PORTFOLIO > Make My Night
Following the success of Artists Rifles, Paul rejoined the discourse with the masculine identity in Make My Night. Ostensibly a record of a very laddish night out, Paul used a similar technical method to that of the previous series combined with the use of multiple self-portraits. As before, he becomes the anonymous everyman but this time is more overtly the narrator as well as the protagonist of a frequently observed ritual.
Governed by group approval and time honoured rites, a world of bravado and sexual tension vies with drunken frivolity and a certain vulnerability to occlude any notion of a new masculinity. From the preamble of high jinks and drinking games, to bar fights and stand offs through to its nauseous conclusion, each scene has been painstakingly researched and detailed.
Using the snapshot as a stylistic template, Paul employed an almost forensic approach to reproduce the variable quality that machine printing of pictures taken with a standard point and shoot camera generate in the hands of revellers; bleached out faces, over cropped subject matter or the slight blur of the finger over the lens, the hallmarks of an impromptu celebration.
As with other snapshots of this kind, participants are conscious of later scrutiny or comment; sometimes avoiding the focus of the lens, sometimes performing for it and gesticulating to an unseen audience. This is not merely finding an identity and securing ones position within a group but being seen to do so, and having it validated in high gloss, as a delinquent rite of passage into manhood. However, in this case they are not standard sized images developed for private consumption by ones peers, but are reproduced to a grand scale and placed in a gallery. Thus the much-denigrated antics that are the working material of Make My Night are subjected to a level of scrutiny not normally given to such unremarkable contemporary phenomena.
Paul is mindful not to appear too censorious in his approach; "I fully embraced lads' culture in the army... and I would have been ostracised if I didn't take part". There is a wry humour in much of the work that is derived from the recognition of familiar scenarios painfully recalled, to become part of a collective memory.
The narratives are straightforward; here I am with the lads, the everyman in a bar fight, all spied through the kind of glimpsed vision that implies a debt to the story-making of bar or club, where an incident takes on epic proportions through its retelling. Featured are the kinds of acts, heroic or otherwise that gains currency and develops an independent life from the real participants, owned by an improbable number of eyewitnesses.
Charles Saatchi had already bought the complete Artists Rifles series from Paul's MA graduation show. Then marking a significant development in his patronage he purchased Make My Night and included both in the Neurotic Realism exhibition at the Saatchi gallery. In the same year, (1999) Paul was short listed for the prestigious Citibank award hosted at the Photographers gallery. This combination of exhibitions created a flurry of media interest and led to Paul's involvement in a range of television projects.