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In the restless hours before the influx of visitors to the 2004 Notting Hill Carnival, Brian David Stevens photographs the sound systems that line the city streets. In black and white, they stand like architectural monuments, mammoth magnets to which hoards of people might be pulled at any moment. Alone, these stark objects foretell the upcoming street carnival, which is the largest in Europe.

Since its founding in 1964, the annual Notting Hill Carnival has set the streets ablaze with music, dance, floats, and colorful costumes. Originally created to showcase Caribbean steel bands beloved by local Trinidadians, the carnival continues to foster cultural empowerment through artistic expression.

In the tradition of artists like the Bechers, Stevens finds beauty in functionality. His unexpectedly austere portrait of the flamboyant event, simply titled Notting Hill Sound Systems, quivers with the anticipation of color and noise. Set against the moments to come, these dark and quiet machines emerge as the secret bodies that fuel the boisterous event, utilitarian objects that give rise to mysterious and manifold enchantments. Here, sound itself is expressed visually, through clean lines, circling curves, and the heavy weight of metal.

Notting Hill Sound Systems will be on view at The Social until September 30. Purchase the box set of prints from Notting Hill Sound Systems here. The Notting Hill Sound Systems book is available from Cafe Royal Books.

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All images © Brian David Stevens

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