Dreams of Desire 56 (Bob Carlos Clarke)

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Bob Carlos Clarke-Vanessa and Vicky Kissing 2002
Born into a fading aristocratic dynasty in Cork, Ireland, Bob Carlos Clarke was frequently referred to as ‘Britain’s answer to Helmut Newton’  (see Dreams of Desire 55 (Helmut Newton) for his provocative nude portraits which often featured the subjects wearing rubber and latex and involved in scenes suggestive of sado-masochistic ritual. Along with Newton he is the best exemplifier of what was known disparagingly as ‘porno-chic’.

After an unhappy childhood spent in boarding school in England Clarke had a hard time re-adjusting to 60’s Ireland, as he wryly noted in the introduction to his book Shooting Sex  (2002), “The first decade was OK, but later it was no place for a libidinous adolescent, particularly a withdrawn Protestant boy in a land where all the hot talent was Roman Catholic and strictly off-limits” and he moved to England in 1970 where he became a photographer quite by chance. When he discovered that the girl at college whom he had an unbearable crush on was a model he brought a camera so that she could pose for him. It worked and he would later marry the model Sue Frame, however the union didn’t survive Clarke’s constant infidelities.

He would later marry for a second time to another one of his models, Lindsay, with who he had a daughter Scarlett. As well as his overtly sexual photographs Clarke also took extraordinary and voyeuristic documentary style photographs of drunken debutantes balls and images of found objects discovered on the banks of the river Thames.

In 2006 at the age of 56, Clarke, depressed with growing older in a world where the models remained forever 21 and by the emergence of digital photography of which he said made everyone think they were the next Cartier-Bresson (Dreams of Desire 50 (The Decisive Moment) threw himself beneath an oncoming train.

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59 thoughts on “Dreams of Desire 56 (Bob Carlos Clarke)

    1. I hadn’t until a couple of days ago when I was browsing Sothebys erotic art sale catalogue (I could never afford anything but I can dream, you see how I suffer in my research) when I saw the Vanessa and Vicky Kissing photo. Well that is Cake material and so I did some research. Glad you enjoyed and thanks for the comment, I always reply so feel free to comment anytime.

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  1. Beautiful photos. Shocking end to the photographer’s life. He sounded like a very sensitive, intense and possibly severely depressed guy. Sad. And it is a bummer that he was so worried about the technology change- I am sure his art would have weathered the changes easily.

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    1. It is sad, however an all too common fate for artists and writers. I have written at this stage about a dozen whose life ended in this most inexplicable of ways. He actually used digital towards the end but he said it stood opposed to everything he had tried to achieve. At least we still have the art. Thanks for the comment it is always appreciated.

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    1. Thank you Vic, a recent discovery I found while looking at Sotheby’s recent erotic art sale catalogue, I really do suffer for Cakeordeath. I love the header image very much, it has a certain something something.

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      1. Wow, such suffering. I didn’t know that existed – Sotheby’s erotic art sale catalog. That sounds fun. 😀 Yes that first image… the way they are pressed together. Definitely like that one. And the one -which made me kinda laugh because it looked very innocent at the top- with the woman reclining on the other. Like that one a lot too.

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      2. My suffering is immense but my knowledge is limited so I have undertake it. It has your girl Dita Von Teese with handy tips on collecting as well. A lot of the lots doubled their high end estimates so obviously it is a growth market. Wish I had ten thousand or so do drop on a photograph.

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      3. My sacrifice is huge Vic… the art market is insane and absurd. That Vanessa and Vicky went for around £13,000 which is about 20,000 dollars. If you or I took the same picture it wouldn’t be worth anything and if it was a Newton it would be worth ten times more. It is all about name recognition, Warhol saw that early and that is why he created the Factory. The Surrealists are mid range ranging for 5 to 20 million depending on the artist. The really heavy hitters are Bacon, Warhol and De Kooning their records are near hundred million. Art collecting at range is so esoteric as to be incomprehensible.

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  2. Threw himself beneath a train… oh how awful. My favorite is the least provocative of the lot: the smoking blonde in the black corset. I find it amusing and fascinating that Sotheby’s has an erotic collection but then again, it’s becoming more and more difficult to push at the boundaries which are stretching further and further out. Anyway, no hardship at all in researching this… and getting completely distracted!

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    1. The smoking blonde is smoking, though I love the header, I think it is a gorgeous photo. My good doctor you don’t know what it does to my psyche to research the dreams of desire series, all those hours staring at erotic art.

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  3. I’m BOUND to like these what a surprise *shocker* although can’t work out what the man in the suit is doing to the laid out girl, would say masturbating but looks more like female circumsicion! Anyway these are very attractive though not on Man Ray’s level the mis en scene isn’t as alluring but the beauty speaks for itself which begs the question, is it the beauty naturally evoking or does the art of the photographer reveal? If the former then can we really applaud the ‘artist’ at all? Aside his ability to pick out beautiful women?

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    1. You are bound to like these Feather as I am. I would agree that Man Ray mise en scene is more powerful, though I think the Vanessa and Vicky Kissing is a wonderful photo. Good question about whether the phographer can be applauded, aren’t they just mirrors? But mirrors are important as you well know.

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  4. The link with suicide is perhaps that ideal – of never growing old never being unbeautiful. I used to date an artist it was to be honest very hard because they were an asthetic and everything was about beauty and if I was not perfect I was so conscious of that and nobody can live that way forever not to mention we all get older and less ‘perfect’ which is okay! The artist I was with really only loved how I looked and my vanity was okay with that until it wasn’t. For some, the ‘fame’ or ‘money’ was important, for me I wanted love, you aren’t going to find that with an artist like this, it’s impossible, though they will fall in love again and again and again. It’s almost a destiny that they end their lives because where else could such intensity really go?

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    1. Part of Mishimas suicide was aesthetic, didn’t want to witness the decay of the body. Where indeed can such intensity go? Still a tragedy, maybe they is more to life than beauty?

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