Proud Galleries celebrates the festival season by bringing you Absurd Observations, an exhibition of studio portraits shot by photographers Kent Mathews and Dan Smith and featured in Bestival’s book, The Art of Dressing Up, which celebrates ten years of the renaissance of “dressing up to get down”.

The exhibition will offer a unique insight into the magical realm of Bestival; revealing the bizarre and beautiful people that inhabit the festival. The duo gained unprecedented access to narrate the story of this bohemian gathering, capturing the extremities and eccentricities of the festival that leaves all goers reeling and wanting more. The exhibition gives an exhilarating glimpse into the psyche of a style-driven phenomenon and highlights the imagination and ingenuity that Bestival-goers and the acts put into their costumes.

Bestival is the festival that defines contemporary popular culture. Like Woodstock in the 1960s, it has organically evolved to become the home of free-spirited individuals from across the world. Bestival was the first festival to incorporate fancy dress and it is now the biggest fancy dress party in the world.

Matthews and Smith have been friends for many years and had always talked about collaborating on a project together. They had been avid Bestival-goers since 2006 and had seen the fancy dress aspect of the festival become bigger and increasingly more extravagant each year. Smith explains, “What had started as a bit of fun had escalated into a spectacle of creativity. People would spend months planning and building their outfits in line with the year’s theme, often working together on large scale joint outfits or creating tribes all themed as jellyfish, gingerbread men or the cast of the Wizard of Oz.”

The pair felt Bestival encapsulated the spirit of the new festival culture in the UK that was born from the 1990’s rave scene. They approached co-founder Josie Da Bank with their vision of this exhibition and The Bestival Photo Studio was born. Mathews explains, “Our goal was to photograph the beautiful mayhem of Bestival goers in a studio setting out of the context of the festival. We approached the portraits with a formulaic methodology and dead pan expression in order to give the body of work a consistency and a feeling reminiscent of a scientific study.”

Launching this summer at Proud Camden, the exhibition will act as a prequel to Bestival, featuring a live performance from the legendary Rob da Bank. This unique collection of photographs captures the true spirit of the festival and offers an exciting and engrossing glimpse into its surreal and enchanting world.

All images © Kent Mathews / Dan Smith

Proud Camden Gallery

The Horse Hospital, Chalk Farm Road
London NW1 8AH United Kingdom
Ph. +44 (0) 20 74823867

Opening hours

Monday - Sunday
From 11am to 5pm