Behind the Scenes: The Hidden Life of Chinese Nightclubs
Photographer Sergey Melnitchenko went to China to dance in a nightclub. Inspired by his surroundings, he soon started taking photographs of the most interesting life behind the scenes.
Born in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. Lives and works in Chengdu, China. Winner of Photographer of the Year 2012 for Best Series (Kyiv, Ukraine), nominated for PinchukArtCentre 2015 award. Exhibited his works in Sweden, Ukraine, Slovakia, Argentina, Poland, US, Great Britain, Czech Republic, Portugal. Is a member of the Ukrainian Photographic Alternative collective.
— I went to China to dance there. At first, I had no time to shoot — I had to learn many new dances, prepare for work, and adapt to the environment. And then things got going.
Behind the Scenes is an insight into the inside of Chinese nightclubs. This is the atmosphere that has been surrounding me for the past several months. Every night we perform at the same club. After a month of working we had a break for Chinese New Year, after that we started working there again. At some point I realized how many interesting things are going on around me, and started taking a camera to work every day. I regret all the time that I didn’t start shooting everything that is going on behind the scenes earlier.
Girls have different reactions to the camera. Sometimes they like to pose, touch each other in front of me, and make faces, and sometimes they tell me to take a hike in broken English. Tell me that I need to pay them for the shots. I thought they were joking at first, but when I heard the guard say the same, I realized they were not joking. Of course, I don’t pay them anything — I am just an artist, like they are. They are not just artists though, they are also hostesses, who drink with the clients for money.
There was once a situation in a club when one Chinese girl carried another in on her shoulders, because she wasn’t conscious. The client must have gotten her really drunk. I started taking photographs immediately, but at some point I got ashamed — she was not feeling well, and here I was with my camera. A crowd gathered around, they were trying to make her come to her senses. I started thinking she might be dead, but she regained consciousness, threw up, and went to sleep. The next day she came with a bandaid on her arm — she had an IV drip during the day.
It’s been a year since I came to China, but I keep being inspired by my surroundings. Everything is different here. After I finish a series, there is some kind of a pause, when I am thinking about what I might shoot next. But then the idea just comes to you, like it happened with the club project.