Conor Thompson of Through the Turnstiles sat down to chat with John Johnson, the photographer behind the camera.

Merseyside, November 2007: Liverpool based photographer John Johnson strolls around set. The cast members are taking a short break for a bite to eat, in between takes. Ever the opportunist, JJ remains armed with his trusty Nikon D700 should the chance for a shot arise.

JJ is on set for ‘Awaydays’, a screen adaptation of Kevin Sampson’s seminal novel. The story follows Carty, a bored young male from Birkenhead. The dark days of the Thatcher era have just begun and Carty desperately needs an outlet from his 9-5 lifestyle. Like many young males at the time, he finds this through music, football and fashion. 

After Carty meets Elvis, a member of Tranmere Rovers’ hooligan firm, he soon finds himself following the team both home and away with ‘The Pack’. This is all Carty ever wanted: a community in which he felt he belonged and a sense of escapism from the mundanity of normal life. 

Both the book and film highlight the importance and the intertwining of football, music and fashion. Outside of the day job, the only things that matter to Carty and his crew are following Tranmere, wearing the latest trainers and queueing up to see the coolest bands perform at Eric’s (Music Club in Liverpool). The cast members are constantly decked out in typical terrace wear: Cagoules, straight cut jeans and Adidas trainers. The soundtrack is littered with 1970’s and 1980’s new-wave and punk anthems: Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division, The Teardrop Explodes – You know the drill. 

Nearly 40 years on, football, music and fashion continue their bizarre love triangle. The mixing of the three different elements is as important now as it was then.

Films such as Awaydays have undoubtedly influenced the next generation and have kept the ‘Casual’ or ‘Terrace’ subculture alive. Whilst many these subcultures come and go, one cannot deny that the casual lives on. 

Back to the film set…..

Whilst the cast members sit down eating their lunch, sharp eyed JJ notices the chance for a shot. The cast are sat at a railway station, legs dangling over the edge of the platform. JJ proceeds to take a waist-down shot of the crew, the Adidas trainers being the focal point of the take. He could have had no idea at the time but this shot was about to become emblematic of football/terrace culture. 

Conor Thompson: The ‘Away Days’ trainer photo is iconic in the world of terrace culture; instantly recognisable. When you took the shot, did you ever feel that it would become so influential?

John Johnson: Thanks. Although the book itself had a large cult following and the image is loosely based on the original cover concept, it was a complete fluke if I’m honest. I just happened to walk across the railway tracks at that decisive moment. Completely unplanned. They were actually all just stuffing their faces on a lunch break at the time. I never even thought of getting a shot of their faces!

CT: The shot has been reused and rehashed the world over, from Facebook cover photos to stickers. Where is the most random place you have seen it pop up?

JJ: I’ve seen it recreated dozens of times but I guess the most random place I’ve seen the image is on the side of some guy’s scooter.

CT: Whilst the roots of the casual scene are often contested, there is no doubt that the North West played a huge role in the movement. Why do you think it is that cities such as Liverpool and Manchester were so tuned in, in terms of fashion and culture?

JJ: Liverpool and Manchester have always had a strong musical heritage. It was inevitable that young people from the North West would imitate and put their own spin on different things that they saw whilst traveling across Europe.

CT: The casual movement is sometimes referred to as the UKs last subculture. Could there ever be anything like it again ?

JJ: I doubt we’ll see a subculture quite like it grow as organically again. There will however continue to be renaissances of the casual subculture. In fact, some would say that it never truly went away.

CT: ‘Away Days’ is complimented for its soundtrack. What’s your personal song of choice from the 1980s synth/new wave scene ?

JJ: Ultravox – Just For A Moment which coincidentally happens to feature on the Awaydays soundtrack. A beautiful tune.

CT:  Thanks Johnno. Where can people find more of your work?

JJ: I’m across most socials under @john.johno. You can get an overview of my work from Instagram. If you fancy picking up a piece, check out my website https://johnjohnson-photography.com.

‘Awaydays’, the film, is available on Amazon Prime. You can discover more of author Kevin Sampson’s work here.
You can find more of Conor’s work at through-the-turnstiles.com or on Instagram @throughtheturnstiles.


You can find more of Conor’s work at through-the-turnstiles.com or on Instagram @throughtheturnstiles.