The first time Aiyush Pachnanda remembers taking photographs was when his mum packed a disposable camera for him to use on a school trip. From there he decided to study media in college, borrowing their equipment and eventually buying his own camera to shoot just about whenever he could. “Never leave the house without a camera” is his mantra.
Then he quit a marketing internship and took a leap of faith, finding himself in Cardiff studying photojournalism at The University of South Wales, and needing money. So he responded to a call from a promoter needing a photographer for a rave. He was 19, and it was his second week in the city. Soon, Aiyush was doing three events a week, and became an established part of Cardiff’s drum and bass scene.
“Before coming to university I’d never listened to drum and bass, I fell into it by mistake,” he admits. “I often follow my curiosity somewhere and end up diving right in the deep end.”
Four years on, these nights have produced thousands of photographs, and Aiyush has compiled a book from his favourites. “All the photos featured in this book were taken between the hours of 10pm and 6am over the course of three years across the city of Cardiff,” Aiyush says, quoting the introduction to his publication Rave to the grave. The name comes from a sign a DJ propped in front of the soundsystem at one of the events.
At 23, Aiyush is already acclaimed. His previous project Forever, which looked into a community of people with facial tattoos, saw him win the EyeEm Photographer of the Year in 2018, which had submissions from over 100,000 photographers. He’s also worked with the likes of Google and Fred Perry.
“It’s less of me being a club photographer and more of me being part of the community, with a camera, and feeling accepted,” he says of the latest project. “A lot of the photos are of people who have welcomed me.”
Aiyush’s work is often one of two things: subcultural, or rooted in urbanism, but both are at play in this collection. There is also a precise eye on both the story of the environment, and the intimate moments within it: “Raves are quite elegant. These venues are actually treated really well by ravers, especially the abandoned buildings – they’re almost temples. People will cordon off sections, they won’t piss in the corner or graffiti.”
Though he is on the way to big things, Aiyush feels no pressure. He’s concerned about pursuing the things he loves, and not pandering to trends.
“It’s about following my interests and showing the moment that nobody else is showing,” he says when discussing the future. His plan is to go deeper within the communities he finds around him, drawing from himself and his wider interests.
“It’s a slow process but it’s about diligence and persistence. It’s all patience. I want my work to have longevity, to be a big moment in a community’s lives.”
Rave To The Grave by Aiyush Pachnanda is available now.
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