Swedish memories of Andy Warhol and Studio 54

17 min

Hasse Persson, one of Sweden's most well-known photographers, has released a book and exhibition of his work covering America's most outrageous and famous nightclub, Studio 54.  

Dubbed, Sodom & Gomorra with a disco beat, Studio 54, located just off Broadway, at 254 W. 54th Street, Manhattan, New York, became world famous for its sex, drugs and disco vibe after it opened its doors on April 26, 1977. The queues were enormous to get into the club, which was owned by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager who operated a strict door policy to invite in the "perfect mix of people".  

One man who skipped the queues and was allowed exclusive access, was Swede Hasse Persson.

"Truman Capote was a frequent guest at Studio 54 and he said this might be one of the most interesting social experiments in the U.S., maybe for decades, that you could mix lesbian people, gay people, black people, young and old people. So it was a good mix and like a hedonistic paradise in there," Hasse Persson tells Radio Sweden in an extensive interview about his memories of Studio 54 and his almost quarter-of-a century as a photo journalist in America.

In the late 1960's, at the age of 24, the photo journalist left Sweden for America with a contract to work for the newspaper Expressen. He snapped six presidents from Lyndon B. Johnson to George Bush, was invited into the homes of the Klu Klux Klan, covered the American south and met and befriended some of the biggest names of the day, such as Muhammad Ali. But it was at Studio 54 where he took some truly remarkable pictures of the varied clientele from gay to straight, young and old, celebrities and street life.  

Using a flashlight and keeping the shutter open for half a minute, Hasse Persson captured the essence of Studio 54, which only lasted for 33 months as the owners were jailed for tax evasion and came back to a world which had changed with the aids epidemic.

Now 72-years-old, Hasse Persson's pictures from the famous nightclub have been put together in a new book, "Studio 54", published by Max Ström. The pictures, along with some of his photographs of his work covering America for Expressen, are on display from Nov 1 in a special exhibition "Studio 54 and Other Stories" at Gallery Andersson/Sandström in Umeå which runs until 12 December.