Lewis Khan captures the joy, magic and uncertainty of the school prom


The entirety of the project evokes a sense of nostalgia, as if it were pulled directly from the 90s. Reminiscent of all the millennial babies’ very own proms, there’s something in it for everyone; the friendships, the memories made, and the things that are better left in the past. Lewis used a Super8 for the film and medium format camera for the imagery, pairing a grainy “almost distorted” effect with the more “serene,” he says. “They each have a different tactility which I enjoy combining.” By pairing the footage with frozen snapshots, Lewis is able to capture the most dynamic and memorable parts of the proms he visited.

Over the course of the project, Lewis went to proms held between 2018, 2019 and 2021 – one was cancelled due to Covid-19. Two separate prom nights mark each year, one for the year 11s and one for year 13s. He’d attend both, meaning that by the third year deep into the project, he’d photographed students over a lengthy period. “Those guys were particularly memorable, seeing those slight differences between them at the two proms,” recalls Lewis. “I had a little glimpse of how amazing it must be for the teachers to see the students grow up all the way through school.” There were a few recurring pattens which arose throughout Lewis’ visual study into the proms: the year 11 students would act far more “hyped up”, with big energy and louder clothes, and their parents would come and get them at the end. Meanwhile, year 13 prom-goers started off a little slower, “more reserved” in garments that were understated. “But then, by the end, you suspect people have snuck booze in.”

Lewis played a slightly inconspicuous role in the shooting of the project. Somewhat like a fly on the wall – an observer – he’d immerse himself in the antics of the proms, making himself present but kept at a distance. “I think the students just saw me as another grown up, some of them were even calling me sir,” he remarks. What he’s grateful for, though, is having made some connections in his local area that might not have been made if it weren’t for the project. Leavers, in this sense, a pure celebration of joy, adolescence and friendship, which we all can relate to in some form or another. “It’s also about precariousness at a particular stage of life and getting through that, so I hope both sides of these things are felt.”

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