My younger, idealistic self, saw myself as an artist . I never wanted to be a working photographer, taking pictures for someone else, at the mercy of an editors discretion. I wanted to create when I felt like it and I was arrogant enough to think I could take pictures using only the most basic technique and they would still be good enough to elevate and be worthy of publication. Coming out of the punk movement I rebelled the idea of the perfect print, technical excellence, the correct f-stop and all that stuff. And like a punk band, I used a version of three basic chords (though I used only two basic settings) and clicked away. I took pictures only when I encountered them and took my camera everywhere.
The National Portrait Gallery first acquired one of my pictures, a portrait of Joe Tilson, in the 80’s and paid £10 for it. They have since purchased 20 further works from the 1980’s and in 2017 gave me a solo show titled ‘ Before We Were Men’, to recognise the purchase of the work and celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.
In the 90’s I wanted to develop myself as an artist beyond photography and looking within myself for what I could say, I designed a new flag celebrating my sense of pride in being British and gay. I called the flag the Pink Jack. This was the first time a country’s National flag had been appropriated in such a way. Until this point only the Rainbow flag existed as a representation of gay pride. It was a world first.
Ironically it wasn’t until 2006 (about six years after I created it) that it became relevant and took off. Britain was starting to acknowledge the contribution of gay people, equality was on the agenda, human rights were improving and civil partnerships had become legal. The Pink Jack seemed to symbolise this and in 2013 I was voted 16th on the Independent’s list of the top 100 most influential gay people in Britain for creating the Pink Jack. This was a huge honour which made me cry when I told my partner..!
I first thought about become a photographer after discovering the work of Diane Arbus, Robert Mappelthorpe, Bailey and Beaton in the London studio of artist Brian Clarke, where I was living temporarily. It was about 1979. David Bailey was a frequent visitor to the studio and hearing the stories of his exploits, I thought a photographer would be a cool thing to be and I thought I understood the work of Arbus and Mappelthorpe and the other photographers I was discovering.
I got an Olympus Trip and began experimenting and with the encouragement of Brian I enrolled on a foundation course, which led to art college .
I started photographing every interesting gay person I could and anyone else that caught my imagination. But being young and idealistic, I only took a picture if it ‘appeared’. I would never set it up. I took my camera everywhere.
London at that time, especially the art world and gay scene were dominated by New York and San Francisco. The English gay scene took its lead from America…Judy Garland, The Village People, Lumberjack shirted Clones, Levi 501’s, moustaches, broadway musicals and of course the rainbow flag.
This was about to change as a generation of ambitious and creative kids found each other on London’s gay club scene and coming out of the punk scene had their own identity, which was far removed from the US check shirted Clone. The movement started at Billy’s, the more famously Blitz, then played out at Hell, Club for Heroes, The Wag, Kinky Gerlinky and most famously Heaven, which was the largest and most spectacular gay club in Europe. The scene attracted artists, fashion designers, film makers, dancers, budding pop stars…everyone was going to be famous we all wanted to be Heroes. This creative scene was the start of London taking the crown from New York and becoming the leading force in the Arts. It was a time before camera phones, the internet and digital colour photography.
Recently, I started wondering if discovering photography so arbitrarily in Brian’s studio meant I was a fraud. How did I know I was a genuine artist if it wasn’t something I’d felt destined to be from an early age. Then, wandering around an exhibition of photographer Guy Bourdin’s work earlier this year (2015) it dawned on me, that as a schoolboy, I had French Vogue delivered from the newsagent every month so I could look at the fashion photographs of Bourdin. I was crazy into fashion and always thought my love of Guy Bourdin’s pictures was for the fashion but of course I now realise it wasn’t as there aren’t really any clothes in his photographs, they are more about concept and strong design with the clothes making up elements of the design. I was into the picture itself- I was into the photography! So maybe I really was destined to be a photographer. I still have those Vogues.
Most of my work is for sale. Prints are usually in Limited Editions of 5 0r 10 with two Artist Proof. Sizes vary for each print but are mostly A0, A1, A2, 12 x 16”, 20 x 16” and 20 x 24”. Larger sizes can be made available for certain images.
Prices range from £200 – £2000.
If you are interested in investing in a piece and would like further information please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
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