Eighties fashion pictures that date back to my early days of photography when I was honing my style. I borrowed most of the clothes from Fiorucci in Brompton Road, London. I liked saturated colour photographs from the word go and realised that to get them was to place bright colours in the picture in the first place. The easiest way to do that was by way of clothes and props, so I always seeked them out and it is why I first alighted on Fiorrucci with their primary colours and sexy outfits.
This is an excerpt from my 2001 book, Bernadinism, How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women, from the intro entitled, I am a one man subculture.
A Jackson Pollock patterned shoe is suspended on a wall of weathered boards, the shadowy orange evening light projects the shadow of a man in a hat and raincoat reaching for the shoe. In a flash this picture throws up a story that the viewer is coaxed to resolve. I have supplied you with the narrative elements please finish it off for me. There is something attracting and repelling about the picture at the same time. Maybe it will help if you know that the title of the picture is The Fetish III: The Dream of the Masturbator, or even it is a self-portrait. What if anything does it say about me? I had conjured the “unresolved picture”, something that has stayed with me even to this day. It is the summer I turned twenty three and eighteen months after taking up photography I have found my real style as a photographer.
The work is as dark and as troubled as I am at the time. I am trying to resolve some inner turmoil by putting ideas down on film but it is not a cathartic, quite the opposite, in fact, it forces me to turn inward, a place where I am unhappy to be. I like the pictures though, I like being on the imaginative edge, I like photographing outdoors, I like these derelict buildings next to Battersea Power Station which I use as an open air studio, I like the warm evening light and have determined to use the long shadows thrown by a westering sun, I like the view of the river Thames from the rooftops – as a result there are plenty of blue skies in my work, I like the fact that nearly all the pictures I set out to take, work. I generally take three frames of each set-up which I bracket and develop the slides at home in the kitchen sink. The first glimpse of the wet milky slides is exciting, it is also surprising. The camera sometimes picks up things I did not know were there. Unlike painting, which you have to abandon because you reach a point where the next stroke will be too much, the transparency hits you with direct surprise. Voilà! There it is. It either works or fails.
Before I take the first pictures of my new style, I have already created it in my head and sketched it on paper. I create a world in my own image. In cityscapes of oblique lighting, dark shadows, acid Technicolor and surrealist elements, strange people enact curious events. I become a fabulist, concocting a series of wilfully inconclusive and unsettling narratives or what I term ‘events’. I have kept the plausible topographical faithfulness of the photograph and have imbued it with an oneirocal dimension filled with a sense of unease. The work is rendered with slickness, but it is only to set up the audience for the ambush – the menace of the shadow, or the knife, or the couple who in their passionate abandon may fall from the edge of the roof to their ruin. (Again a self-portrait). There is an alienating sense of tension and a pervading unhealthiness in these early pictures. I deliberately turn people into objects, usually sex objects in eighties fashion sexy gaudy coloured clothes. I crop out faces or mask them or use shadows to create menace. I want to become an object myself and I appear in many of these early pictures.
What you do not like can be as much an influence on you as what you do like. Although I am not a fashion photographer, I was influenced by fashion photography. When I started out, the prevailing style, after the excesses of the seventies, was for a natural look in style and make-up. Photographers would take a girl to a tropical island and shoot with a 400mm lens wide open. You could just about make out a fuzzy palm tree in the background. This was anathema to me. I could not see the point of wasting such great settings. My reaction to that was to start using a 28mm lens as standard and trying to get as close to f22 as possible. It was studied artificiality that I wanted. I would put the subject close to the camera and have everything in focus. I wanted the eye of the viewer to range from the foreground to the background and back again, picking up little details deliberately strewn about the frame on subsequent viewings.