their own unique take on one of these nights.
Through a generally unprecedented and user-focused investigation, as opposed to destination-focused, we will analyze the prologue and epilogue to the story of one of these nightlife nights. For this investigation, user-focused implies having a focus on people, not one specific person. In order to keep the study from being destination focused, a standard umbrella destination of Manayunk, Philadelphia has been chosen, and purposefully multiple bar locations were surveyed in order to not generalize the umbrella location while keeping the focus on the people.
The prologue and epilogue are stories themselves, and offer additional information other than that of the commonly understood nightlife night.
While a nightlife night starts and ends at the door, this prologue and epilogue will end and start at the door.
As swarms of cars rush down Main Street, Manayunk, and people fill the sidewalks, the atmosphere of the street changes from a local retail and food hotspot to a series of nightlife destinations. The popular locations that hold the street become inverted as the stores close and the bars all open.
The characters in this story are in isolated clusters, there to interact with each other but often not to bridge character groupings. People arrive in these groups, with Uber and Lyft cars filled to capacity, and carpools that let the highest number of people drink safely that night. Groups of people wait outside bars for their friends to arrive, while full groups file into lines to have their I.D.s checked before their nightlife night begins. The highlight of the prologue is the gathering.
Each destination has every possible avenue to its entrance marked by crowds of people moving in their direction. Outside Mad River Manayunk, a large bar known for huge crowds, numerous security officials peruse the street while others wait at the doors; the quantity of people waiting for their friends outside ever growing. A local engineer, Hadi Mohd, (requested not to be photographed) spoke briefly about how at this time of night, everyone is in a rush to get inside because the lines for drinks get long, and everyone wants to hear music and dance. Many people are dressed up, out of their casual clothes, and there is a cellphone attached to nearly every hand.
As the prologue begins to reach its end, smaller groups of people catching up to their friends and arriving late to the party move through the sidewalks quickly to get where they are going. They walk up to the door, and the prologue fades away.
Where we last left off, small groups of people were entering into bars on Main Street to experience their nightlife night. As the epilogue begins, small groups of people emerge from the bars to find their rides home. Those who leave slightly before the bars close find their rides fairly quickly, as there isn’t as much of a rush.
Outside the Manayunk Brewing Company, an ambulance arrives with two police cars on either end. The people passing by either seem unphased or make comments wondering what happened “this time.” A man is seen being escorted out by police to the ambulance to get checked out, his face is bloody. No one came out of the bar with him, unlike the rest of the people on the street, the injured man was the one completely alone.
One man sat outside waiting for his friends to exit the bar and was harassed and called names by groups of people walking past. He immediately jumped up to amp up the argument, which in retrospect was a good example of the tense feeling many people seemed to be walking by with.
The bars begin to close and swarms of people find themselves on the sidewalks. Some call for rides and wait by the street in an attempt to find them, others stumble up and down the road. One couple found themselves getting ice cream before heading home. As the roads fill with cars, it becomes increasingly obvious how many people are drinking and driving. Angry driving swerving left and right just trying to get home, unable to maintain a straight line on the busy streets. No one seemed concerned with that though, everyone was franticly searching for their way home.
After calling for a ride, walking back, or drunk driving their way home, the epilogue of the nightlife night comes to an end. Until the next night.