Party Like It’s 1989

Nine years ago, while recovering from a serious health crisis, the British society photographer Dafydd Jones decided to return to his archive of negatives and print a few of his old party pictures. Mr. Jones had spent three decades documenting the social scenes of British and American upper classes for The Tatler, The New York Observer and Vanity Fair under Tina Brown and Graydon Carter, but the frenetic pace of society photography had never given him time to look back on his own work.

In 2020, he published his first book of these photos, “Oxford: The Last Hurrah.” It was a surprise hit, prompting Mr. Jones to look back at his nights in the 1980s and 1990s, when he rubbed shoulders with Manhattan’s rich and powerful. These pictures of a bygone era, both glitzy and seedy, have been gathered together for the first time in a new book, “New York: High Life / Low Life.”

Mr. Jones spoke via video chat from his studio in East Sussex, England. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Dafydd Jones spent much of the 1980s and ’90s photographing the British and American upper classes. Credit…Jillian Edelstein

In 1988, you left the London society circuit and moved to New York for a month. Why did you decide to uproot your life?

I’d never planned to be a social photographer. I just found myself in that situation and realized it was a really interesting world to photograph, and no one else was really covering it in a journalistic way. I was going to May balls in Cambridge, Oxford, Royal Ascot and the Derby, and there is a fixed calendar. I had a fantastic opportunity, but I suppose after you’ve been to Ascot eight times. …

Back to top button