The Dark Side of Liberty

Exploring Soho’s Subcultures

Nina Manandhar shows us the places that have helped shape Soho’s cultural history

Shop Nina’s edit


Last summer, photographer Nina Manandhar told the story of Soho’s rich, influential history with What Soho Wore, an archive project capturing decades of thriving subculture and style. Encouraging people to submit their photos of the multi-faceted London corner, Manandhar brought the shared memories together at The Photographers Gallery. Today, we turn the lens on Manandhar and document the journey as she unveils the people and places that have helped shape our neighbourhood’s cultural history.

On Soho“For me, Soho is a place full of the independent spirit of London. But independents have built communities there. Soho has historically been super rich in terms of the thriving communities that have co-existed side by side. That’s what city life should be about and that's why I love it. There is so much street life. I hope it stays forever informed by music, culture and a bit of grit.”

On What Soho Wore“It was nice to be able to concentrate on working on a local level with communities on something that celebrates people and their personal histories. I’m hopeful that it can help remind people of the London and can still be, equally weird, wonderful and every day.”

Exploring Soho’s Subcultures

On The Photographers Gallery“The Photographers Gallery was where I did my Media Wall residency as part of an artist programme called Open Door. The Media Wall seemed like the perfect place to display the work, it became the interface for ongoing public engagement over the course of the residency.”


On Soho Radio“While I was doing my residency at The Photographers Gallery I was introduced to Clare Lynch, who is from The Soho Society. She submitted some photos of her style (she only wears red or green!). She is really active in the community of Soho, and invited me into her show on Soho Radio, so she is my link to Soho radio. She does the show with 90-year-old resident, Leslie Hardcastle.”

Exploring Soho’s Subcultures

“During the first world war there were 150 illegal pubs here that were all challenging conventions of race and gender. You had people from all over the world mixing together. It was the place to come and just do whatever. It was – and in some ways still is - London’s playground.”

Clare Lynch
Exploring Soho’s Subcultures

On Cuts“There have been so many great images, but we got a fantastic selection from Cuts Hairdressers, the iconic Soho salon which was started by James Lebon. Apart from the fact that they look incredibly cool, it also reflects the importance of street life in Soho.”

Exploring Soho’s Subcultures

On Bar Italia“There’s a real history of independent cultures here and that goes back to places like Bar Italia. In the ‘50s you had young people here, hanging out in coffee shops – it was a social space.”

Exploring Soho’s Subcultures

On Soho Subculture“The main place for subcultures and fashion cultures to be seen is on the street. There wasn’t the opportunity to engage online. The street was a place for connection. It still is but it’s now the secondary place. Today Instagram is the first place you go to add a picture of yourself, hoping to find that connection. Things circulate and they can’t remain underground because they are already out there so quickly. There’s no longer that sense of things being hidden and being able to develop”


Exploring Soho’s Subcultures
Liberty London

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