Derek Ridgers was born in Chiswick, London in 1952. He studied graphic design at Ealing School of Art from 1967 to 1971. Following his graduation, Ridgers worked in advertising, where he worked as an art director for ten years. Ridgers began taking photographs when he took on a camera company as a client, taking the medium up professionally when he parted with the agency, and Ridgers soon began working for music and style magazines including NME and The Face.
The emergence of punk rock in the late 1970s fascinated Ridgers, and he began photographing the people and places associated with the movement. Among his first published work were pictures taken on a second-hand Nikkormat, bought as a cheap camera to take to punk nights at the Hammersmith Palais. Ridgers used a flash on a home-made bracket. He was a regular at the Covent Garden venue, the Roxy, from its opening in 1977 to its closure the next year. During this time he photographed Adam and the Ants, the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Ridgers also turned his camera on the audience, capturing the iconoclastic subcultures that were developing. He has said ‘when punk came along at the end of 1976 the audience suddenly became more photogenic than the bands, I developed something of a compulsion to record some of the fantastically exuberant and colourful young people I saw, both in nightclubs and, later on, on the street.’ Ridgers photographs were exhibited as Some Punk Portraits in 1978 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London.
As well as photographing the punk movement, Ridgers also captured the London fetish club scene, the skinheads and the New Romantics. His pictures serve not only as a fascinating document of British style and culture but as a testament to the spirit of youth, lauding the subjects and their individuality.
Ridgers work has been the subject of several publications and has been exhibited at the Photographers Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Modern and the Victoria and Albert Museum.