Nightlife photographer Merlin Bronques has made a career of documenting debauchery. These days, party photogs are a dime a dozen, but Bronques' photo site, lastnightsparty.com, is still a pioneer of the art form. He is able to capture not only the people who inhabit the nightlife, but also able to capture the energy that is always found at a great party.
Last time we hung out with Bronques was at the HARD pool party during Winter Music Conference, but this weekend he playing hosting duties at Grand Central Saturday night for the Hussle Club's live performance -- although expect his camera to be with him. We spoke recently with Bronques on what keeps him coming back to the Magic City, the rise of the party photographer, and the art of documenting partygoers.
New Times: Other than the beautiful, half-naked women, what keeps you coming back to Miami?
Merlin Bronques: The afterparties. There is always an afterparty in Miami. This is the way it should be.
For a while it seemed like Opium Group had a sort of monopoly on LastNightsParty, so its good seeing you get away from the beach and shoot Miami's true underground nightlife scene. Do you have a preference between the two? I imagine though Opium pays better.
One of the most classic times of Miami nightlife that I've experienced was the Revolver/LNP Thursday nights at Set for the months that it lasted. It was truly the best of both worlds in that upstairs room -- downtown and the Beach.
I've been to a lot of parties where there are more photographers than needed, and I'm pretty sure Miami is not alone in this phenomenon. What do you think of photographers hoping to be the next Bronques or Cobrasnake?
No photographer can be everywhere all the time, and people in Miami especially love being photographed, and someone's gotta do it. It's fun seeing those flashes go off. It makes people feel glamorous.
I've heard people describing having their photograph on LastNightsParty as having their 15 seconds of fame, and I'll admit to scrolling through your galleries of parties and people I know nothing about -- I think it's your documentary style that attracts me. But why do you think people get so excited about being shot by you?
I think the word got out that I actually care about making people look good, haha... not in a photoshopped cheesy way, but real. Its fun seeing yourself in that context and knowing that people like you all over the world are looking in. I'm even excited when i make the cut!
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There is obviously some staging going on with some of your images, especially when it involves a naked girl, but for the most part do you try to snap partygoers during their most candid moments?
At 9 a.m. the next morning, noone's asking that question anymore, it either makes you wish you were there or it doesn't. My favorite people to photograph are girls, and boys who act like girls. Beyond that all is fair game.
Due to the nature of nightlife, you easily capture people at their most uninhibited, thanks to copious amounts of alcohol and perhaps other substances. How frequently do you get requests for images to be removed from the site?
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There's this big misconception that people do what they do in my photos because they're on something. You've been there, you know that isn't always true. People love going crazy and they use alcohol more as an excuse. When people ask me to remove a photo it's always because of someone else (their boss, their family, or their friends) but they always want me to send them the hi-res 'cause they look hot.
You released a LastNightsParty photo book back in 2006. Any plans for a follow up?
The first book was about the first year of lastnightsparty, but if i ever do that again, it would have to be at the end of a big chapter or at a major transition point, because right now my dialogue with the scene continues and there's really no reason to get nostalgic about it yet.
Poplife presents Hussle Club, hosted by Bronques. Grand Central, 697 N Miami Ave., Miami. Tickets $10 via wantickets.com. 18+ for girls, 21+ for guys with ID.