The London-based photographer’s images capture the fizzing energy and carefree debris of a high-school prom.

Lewis Khan, Leavers, 2022. Courtesy the artist

Anyone who has even worn killer heels will know the feeling of absolute relief once the footwear finally comes off. This scene of post-party reprieve was captured by Lewis Khan, as part of his Leavers series, which documents a school prom that took place near his home. He was inspired by witnessing the attendees spilling out into the street over the years. He describes the atmosphere as joyful and exuberant, with “the students in their sparkly dresses and shiny suits a really beautiful juxtaposition to the road junctions and traffic monotony of Vauxhall.”

While most of his shots (not to mention the ensuing film made in collaboration with Caleb Femi and Lara George) focus on people, Khan also captures peripheral elements of a school party scene: rows of drinks in plastic cups, basketball hoops, a corridor of lockers. This particular image distils so many elements of revelry, with the actual action existing beyond the frame.

“Anything impeding the fun, be it suit jackets, handbags, or high heels, will end up on the floor”

The tangle of heels discarded on the linoleum floor, surrounded by tinsel, a rogue balloon and the remnants of a rose, offer a moment of pause in what would otherwise be a raucous and chaotic night of celebration. It reminds us that even though “prom” might be synonymous with excruciatingly well-planned outfits, posturing and posing, it is really about the magic of coming together with friends, perhaps for one last time. Anything impeding the fun, be it suit jackets, handbags, or high heels, will end up on the floor.

Holly Black is Elephant’s managing editor


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