I was born and while I am waiting to die, to kill time I take photographs.
Interview on the French/German programme Tracks, ARTE
A documentary about my work with a Canadian broadcasting company.
This is not an artist statement
Everyday people see hundreds of images on their way to and from work, in magazines, billboards or on television. I am a visual exhibitionist and from the beginning wanted people to pay attention to my work even if it was for just a few seconds longer. To do that I used a lot of colour and invented surreal scenarios, witty events, troubling scenes from movies that were never made and almost hallucinatory images that invoke narrative, prompting you to imagine what came before or what is about to happen. In scenarios in dark woods, eerie bedrooms, enigmatic streets and mesmerising reflections, suspense and danger dwells. They are not only about desire but the problems that go with it.
When I became interested in photography, even before I had taken my first decent picture, I decided to take a less trodden path. I would look at magazines and adverts and think, “I can do that,” even though I had no experience of lighting or ever seen the inside of a photographers studio. I just knew that the mechanics of photography would not be hard for me to master. I was correct because within 18 months I taught myself what I needed to know and went from taking pictures of London tourist spots to my present style. Style usually takes years to find but I immersed myself in the subject and gathered what I liked and rejected what was of no use to me.
Even if I shoot something sexually explicit there is always something perverse or repelling in it. I like my work to both attract and repel the viewer at the same time. The images are not just about shock because shock soon wears off. i want them to resonate long after they have been seen. My universe is deeply personal and often intensely claustrophobic and usually involving body parts, stylised violence and death.
When I began, independent magazines were few and far between, I had to ease my way into mainstream publications. I have also influenced younger photographers. I remember after the publication of my first book, Bernadinism: How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women, a young woman emailed me saying, having seen my work, she was so taken with it that she was dropping her degree in psychology and changing to photography instead.
When I showed my images of violence, A woman from the USA sent me an email saying her how her sister had been left for dead by a serial killer and how another had killed two of her friends in a notorious multiple killing at a university many years ago.
I do not consider myself a cult photographer, I am a one man subculture. While others declare themselves different by forming a clique and dressing and behaving just like their friends, afraid of doing it alone, I am truly alone but it does not perturb me. And when people sometimes object to aspects of my imagery, I say, ” I did not take up photography to make you happy or make the world a better place. I took up photography to make me happy and to make the world a better place for me.”
I was born in Grenada, West Indies and moved to Britain at the age of 6 to London. At the age of 10 I bought a toy camera that took blurred pictures, some of which my mother still has in the family album.
I became seriously interested in photography at the age of 21. My first pictures were of London tourist spots and the next year I started practicing my present style. I am self-taught and have never been an assistant.
I have worked mainly in the editorial field for over 30 years. I have photographed for numerous magazines such as Vogue, GQ, Elle, Sunday Times. I have had many profiles of my work in countries such as France, Spain, Italy, USA, Australia, Germany and, of course, Great Britain. I won the Vogue /Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Award in 1987 for my series of shoe pictures entitled ‘The Fetish’ (self-portraits) and in 1997 and ‘98 I was nominated as Erotic Photographer of the Year here in Britain and eventually won the award in 2002 for my first book, Bernadinism, How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women.
My work is unconventional, sometimes surreal and is very singular in style. It ranges from a classic use of perspective to experimental work using a sound-activated switch to capture action pictures of women’s arses being spanked. There is always an ‘event’ in my pictures, there is always a strange, surreal or quirky happening. My pictures always begin with an unusual idea. The colours are saturated and they are always taken on location; I rarely use studios.
The Mammoth Book of New Erotic Photography Skylight, 2013
Big Book of Vagina Taschen (to be published Sept 2011)
Doppel Ganger, Images of Human Being Gestalten, 2011
The Mammoth Book of New Erotic Photography Skylight, 2010
Fetish Photo Anthology 5 Jürgen Boedt (Brussels) 2007
Amsterdam Rubber Yearbook Amsterdam Rubber Publications, 2003
Fetish Photo Anthology 4 Jürgen Boedt (Brussels) 2003
Sex, Take a Walk on the Wild Side Carlton (London), 2002
Fetish Photo Anthology 2 Jürgen Boedt (Brussels) 2001
Design and Art direction Annual, 2000
Nudes Index II Könemann, 2000
Photography Index II Könemann, 1999
British Journal of Photography Annual, 1998
Design and Art direction Annual, 1997
Selected One-man Exhibitions:
Les bernadinism d’Alva Bernadine, Nue Galerie, Paris 2015
The Sentiment of Love, Urban Angel Gallery, London, 2009
The Ritzy Cinema, Brixton, London 1997
Workx studio Gallery, London 1989
KJP Gallery, London, 1986
Liberty Department Store, London, 1985
KJP Gallery, London, 1984
Selected Group Shows:
125 Live Exhibition, London 2015
FotoFever, Paris 2014
Hot, De Magistris Arte, Milan 2013
Art Basel, Superchief Gallery, Miami 2012
Parallax Art Fair, London
Le Dictateur, Family Business Gallery, New York 2012
Cue B Gallery, London 2012
The Dirty Show, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles 2011
Fools for Feet, Antebellum Gallery, LA, 2008
Blacks, Galerie Gora, Montreal, 2007
Blacks, Antebellum Gallery, LA, 2007
Ritzy Cinema, Brixton 1998
Les Recontres d’Arles, 1990
Erotic Photographer of the Year for book Bernadinism: How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women, London 2002
Vogue/Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Award for young photographers, 1987
Interview on the French/German programme Tracks, ARTE, 2014
Sex Sexy, Bravo TV documentary. Interview about aspects of my work, 2004
Sex TV, Canadian documentary television series which explores many issues about human sexuality, 2003