Gillet Square 'Everyday People'

I first started working with some of the 'regulars' of Gillet Square, Dalston in 2013 when I collaborated with social documentarist Roland Ramanan  setting up a Photo Booth to make some artistic portraits in my signature painterly style of the time which would contrast with Roland's often raw black and white documentation of the people. 

I have since returned on a number of occasions to make positive street portraits with the same group of people... 

some of which were then exhibited in and around the square as part of Photomonth and the Dalston Street Show last year... 

These visits have resulted in me facilitating a series of workshops starting today with some of the regular users of the square and other locals where they will be getting behind the camera and taking control of the documentation of their environment... I can't wait to see what they come up with!! 

A New Muse!

I met Laurie at the Manchester Drag Symposium, they came up to me after my talk and quietly complimented me on my work, I was immediately taken with this beautiful seemingly shy creature and we kept in touch after the event... So when I returned to Manchester a few weeks later we made a date for a photoshoot. 

I arrived to a hungover and sleep deprived Laurie and we laughed at the fact that there was a builder literally filling the other side of their window delicately painting the sill (and blocking my main light source to my horror!) 

This was only our second meeting so we chatted, had a laugh and looked at some art work and inspiration. I asked Laurie about Violet Blonde; their drag character - I wasn't prepared for the hard truth of why they'd created such a monstrous drag persona but took it in my stride as ever and understood the desire to go against the grain... 

However I was here to shoot Laurie as that was the person I had met and become interested in. What I LOVE about photography and particularly photographing people in their homes is the intimacy it creates - a precious couple of hours or so really getting to know someone and connecting with them. If there's a bit of a vibe between you, you know it's gonna be a good shoot and its integral to the photos you make together...

After an initial bout of the giggles and apologies for the chain smoking we got to work (by which point the builder had gone thankfully!) It felt very natural from the start and I wanted to catch Laurie's spirit, his sweetness and a sense of freeness... It was playful and lots of fun - we just clicked in both senses of the word!! 

I left Laurie's with a skip and a hop, that old familiar feeling of falling in love a bit, meeting a new muse and having had a beautiful afternoon and a creative exchange with another artist. I left them resting before their next gig judging a drag competition later that night... and no doubt another adventure... !! 

I'm currently collecting people I am drawn to within our community for a book of 'beautiful queers' to be produced in the future...  

 

 

The Manchester Drag Symposium

What a BRILLIANT day - held at manchester Central Library which is rather grand and funded by the Heritage Lottery, there's obviously an interest in drag as a subject for discussion and I felt honoured to be invited to present my work amongst performers, academics and historians. 

Some hi-lites for me included the British Library who presented some archival material specific to Manchester such as newspaper articles reporting men being arrested for that 'age old sin' of wearing 'women's clothing' and a fascinating radio programme titled 'The Night People' from 1966 where Barbara McDonald explored the streets of Manchester after midnight and spoke to those 'other' people such as Homosexuals!! Jacob Bloomfield's paper 'Soldiers in skirts: Cross-Dressing Veterans in the 20th century English Stage' was an interesting romp through a very British social history!! And it was really interesting to hear about other people's projects such as Timberlina and Lisa Lee's Mothers Ruin and Mark Edward's Council House Movie Star! It was all GREAT!

Here's a few slides from my presentation...

YES - Drag artists and photographers make great friends!! But when there's so many wonderful pictures out there and the queens are so good at documenting themselves - what can you do to be original and interesting?! Why add to the millions of pictures now out there? The world is full of photographers and drag artists... ! I guess my work is as much about the individuals as it is about drag and thats a start - getting closer to them and taking part in their lives... finding out why and how... it's a life long project... 

YES - Drag artists and photographers make great friends!! But when there's so many wonderful pictures out there and the queens are so good at documenting themselves - what can you do to be original and interesting?! Why add to the millions of pictures now out there? The world is full of photographers and drag artists... !

I guess my work is as much about the individuals as it is about drag and thats a start - getting closer to them and taking part in their lives... finding out why and how... it's a life long project... 

Of course I spoke about David and our work together - I LOVE this quote from an interview we did and him saying things like that to me gave me the confidence to pursue documenting him more intimately without worrying that I was being a nuisance...! 

Of course I spoke about David and our work together - I LOVE this quote from an interview we did and him saying things like that to me gave me the confidence to pursue documenting him more intimately without worrying that I was being a nuisance...! 

Haha this is where it all began for me - with the wonderful Kenny Everett - I remember coming home from school and putting on my shiny blue sports shorts (the closest I had to french knickers) and swinging my legs around "in the best possible taste"!! I've always been drawn to men in dresses!! 

Haha this is where it all began for me - with the wonderful Kenny Everett - I remember coming home from school and putting on my shiny blue sports shorts (the closest I had to french knickers) and swinging my legs around "in the best possible taste"!! I've always been drawn to men in dresses!! 

I showed work from my project TRANSFORMATIONS which is about the process of drag and the connections the performers have with their drag selves... 

I showed work from my project TRANSFORMATIONS which is about the process of drag and the connections the performers have with their drag selves... 

I talked about some recent ideas based around drag, the body and the work that goes into it...

I talked about some recent ideas based around drag, the body and the work that goes into it...

and the marks and scars it leaves behind...

and the marks and scars it leaves behind...

I also showed this response to drag post Rupaul from Scottee over a year ago as I think it was very clever... He's "divorced" drag now as he doesn't feel he needs it to say the things he wants to say and he realised he just likes wearing 'women's' clothes so he does that on the day to day now... 

I also showed this response to drag post Rupaul from Scottee over a year ago as I think it was very clever... He's "divorced" drag now as he doesn't feel he needs it to say the things he wants to say and he realised he just likes wearing 'women's' clothes so he does that on the day to day now... 

I'm pursuing a number of ideas around drag and the performers I'm interested in at the moment and have lots more research to pursue. I hope to have my David Hoyle photo book out later this year and will be revealing more about 'The Drag Files'... 

The symposium provided a wealth of inspiration and was as much a day of research for me as it was an opportunity to share my work - I am extremely grateful to Jez Dolan for inviting me to take part and to all the kind people who gave me such positive feedback! Gotta keep going!! 

2016 Some Highlights!

I've had a few exhibitions this year! I finally showed my project TRANSFORMATIONS both at Limewharf and at the Glory where I also took to the stage and did a talk about my work with the one and only Dr. Sharon Husbands! My opening at Lime Wharf was a dream with performances from Ginger Johnson  and Fabulous Russella who pulled out all the stops! Huge props to Tam Vibert for her support and encouragement too!

and... OMG the Glory made coasters with some of my images to celebrate the show!!! 

I also had some portraits on show in Gillet Square which I made with some of the 'Regulars' and I showed work in group shows; 'We R' for pride and the Dalston Street show, part of Photomonth .

Our collective D.A.R.C. has expanded and we have put on a number of events in our studio space in east London, as well as a workshop at Roehampton university. This year we will be focussing on a new project 'Transformance' which invites performers to collaborate in the making of documentation for new performance work. 

I worked with MA and PHD students at Central School of Speech and Drama making promotional images and documenting their research based performance work with a view to doing some workshops on image making from performance practices...

I continue to work with wonderful Scottee documenting his work and making portraits with him, some of which have been published...

and of course David Hoyle's live performances and backstage portraits... 

 It was a momentous occasion when Christeene returned to renew her wedding vows with David!

Last year I spent a lot of time collating and collaging my pictures of David Hoyle from the last 6 years to make a photobook which will be published this year! 

I had a great time over the summer working on portraits with a number of BRILLIANT people from our community - an ongoing project which will become a book and an exhibition in the future... Watch out - I'll be calling you!!

I continued to work in-house for The Glory and their events along with some promotional images with Jonny woo and co.

and for Duckie documenting their big events and doing a Photo Booth for their 21st birthday party where the punters had to strip for pics - what a hoot!! 

I worked with Nando Messias on his promotional images and documentation for his brilliant new show 'Shoot the Sissy'. 

My pop up photo-studio SHOWOFF has made a couple of appearances including one where I worked with the lovely Darren Evans 'make up artist of the stars' doing 5 minute David Hoyle faces! 

I have also loved meeting and working with some exciting new young performers this year!!

My first gig with Fender (hopefully one of many!) Here I worked with the lead guitarist from the Fews showing off his new guitar! They were supporting the Pixies at Brixton Academy and there's Joey Santiago in that backstage snap! 

To end the year I went on a tour of Penge with local poet Barbara Brownskirt taking promotional photographs for her upcoming solo show this year - a truly bizarre and wonderful day out indeed!! 

So that was a selection from the many wonderful people I've worked with over the past year. Watch this space to see new projects begin to unravel and others hopefully reaching fruition... !!  

THANKS for reading!!  

LOOKING BACK 2014

It's been a busy year for me with my freelance cabaret and performance photography work, and in developing some personal projects ready for fruition and exhibition next year, so why not have a look back at some of the highlights!

I was very proud to do the promotional imagery and videos for Scottee's Hamburger Queen - the final season.

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 and of course to document the show for the third year running both in pictures and in video.

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I have made numerous videos for Scottee this year so have set up a playlist just for them

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBvVFP9iyzrxPEwEN6JN1e7YjdOORl9im

So happy to be part of Scottee Inc. and his Hamburger Queen family!

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I continued my work as the official photographer for Duckie's major events which has been a blast and Duckie are wonderful to work for!

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I met CHRISTEENE and fell head over heals in love with her and those ponies!!

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But she fell in love with David and they got married at Vogue(waye) Fabrics!

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However, I was their wedding photographer and videographer!

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I was in a fantastic group exhibition called Sin in My Heart which was curated by 'two little birds' Paul Darling and Peter Gwyn and I was proud to be exhibiting alongside David Hoyle, Lee Baxter, Jamie McLeod, Matthew Straddling and many more... we showed in Manchester and in London

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as well as having work on the wall, I had my DARKROOM installation which was a huge success, making lots of new friends and collaborators in this intimate setting...

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Here's a video of the space we had in London

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRMqgYq1xEQ

The Edinburgh Festival is always a treat of course!

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Working with Scottee and his gang at Bestival has been a highlight of my year for 3 years running now!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_iZk-OyI14  

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I have also been shooting more for LADA and their events and shows such as Steakhouse Live and their charity auction...

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This led me to discovering LADA's DIY initiative and I participated in an intense 4 day workshop with Live Art Photographer extraordinaire Manuel Vason called 'The Photo Performer' - OMG how could I have not have done this workshop - it was so good to meet like minded people who exist somewhere between performance and photography like me... it was both physical and theoretical and just what I needed in terms of taking my performance documentary work further, contextualising it and reconfirming its validity and importance... next year is looking to be very exciting in terms of taking this forward and collaborating with others...

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I also did a 3 day workshop with Anders Peterson which was equally fantastic - he is a master and was so generous in what he gave us - it was a weekend of pure photo indulgence! I had a portfolio review which has given me the confidence to complete a couple of projects I had ongoing and plan for exhibition next year, I was also given invaluable advice on a longer term book project which I knew needed to get deeper - I am so excited about executing this work in the new year!!

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Shooting David Hoyle's London shows is an ongoing pleasure and obsession!

'Still Life'

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'Illustration' RVT

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'I Victim' Chelsea Theatre

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... and this has led to an intimate relationship back stage where David has given me full access to document him pre-show, post-show and in the intervals during his shows - we are working on making a book with these images and some other stuff from the 'Parallel Universe'.

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I created a 'Living picture' at the RVT during one of David's shows - a photographic installation mirroring the stage with our own platform opposite where the audience could join in and create pictures with my beautiful assistants Zachariah Fletcher and Alfie Ordinary... a lit variation of my DARKROOM...

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...when Pippa Dee stripped off and joined the picture she cmpletely and deservedly stole the show!!

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I have shot so many wonderful artists this year and seen some amazing shows - I love working with these people and really enjoy the role I play in the community and the connection the camera helps to enable with other artists...  a few of many here...

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Ben Walter's eclectic variety show 'Come with me if you want to Live'

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So I am now working to finish a few projects ready for exhibition Easter time... and am looking for venues - please get in touch if you have any ideas!!

'Boy with...' is a series of pictures based on old master paintings of 'girls with ... ' something such as Vermeer's 'girl with a pearl earing'

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'TRANSformations' features drag artists and the transition back to their original self all in one shot...

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'Performance Portraits' capture the essence of a full performance or concept in 1 image.

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Thanks so much for joining me in my look back - it's been a FANTASTIC year and I am very excited about 2015!! Stay with me if you like pictures like these!!

Last night I was of course with Scottee at his ultimate NYE party CAMP and look here he is - Eeeeek I have an edit to do now so best be off ... no rest for the wicked!!

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SIN IN MY HEART 2 - LONDON

Following the success of our show in Manchester - SIN N MY HEART came to London for its second coming at the perfect venue - a dungeon in North London called the Bunker. Here's a quick video of the show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRMqgYq1xEQ&feature=youtu.be

My DARKROOM installation was open for business once again and we made some stunning pictures. This time I had my faithful assistant and collaborator Zach Fletcher to lend a hand in his own special way - he certainly added a certain draw to the DARKROOM for some and features in many of the images made!!

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Friday night started with the liberation of a series of women posing nude or semi-nude for the first time...  I love it when this happens - new people pushing their personal boundaries and taking home new experiences and hopefully feeling a little more confident or fulfilled in their daily lives...

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We had some beautiful men in too making classic images ...

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People became very playful and were having fun - the camera facilitates this HAPPENING of actions and intimacy - participants are playing to the camera - it allows people to exagerate themselves and play out their desires...

"It's like the camera gives you the licence to take of your clothes and create a scenario" (participant saturday night)

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... and as the evenings progressed, the wine and conversation flowed around the dungeon and things got quite steamy down our corridor - the venue of course lent itself to a more sexual experience and our art lovers took the opportunity to fully experience the powers of the DARKROOM...

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... and finally here's Paul Darling - without him and his colleague Peter Gwyn none of this would have happened - massive LOVE and respect to these 'two little birds' who put the show together and whole heartedly support the queer arts... !

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TRANSformations (work in progress)

Working with drag artists, these images are about the transformation back from drag to boy; I am fascinated by the way many artists I know take forever lovingly applying the drag for a performance or shoot… but cannot get it off quick enough at the end, armed with baby wipes they return to their former self in minutes.

GINGER-DONALD-306-SECS                     'Ginger to Donald in 306 seconds'

The images record that transition starting with a posed portrait in drag, the exposure keeps going while they wipe it all off and put their boy or day clothes on and are repositioned to complete the image. The length of time it takes to remove the drag makes the title of the picture.

MYRA-GARETH-499-SECS                            'Myra to Gareth in 499 seconds'

Harking back to early portraiture, I use long exposures and limited light sources in order to capture the transitions. Some of them also echo spirit photography and the viewer may well question is that really the same person in  the image - perhaps they challenge the notion of the photograph as a truthful image. They capture a period of time where something is happening, a change is being made in one single frame or image.

SHARON-JUSTIN-277-SECS'Sharon to Justin in 277 seconds'

They evidence the person behind the drag and reveal the often, contrasting characters. They record traces of post performance fatigue and the melancholy that can often follow a show after the adrenalin runs out...

Sometimes I find it difficult to shoot the performers I know when they are not in character or drag as I haven't studied them as hard off stage; I know their character's moves and expressions and so do they - they are used to being photographed in all their glory but can become awkward or a bit stiff without the face and clothes... (sometimes not always!!)

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'Scottee in 297 seconds'

It is interesting to see how they position themselves from their drag character to their natural selves and the way they interact  with their two selves - it is a collabortive process and I want to get as much as I can of the relationship they have with their character in the image.

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'Tom Harlow in 263 seconds'

I have a fair number of people who I want to work with for this project and once it is finished I plan to make large prints for an exhibition in London next year so watch this space!

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'Divine to Zach in 381 seconds'

Entering the Photographic Portrait Prize - an emotional rollercoaster!

This year I finally got my act together and entered the National Portrait Gallery's annual exhibition 'The Photographic Portrait Prize'. I chose to enter one of my portraits of David Hoyle snapped in his dressing room at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, as this is a sustained project that we have been working on for a couple of years and I feel we have got to a point where we have a number of good portraits. IMG_8922 copy

Initially all you have to do is give the NPG a title and pay them some money, so I had a while after the initial deadline to make a final decision on which one I would choose from the series 'David Hoyle - Paralell Universe'.

Upon entering I was confident that I had lots of pictures to choose from that were strong enough, my main concern was that they were snapped spontaneously using just the available light in the dressing room, there wasn't a sitting as such and no special lighting which is part of what often makes a stunning portrait, however I felt that his character radiated through as well as our relationship and the intimacy he has allowed me in giving me full access backstage...

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Once I began the process of selecting that one amazing portrait that would hopefully capture the judges eyes and hearts, I began to lose my confidence and question whether I was good enough. I scanned catalogues from previous shows and wondered did we fit in, did we have a hope in hell? Many of the portraits chosen are beautifully lit and there is a bit of a trend in the types of portraits that make it through... there certainly hasn't ever been anyone who looks like David in there! I wondered do I think these portraits are good because I love my subject, what makes a winning portrait?! At times I thought who do I think I am entering such a prestigious prize and doubted my talents but other times I thought WOW these are great and could fit in!

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With about a 1% chance 60/6000 entries I think roughly, I really will be amazed if we make it but the process has been massively beneficial in analizing my work and thinking to the future... I asked a number of friends and colleagues for their opinion and have really appreciated their input...

This is David's choice, of course he went against the grain in choosing this rather messy one showing him in a beauty pose amidst the chaos of his dressing room,

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which he rather cleverly compared to Fragonard's 'The Swing'!!

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 His choice made me think differently in what I was looking for and I thought perhaps you're right - lets just go for it...

But after talking with others, I lost my nerve and decided to go with something more traditional - in David's words "the old man with a painted face..." Oh no, don't say that,  I said - is it a cliche...!"

I eventually got it down to 2 portraits and had them both beautifully printed at Metro. Much of my work doesn't make it to print these days so the process of making a professional print was also of great value.

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This portrait was the favourite and has indeed appeared on one of David's flyers and posters... It was descibed as something less familiar, it draws you in...

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Whereas this one, which was my favouite initially was descibed as a more familiar image, like an actors portrait almost, I hadn't realized this so that was interesting, although it put me off a bit until I saw it in print - and as suspected the colours really sang, so this is the one that I chose in the end.

I hand delivered it to LCC and out of the few I saw in the que I thought yes it held its own and even stood out so who knows - I really will fall of my chair if we do get in, but it's about time they had this wonderful representative of the "trans-spirit" on their big posh gallery walls!!

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Ann Liv Young at DUCKIE Gay Shame and Lesbian Weakness

I dont intend this blog to just be for my nude non Facebook friendly photos, however here we go again! For this years Gay Pride (anti-pride party) I was shooting for Duckie at their annual ball of FABulousness of course! and amongst all the wonderful stuff to see and do including LEGENDry CHRISTEENE (see here for pics of them!) we had the AMAZING dance company that is Ann Liv Young! 10

What emerged was a full on dynamic ritualistic animalistic performance of beautiful nudity in many shapes and forms... I think the pictures tell the story, however the live experience was something else!! As the performance grew and grew moving into the crowded audience and bringing some of them naked up to the stage too - this was a HAPPENING of mammoth proportions! and with the projections reflecting from stage to audience, everyone was truly involved...

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It was a total joy to shoot this performance - making pictures from something so organic and exciting - you can't beat the liveness of this kind of work but it is important to have some kind of document - my aim was to capture the energy and create a beautiful visual from what was before me... The second half found me on the stage with the performers fully immersed...

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SIN IN MY HEART - DARKROOM

SIN IN MY HEART was a 3 day exhibition and event with an invite only policy due to the adult nature of much of the work. The ethos was as much to encourage discussion around the themes of the exhibition and to unite artists from various parts of the country and internationally as well as to show the work and have a party. Over 3 days this worked really well with people coming back after the initial opening night to absorb and revisit pieces and to meet the artists... IMG_9353crop

As well as having work on the wall I did one of my DARKROOM photo-booth installations throughout the event which was a huge success - I couldn't have wished for a more enthusiastic crowd and interest grew and grew over the 3 days as word got about and people showed off their prints... I was initially a bit worried that some of my raunchier peices on the wall might scare people of, but once they realised how unitimidating it is and actually how liberating the experience was for others who had dared to enter and saw their beautiful prints I was inundated! From intimate portraits and classic nudes to couples kissing and gay orgy scenes, I saw all that manchester had to offer me this weekend and it was glorious!

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Not only did I exhibit work and do live photography but from that I have a new body of work so it really was a great success. Working in the context of a gallery rather than a club night provided the time and space to be more creative and to form genuine bonds and relationships with some of the participants, particularly those who revisited me on the Sunday afternoon...

Below are some of the hilites from the weekend...

Nudes - most people dont expect to do a full nude when they enter the DARKROOM but something about the atmosphere in our intimate little den and the opportunity to do something artistic that they haven't done before in a safe environment tends to make them go for it...

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Couples - there is normally a driving force coercing the other in the case of couples and it's interesting to observe their interactions, for example one girl insisted her partner was a total prude and needed to do this, however he didn't need much encouragement to take his clothes off! Some came in with an idea and directed their partner...

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Groups - things did get a little steamy at times, participants were so involved with each other that they seemed unaware of the camera making for some beautiful natural images...

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In the Shower - Participants enjoyed this extra aspect to the DARKROOM and were quite playful with it, it was also interesting to see how the light changed as it reflected of the white...

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I also enjoyed having longer with some of the participants - this is George Mellor who is a young artist I met through the show, we bonded in the DARKROOM and enjoyed collaborating on a a few experiemental ideas while the show went on next door...

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Portraits - due to the nature of this show, I think more people stripped off than usuual, however we did make some clothed portraits, an area that I would like to develop with future photobooths and different lighting...

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SIN IN MY HEART

SIN IN MY HEART is an exhibition produced and curated by Two Little Birds - Paul Darling and Peter Gwyn. The show deals with themes of sex, death, religion and sin and will feature artists from London, Manchester, New York and Berlin. IMG_8447 copy SIN IN MY HEART will be a three day art event - 23rd /24th /25th May 2014 , with no actual “launch” as each day will be a new launch – like a private party for artists and art enthusiasts . 

TIMES (Friday 23rd 6 pm – 10 pm, Saturday 24th 6 pm – 10 pm and Sunday 25th 12 noon – 6 pm ).

VENUE = top floor art space at the Northern Quarter’s Kraak Gallery, 11 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DB.

For this show I will be exhibiting some previously unseen images from my DARKROOM series, made live at art and club events over the last few years. This is the first opportunity I have had to exhibit this imagery, as some of it is quite explicit and I am excited about the responses and conversations that it will hopefully generate. Some may question whether some of the peices are art or porn, although I am very clear that they are art both in the context that they are made and the end results which echo old masters painting with its use of chiaroscuro and soft focus from the long exposures taken. My photobooth installations offer participants the space and opportunity to become the artwork and experience new things, they are described as liberating and fun! frames

As well as having work on the wall I also have my own little room which will be transformed into a 'DARKROOM' photobooth for the duration of the event - I will be inviting guests to make pictures in the dark by night and then on the sunday afternoon I will strip it back and try some portraits in the light... Oh and there's a shower in there so that could be fun - 'shower portraits' anyone?! I'm thinking Psycho!! I intend to blog throughout the event with updates from the photobooth so watch this space!! and if you want to come please get in touch via the event page https://www.facebook.com/events/667825859920985/