Very Heaven, Indeed

Bob Carlos Clarke-The Agony and the Ecstasy series 1994
Bob Carlos Clarke-The Agony & the Ecstasy series 1994

In my previous post on Irish photographer Bob Carlos Clarke (see Dreams of Desire 56 (Bob Carlos Clarke), I briefly mentioned his documentary series of photographs of drunken, loved up teenagers making out at debutantes balls in London in the mid-nineties. The photographs are now on exhibition in London’s The Little Black Gallery until May 26th, 2018, under the collective title The Agony & the Ecstasy, so now seemed like the right time to share these remarkable images which so vividly capture ‘the decisive moment‘, (in the terms of his hero Henri Cartier-Bresson) of these heedlessly hedonistic youths and, on occasion, their passed over friends.

As a photographer Clarke appears to be obsessed with the mediums ability to preserve a fleeting instance from the inexorable passage of time, which, as everyone knows (though we spend most of our time avoiding this unpleasant fact), destroys all things. Hence the undeniably voyeuristic obsession with the intensely transitory phenomena of beauty and youth, which decidedly adds to the poignancy and pathos of these images of ghosts from nightlife past.

 

More Beautiful Still

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Bob Carlos Clarke
My fourth (and final, well for the moment anyway) recording from my recently published collection Motion No. 69My other recordings The AnswerMy Evil is Stronger and Curvature can be heard by following the links. Of course to get the full works you will have to buy the collection available from Amazon.

Happy Christmas and Holiday Season to all my lovely, loyal readers.

 

More Beautiful Still

You are the bride
stripped bare by the
vestal bachelors, even.
I would strip you down
to the very bone,
to burn myself
on the upside-down flame
that is your heart.

For you, to me
are as beautiful as
a lipstick-stained cigarette
held between trembling fingers;
More beautiful still
than the parted legs
of an architect’s divider
bisecting a wearying,
unwavering straight line.
Even more beautiful
than a roiling dark cloud
pregnant with heavy rain.
As beautiful as
a string of zeros and O’s.
Still more beautiful
than the city in summer—
festering like an open wound.
Still as beautiful, even
as the angle
between two walls.

Will the conjunction
in the heavenly zones
between your beauty
and my uncertain,
flickering self
result in a happy ending?

 

 

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.