Fri, 29th January 2021
Words: Maciej Kawka
Photographs: Maciej Kawka
Over the past two years, Mag Kafka has been documenting the sights and people of Edinburgh. His personable character, honest approach and eye for a scene has resulted in an intimate body of work which highlights the real spirit of the city.
In this Front Left Reflections, Mag shares five of his favourite captures and the context in which they were taken, along with tracks that best characterise the moment to him...
One of my favourite things to shoot are portraits of DJs that have just finished a set. Shooting up-close, personal photos of people is always very special, even more so after they’ve done their job and the dust has settled.
That hour or two (if not more) of banging out tunes for people to rave to can get exhausting, and I find that creative people are usually their worst critics. A cigarette and a beer are the only things that you would want whilst reflecting on the set you have just played.
In this case, we’ve got Riz La Teef, the dubplate king in the smoking area at The Bongo Club in Edinburgh at the end of January 2020. He told me he really liked the photos I took of him the first time he played at Bongo. After the usual small talk and lending him my lighter, I left him be, as many punters were lining up to congratulate him on his set.
Riz La Teef – SSL, The Bongo Club, 2020
The Last Ride – Sneaky Pete’s, November 2019
Since I started going to Sneaky Pete’s years ago, there was no other night [Ride] that, where I ran into every pal I had under the same roof, but also that played the right amount of Sean Paul and Drake to make the ceiling sweat. Every last Saturday of the month Lauren and Checkie would make sure that all your music needs were fulfilled while downing your Jägerbomb or Boiler Maker, to feel confident enough to go taps-aff on the stage to 90 R’n’B. Believe me, the last night of it was emotional as heck.
On that night, I honestly went through 4 rolls of photos if not more. It was definitely one of my favourite nights to document, because everyone just had fun knowing the night won’t come back ever again. I picked this photo out of all of them because it was just shortly after the lights went up and people started to clap. It felt like New Year’s Eve, and not only because of the décor on the night but also because we knew it was the end of an era and beginning of a new one.
HAAi – The Caves, February 2020
“Am off to shoot HAAi” – I announced to my pals as we parted our ways in Cowgate on a Friday night. Knowing it was a sold-out night, and pretending I was on guest list, I went down to The Caves. I didn’t know if any of my other friends would be there. I rock up to the door, get asked for ID and if I’ve got a ticket. Show them my provisional and say that I’m a photographer for the night. (Nick if you’re reading this I’m sorry, I should’ve messaged you…). Without blinking an eye, they let me in, I guess the determination to get some photos of her playing gave me a lot of confidence.
To the bar, tequila shot, double G&T in a pint glass, two thirds full and BOOM run in to my friend Alex R. Tall English lad who I’ve known for many years says, come to the stage with me. I was a little bit like “Not sure if I can…”, but in the end, he manages to persuade me. There I see Nick and Holly and obviously the star of the show, HAAi. Automatically pulled my camera out, because the scenes were unbelievable. One lad doing backflip off the speakers next to the stage, loads of people sitting on their friends’ shoulders and everyone just having time of their life. The night has ended, Teneil (HAAi), who played whole night long blows everyone a kiss and waves after the last tune has played. She heads up to the edge of the crowd and starts to hug the sweaty party goers. Mind hugs…?
Berlin, Warschauer straße, around 8pm at Fitcher Vogel. “My boss said we could go to this party by Jägermeister but we’ll have to take the train.” She says, blowing smoke in the air as we sit there catching up. Who wouldn’t go, right? We make our way there, go in. Seems like a real deal. Go up to the door and lady asks us for name and goes through sheets and sheets of names to find name Melissa Minca, the name of the Berliner designer she was doing her internship with. We get in, and right at that moment I realised this isn’t just your regular party. That was Jägermeister clothing line launch party. That would explain the amount of hypebeasts wearing the latest Balenciaga and Air Jordan drops, and those people who were plastered on billboards outside the building are standing right in front of me. “What. Am. I. Doing. Here?” went through my head.
After a few cocktails mixed with the famous German herbal liqueur we began to blend in. At that point I wasn’t sure if I could take photos there, since clubs in Berlin have a strict policy of no photos; as far as covering your camera lens on your phone. I come back from the toilet, I see my friend talking to a photographer; “Go for it bro, just don’t step on anyone’s toes” he says in a friendly tone. I photographed many people that night, a lot of times I didn’t know who that person was until months after, when I do some research and find out that the room was filled with Berlin based musicians, artists, athletes and VIPs in general. Not something you’d normally see in a Berlin night club but I definitely took some of the best portraits I have ever taken that night.
Jägermeister Party – Berlin, September 2019
This is honestly, hands down, my favourite photo. It was taken in May. Not too long after I started to have my point and shoot camera with me at all times when I went out. By that point I had already started my series of photos called “Late Night Hangs” where I showed off my photos from nights out, which became very popular within the Cowgate crowd very quickly. On that night, I remember going to Sneaky Pete’s again, not too early but also not too late. The vibes were already on point when I walked in and the lovely Canadian was already performing his magic in the booth. At the end of the night, again he got surrounded by the party people thanking him for the best night of their life.
As I stand on the side chatting about how the night went with my friend Chris, who also runs the night, and Marios, the group of people gets smaller and smaller as the bouncer shouts “GET OUT I WANT TO GO HOME” over and over again to the point there is no one else left. Now it’s just us left, and so I take my chance and ask him if I could get a photo of him with the Sneaky’s neon behind him. “Sure, but as long as you let me take a photo of you”. Obviously, I said yes. I take a photo of him then he takes out his camera. We start to compare our point & shoots, which are both Olympus MJU series but he has the big baller MJU II and I have a budget MJU I. The photo is blurry, just like a lot of memories from that night, but besides that it’s just pure happiness.