Posts Tagged ‘Fergus Greer


Text / Exhibition: ‘The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure’ at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, New South Wales

Exhibition dates: 14th October – 3rd December, 2017

Curator: Richard Perram OAM



Todd Fuller and Amy Hill (Australia, 1988-; Australia, 1988-) 'They're Only Words'  2009


Todd Fuller (Australian, b. 1988) and Amy Hill (Australian, b. 1988)
They’re Only Words (video still)
Film, sound duration: 2:42 mins
Courtesy the artists and May Space, Sydney



I must congratulate curator and gallery Director, Richard Perram OAM and the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery for putting on such a fine exhibition, worthy of many a large gallery in a capital city. An incredible achievement, coming at the same time as Latrobe Regional Art Gallery put on the recent René Magritte exhibition. All power to these regional galleries. Now on with the show…


Show and tell

The male body. The female body. The trans body. The gay body. Etc. etc. etc. …
The male gaze. The female gaze. The trans gaze. The gay gaze. Etc. etc. etc. …

I did my Doctor of Philosophy, all four and a half years of it, on the history of photography and its depiction of the male body so I know this subject intimately. It is such a complicated subject that after all of time, nothing is ever certain, everything is changeable and fluid.

To start, the definition of masculinity that I used as a determination for the term in my PhD is included as the first quotation below. The quotation is followed by others – on the optic experience and the creation of body image; on body image and our relation to other people; on the anxiety caused by the crisis of looking as it intersects with the crisis of the body; and how we can overcome the passivity of objective truth (accepting dominant images in this case, as they are presented to us) through an active struggle for subjective truth, or an acceptance of difference. A further, longer quote in the posting by Chris Schilling examines Ernst Goffman’s theories of body, image and society in which Goffman states that the body is characterised by three main features: firstly, that the body as material property of individuals; secondly, that meanings attributed to the body are determined by ‘shared vocabularies of body idiom’ such as dress, bearing, movements and position, sound level, physical gestures such as waving and saluting, facial decorations, and broad emotional expressions; and thirdly; that the body plays an important role in mediating the relationship between people’s self-identity and their social identity. These quotations just start to scratch the surface of this very complicated, negotiated social area.

What we can say is this: that masculinity is always and forever a construct; that male body image is always and forever a further construct built on the first construct; and that photo media images of the male body are a construct, in fact a double or triple construct as they seek to capture the surface representation of the previous two conditions.

What strikes me with most of the photographs in this posting is that they are about a constructed “performance” of masculinity, performances that challenge cultural signifiers of mainstream and marginalised aspects of Western patriarchal culture. In most the masculine subject position is challenged through complex projections of masculinity, doubled through the construction of images. In fact, spectatorship is no longer male and controlling but polymorphous and not organised along normative gender lines.

Thus, these artists respond to four defined action problems in terms of representation of body usage: “… control (involving the predicability of performance); desire (whether the body is lacking or producing desire); the body’s relation to others (whether the body is monadic and closed in on itself or dyadic and constituted through either communicative or dominating relations with others); and the self-relatedness of the body (whether the body associates and ‘feels at home’ in itself, or dissociates itself from its corporeality).”1 Further, four ideal types of body usage can be defined in terms of these action problems: the disciplined body where the medium is regimentation, the model of which is the rationalisation of the monastic order; the mirroring body where the medium is consumption, the model of which is the department store; the dominating body where the medium is force, the model of which is war; and the communicative body where the medium is recognition, the model of which could be shared narratives, communal rituals (such as sex) and caring relationships.2

As Chris Schilling observes, “The boundaries of the body have shifted away from the natural and on to the social, and the body now has ‘a thoroughly permeable “outer layer” through which the reflexive project of the self and externally formed abstract systems enter.” In other words, masculinity and male figure can be anything to any body and any time in any context. The male body can be prefigured by social conditions. But the paradox is, the more we know masculinity and the male body, the more knowledge we have, the more we can alter and shape these terms, the less certain we are as to what masculinity and the male body is, and how or if it should be controlled. Taking this a step further, Schilling notes that the photographic image of the body itself has become an abstract system/symbolic token which is traded without question, much as money is, without the author or participants being present.3 You only have to look into some of the gay chats rooms to know this to be true!

The most difficult question I had to ask myself in relation to this exhibition was, what is it to be male? Such a question is almost impossible to answer…

Is being male about sex, a penis, homosociality, homosexuality, heterosexuality, friendship, braveness, dominance, perversity, fantasy, love, attraction, desire, pleasure, Ockerism, respect, loyality, spirituality, joy, happiness etc. etc. It is all of these and more besides. And this is where I find some most of these images to be just surface representations of deeper feelings: I just like dressing in drag; I like pulling a gun on someone; I like holding a knife next to my penis to make my phallus and my armoured body look “butch”. It’s as though the “other”, our difference from ourselves (and others), has been normalised and found wanting. I want to strip them away from this performative, normalising aspect. Most of these photographs are male figures dressed up to the nines, projecting an image, a surface, to the outside world (even though the performative tells us a great deal about the peculiarities of the human imagination). I want them to be more essential, not just a large penis dressed up for show. Only in the image Untitled (Auschwitz victim) (Nd, below), where the performance for the camera and the clothing the man is wearing is controlled by others – does some sense of an inner strength of a male come through. In times of unknown horror and dire circumstances, this man stares you straight in the eye with a calm presence and inner composure.

For me personally, being male is about a spiritual connection – to myself, to the earth and to the cosmos. I hope it is about respect for myself and others. Of course I use the systems above as a projection of myself into the world, as to who I am and who I want people to see through my image. But there is so much more to being male than these defined, representational personas. This is not some appeal to, as David Smail puts it, “a simple relativity of ‘truths'” (anything to anybody at anytime in any context), nor a essentialist reductionism to a “single truth” about our sense of being, but an appeal for a ‘non-finality’ of truth, neither fixed nor certain, that changes according to our values and what we understand of ourselves, what it is to be male. This understanding requires intense, ongoing inner work, something many males have no desire to undertake…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,230



  1. Chris Schilling, The Body and Social Theory, Sage Publications, London, 1993, p.95.
  2. Ibid., p. 95.
  3. Ibid., p. 183.

Many thankx to Director Richard Perram, Assistant Curator Julian Woods and the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



“The category of “masculinity” should be seen as always ambivalent, always complicated, always dependent on the exigencies (necessary conditions and requirements) of personal and institutional power … [masculinity is] an interplay of emotional and intellectual factors – an interplay that directly implicates women as well as men, and is mediated by other social factors, including race, sexuality, nationality, and class … Far from being just about men, the idea of masculinity engages, inflects, and shapes everyone.”

Berger, Maurice; Wallis, Brian and Watson, Simon. Constructing Masculinity. Introduction. New York: Routledge, 1995, pp. 3-7.


“We choose and reject by action … Nietzsche calls the body ‘Herrschaftsgebilde’ (creation of the dominating will). We may say the same about body-image. Since optic experience plays such an enormous part in our relation to the world, it will also play a dominating role in the creation of the body-image. But optic experience is also experience by action. By actions and determinations we give the final shape to our bodily self. It is a process of continual active development.” (My underline)

Schilder, Paul. The Image and Appearance of The Human Body. New York: International Universities Press, 1950, pp. 104-105.


“Body images should not exist in isolation. We desire the relation of our body-images to the body-images of all other persons, and we want it especially concerning all sexual activities and their expression in the body-image. Masturbation is specifically social. It is an act by which we attempt to draw the body-images of others, especially in their genital region, nearer to us.”

Schilder, Paul. The Image and Appearance of The Human Body. New York: International Universities Press, 1950, p. 237.


“As the French critic Maurice Blanchot wrote, “The image has nothing to do with signification, meaning, as implied by the existence of the world, the effort of truth, the law and the brightness of the day. Not only is the image of an object not the meaning of that object and of no help in comprehending it, but it tends to withdraw it from its meaning by maintaining it in the immobility of a resemblance that it has nothing to resemble” … It is this severance of meaning and its object, this resemblance of nothing, that the crisis of looking intersects with the crisis of the body. In contemporary culture we promote the body as infinitely extendable and manageable. Indeed, we mediate this concept through the permeation of the photographic image in popular culture – through advertising and dominant discourse that place the young, beautiful, erotic body as the desirable object of social attention. This is a body apparently conditioned by personal control (moral concern). But the splitting apart of image and meaning pointed to by Blanchot suggests that such control is illusory. There is no single truth; there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described.” (My underline)

Blanchot, Maurice. The Gaze of Orpheus. New York: Barrytown, 1981, p. 85, quoted in Townsend, Chris. Vile Bodies: Photography and the Crisis of Looking. Munich: Prestel, 1998, p. 10.


“Where objective knowing is passive, subjective knowing is active – rather than giving allegiance to a set of methodological rules which are designed to deliver up truth through some kind of automatic process [in this case the construction of the male figure through the image], the subjective knower takes a personal risk in entering into the meaning of the phenomena to be known … Those who have some time for the validity of subjective experience but intellectual qualms about any kind of ‘truth’ which is not ‘objective’, are apt to solve their problem by appealing to some kind of relativity. For example, it might be felt that we all have our own versions of the truth about which we must tolerantly agree to differ. While in some ways this kind of approach represents an advance on the brute domination of ‘objective truth’, it in fact undercuts and betrays the reality of the world given to our subjectivity. Subjective truth has to be actively struggled for: we need the courage to differ until we can agree. Though the truth is not just a matter of personal perspective, neither is it fixed and certain, objectively ‘out there’ and independent of human knowing. ‘The truth’ changes according to, among other things, developments and alterations in our values and understandings … the ‘non-finality’ of truth is not to be confused with a simple relativity of ‘truths’.” (My underline).

Smail, David. Illusion and Reality: The Meaning of Anxiety. London: J.M. Dent & Sons, 1984, pp. 152-153.





The Unflinching Gaze: photo media & the male figure

The Unflinching Gaze: photo media & the male figure surveys how the male figure has been depicted by Australian and international artists in photo media over the last 140 years. It includes historic and contemporary fine art photography and film, fashion photography, pop videos and homoerotic art. Images range from the beautiful to the banal to the confounding.

The Unflinching Gaze: photo media & the male figure is a Bathurst Regional Art Gallery exhibition in partnership with Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York. Curated by Richard Perram OAM. This exhibition is supported by the Dobell Exhibition Grant, funded by the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation and managed by Museums & Galleries of NSW.


Installation view of the exhibition 'The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure' at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure' at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure' at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure' at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery

Installation view of the exhibition 'The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure' at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery


Installation views of the exhibition The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure at the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, New South Wales
Photos: Sharon Hickey Photography



In line with current thinking the exhibition posits masculinity, and gender itself, as a kind of performance – a social construct that is acquired rather than biologically determined.

This idea has its limits, with most people happy to accept anatomy as destiny. Nevertheless, there is much we view as ‘natural’ that might be more accurately described as ‘cultural’. In an exceptional catalogue essay, Peter McNeil refers to Jonathan Ned Katz’s book, The Invention of Heterosexuality, which notes that the term “heterosexual” was first published in the United States in 1892. This is a remarkably late entry for a concept often viewed as a cornerstone of social orthodoxy.

A condition doesn’t require a word to make it a reality but it sure helps. Wittgenstein’s famous dictum: “The limits of my language are the limits of my world,” reminds us of the power of naming and categorisation.

To establish anything as an unquestionable norm is to stigmatise other views as abnormal. From the perception of abnormality comes the fear and hatred that surfaced during a same-sex marriage postal survey that revealed more about political cowardice than it did about Australian social attitudes. Although Perram has no qualms about celebrating gay sexuality his chief concern is to encourage a broader, more inclusive understanding of masculinity. …

One of the most striking moments in Perram’s show is a juxtaposition of Mapplethorpe’s 1983 portrait of gay porn star, Roger Koch, aka Frank Vickers, wearing a wig, bra and fishnets, his hands clasped demurely over his groin. The feminine coyness is at odds with Vickers’s musclebound torso and biceps which are fully on display in his self-portrait of the same year, along with his semi-erect penis.

The photos may be two versions of camp but the comparison shows how an individual’s sexual identity can be reconfigured with the appropriate props and body language. In the case of performance artist, Leigh Bowery, captured in a series of photos by Fergus Greer, the play of fantasy transcended the simple binary opposition of male and female, to create monstrous hybrids that question the limits of what it is to be human.”

John McDonald. “The Unflinching Gaze,” November 24, 2017


Tony Albert (Australia, 1981-) 'Brother (Our Past)' 2013

Tony Albert (Australia, 1981-) 'Brother (Our Present)' 2013

Tony Albert (Australia, 1981-) 'Brother (Our Future)' 2013


Tony Albert (Australia, b. 1981)
Brother (Our Past) 2013
Brother (Our Present) 2013
Brother (Our Future) 2013
Pigment on paper, edition of 3 150 x 100cm each
Courtesy UTS Art, Corrigan Collection


Andy Warhol (United States, 1928-1987) 'Blow Job' [still] 1964


Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Blow Job [still]
16mm film, black and white, silent duration: 41 min at 16 frames per second
© 2017 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Caregie Institute. All rights reserved



Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)


Robert Wilson (United States, 1941-) 'Brad Pitt'  2004


Robert Wilson (American, b. 1941)
Brad Pitt
Video portrait, looped
Dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist and the Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation, New York



Robert Wilson (American, b. 1941)
Brad Pitt video portrait


Peter Elfes (Australia, 1961-) 'Brenton [Heath-Kerr] as Tom of Finland' 1992


Peter Elfes (Australian, b. 1961)
Brenton (Heath-Kerr) as Tom of Finland
Cibachrome print
51 x 40.6cm
Courtesy the artist
© Peter Elfes


Casa Susanna Attributed to Andrea Susan '(Lee in white dress)' 1961


Casa Susanna
Attributed to Andrea Susan
(Lee in white dress)
Digital copy from colour photographs
Collection of Art Gallery of Ontario, purchased with funds generously donated by Martha LA McCain 2015
© Art Gallery of Ontario
Photo: Ian Lefebvre


Nikki Johnson (United States, 1972-) 'David Amputation Fetishist' 2007


Nikki Johnson (American, b. 1972)
David Amputation Fetishist
Digital print (from a set of images)
Courtesy the artist


Luke Parker (Australia 1975-) 'Double hanging' 2005


Luke Parker (Australian, b. 1975)
Double hanging
Photograph, cotton thread, pins
15 x 40cm
Courtesy the artist and 55 Sydenham Rd


Gregory Collection. 'Mr Cullen & Mr Gornall' Date unknown


Gregory Collection
Mr Cullen & Mr Gornall
Date unknown
Digital copy from scanned negative
Courtesy the Bathurst Historical Society



Two hundred photos and videos by sixty two leading artists (twenty four Australian and thirty eight international) will be exhibited at Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG) from Saturday 14 October until Sunday 3 December 2017.

Curated by BRAG Director Richard Perram OAM, an openly gay man, The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure surveys how the male figure has been depicted by Australian and international artists in photo media over the last 140 years. It includes historic and contemporary fine art photography and film, fashion photography, pop videos and homoerotic art. Images range from the beautiful to the banal to the confounding.

Key artists in the exhibition include iconic American artists Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, and avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson with a video portrait of Brad Pitt; European artists such as Eadweard Muybridge, and Baron Wilhelm Von Gloeden; and historic and contemporary Australian artists including Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss, Max Dupain, Deborah Kelly, William Yang, Gary Carsley, Owen Leong and Liam Benson. Works have been sourced from Australian and international collections, including a major loan of 60 works from the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York.

The exhibition brings an unflinching gaze to how concepts of humanity and the male figure are intertwined and challenged. Themes include the Pink Triangle, which deals with the persecution, torture and genocide of homosexuals in concentration camps during World War II to those in Chechyna today; and the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

The Unflinching Gaze exhibition is a unique opportunity for audiences in the Bathurst Region to access a world class photo-media exhibition, says Richard Perram OAM. The Unflinching Gaze not only deals with aesthetic concerns but also engages the community in a discussion around social issues. BRAG is working with local Bathurst LGBTI community groups to ensure that one of the most important outcomes of the exhibition will be to inform and educate the general Bathurst community and support and affirm the Bathurst LGBTI community.

The Unflinching Gaze: photo media and the male figure is a Bathurst Regional Art Gallery exhibition in partnership with Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, New York. Curated by Richard Perram OAM. This exhibition is supported by the Dobell Exhibition Grant, funded by the Sir William Dobell Art Foundation and managed by Museums & Galleries of NSW.

Press release from the Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG)


American & Australian Photographic Company (Beaufoy Merlin & Charles Bayliss) 'Mssrs. Bushley & Young' Nd


American & Australian Photographic Company
(Beaufoy Merlin and Charles Bayliss)
Mssrs. Bushley & Young
Digital reproductions from glass photo negatives, quarter plate
From the Collections of the State Library of NSW


Horst P. Horst (Germany; United States, 1906-1996) 'Male Nude I NY' 1952


Horst P. Horst (Germany; United States, 1906-1996)
Male Nude I NY
Silver gelatin print
25.4 x 20.3cm
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, gift of Ricky Horst


Liam Benson (Australia, 1980-) 'The Crusader' 2015

Liam Benson (Australia, 1980-) 'The Executioner' 2015

Liam Benson (Australia, 1980-) 'The Terrorist' 2015


Liam Benson (Australian, b. 1980)
The Crusader 2015
The Executioner 2015
The Terrorist 2015
Inkjet print on cotton rag paper, edition of 5 90 x 134cm
Photograph by Alex Wisser
Courtesy of the artist and Artereal Gallery



George Platt Lynes (United States, 1907-1955) 'Blanchard Kennedy' 1936


George Platt Lynes (American, 1907-1955)
Blanchard Kennedy
Gelatin silver photograph
23 x 18.2cm
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1981


Christopher Makos (United States, 1948-) 'Altered Image: One Photograph of Andy Warhol' 1982


Christopher Makos (American, b. 1948)
Altered Image: One Photograph of Andy Warhol
Gelatin silver photograph
50.6 x 40.8cm each
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Purchased 1982


Robert Mapplethorpe (United States, 1946-1989) 'Helmut, N.Y.C. (from X Portfolio)' 1978


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Helmut, N.Y.C. (from X Portfolio)
Selenium toned silver gelatin print
19.7 x 19.7cm
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, Foundation Purchase
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission


Robert Mapplethorpe (United States, 1946-1989) 'Roger Koch aka Frank Vickers: From the "Roger" Series' 1983


Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946-1989)
Roger Koch aka Frank Vickers: From the “Roger” Series
Gelatin silver photo
48.9 x 38.1cm
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, Founders Gift
© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission



Body, image and society

Goffman’s approach to the body is characterised by three main features. First, there is a view of the body as material property of individuals. In contrast to naturalistic views … Goffman argues that individuals usually have the ability to control and monitor their bodily performances in order to facilitate social interaction. Here, the body is associated with the exercise of human agency, and it appears in Goffman’s work as a resource which both requires and enables people to manage their movements and appearances.

Second, while the body is not actually produced by social forces, as in Foucault’s work, the meanings attributed to it are determined by ‘shared vocabularies of body idiom’ which are not under the immediate control of individuals (E. Goffman, Behaviour In Public Places: Notes on the Social Organisation of Gatherings, The Free Press, New York, 1963, p.35). Body idiom is a conventionalized form of non-verbal communication which is by far the most important component of behaviour in public. It is used by Goffman in a general sense to refer to ‘dress, bearing, movements and position, sound level, physical gestures such as waving and saluting, facial decorations, and broad emotional expressions’ (Goffman, 1963:33). As well as allowing us to classify information given off by bodies, shared vocabularies of body idiom provide categories which label and grade hierarchically people according to this information. Consequently, these classifications exert a profound influence over ways in which individuals seek to manage and present their bodies.

The first two features of Goffman’s approach suggest that human bodies have a dual location. Bodies are the property of individuals, yet are defined as significant and meaningful by society. This formulation lies at the core of the third main feature of Goffman’s approach to the body. In Goffman’s work, the body plays an important role in mediating the relationship between people’s self-identity and their social identity. The social meanings which are attached to particular bodily forms and performances tend to become internalized and exert a powerful influence on an individuals sense of self and feelings of inner worth.

Goffman’s general approach to the body is revealed through his more specific analyses of the procedures involved in what he terms the ‘interaction order’. Goffman conceptualises the interaction order as somehow autonomous sphere of social life (others include the economic sphere) which should not be seen as ‘somehow prior, fundamental, or constitutive of the shape of macroscopic phenomena’ (Goffman, 1983:4). His analysis of this sphere of life demonstrates that intervening successfully in daily life, and maintaining a single definition in the face of possible disruptions, requires a high degree of competence in controlling the expressions, movements and communications of the body.” (Goffman, 1969).

Schilling, Chris. The Body and Social Theory. London: Sage Publications, 1993, pp. 82-83.


Owen Leong (Australia, 1979-) 'Resistance Training' 2017


Owen Leong (Australian, b. 1979)
Resistance Training
Archival pigment print on cotton paper, edition of 5 + 2 AP
120 x 120cm
Courtesy the artist and Artereal Gallery, Sydney Commissioned by BRAG for The Unflinching Gaze: photo media & the male figure with funds from BRAGS Inc. (Bathurst Regional Art Gallery Society Inc.)


Owen Leong (Australia, 1979-) 'Milk Teeth' 2014


Owen Leong (Australian, b. 1979)
Milk Teeth
Archival pigment print on cotton paper, edition of 5 + 2Ap
120 x 120cm
Courtesy of the artists and Artereal Gallery Sydney


Samuel J Hood (Australia, 1872-1953) 'The 9th Field Brigade' 24/2/1938


Samuel J Hood (Australian, 1872-1953)
The 9th Field Brigade (four images)
24/2/1938 (Liverpool, NSW)
Photo negative (copied from original nitrate photograph) 35mm
From the Collections of the State Library of NSW


Anthony Sansone (Italy; United States, 1905-1987) 'Untitled' 1935


Anthony Sansone (Italy; United States, 1905-1987)
Bromide print
24.1 x 18.9cm
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, gift of David Aden Gallery


Fergus Greer (United Kingdom, 1961-) 'Leigh Bowery, Session V' Look 27 February 1992


Fergus Greer (United Kingdom, b. 1961)
Leigh Bowery, Session V
Look 27 February 1992
Digital reproduction
Courtesy Fergus Greer


Fergus Greer (United Kingdom, 1961-) 'Leigh Bowery, Session VII' Look 34, June 1994


Fergus Greer (United Kingdom, b. 1961)
Leigh Bowery, Session VII
Look 34, June 1994
Digital reproduction
Courtesy Fergus Greer


Unknown American. 'Vintage photograph from the Closeted History/Wunderkamera' Nd


Unknown American
Vintage photograph from the Closeted History/Wunderkamera
Tintypes, paper photographs
Collection of Luke Roberts


Frank Vickers (United States, 1948-1991) 'Untitled (self-portrait)' 1983


Frank Vickers (American, 1948-1991)
Untitled (self-portrait)
Silver gelatin print
17.8 x 12.4cm
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay & Lesbian Art, Founders’ gift


Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (Germany; Italy, 1856-1931) 'Untitled' c. 1910


Baron Wilhelm von Gloeden (Germany; Italy, 1856-1931)
c. 1910
Albumen silver print
20.3 x 15.2cm
Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, Founders’ gift


Andy Warhol (United States, 1928-1987) 'Untitled (Victor Hugo's Penis)' Date unknown


Andy Warhol (American, 1928-1987)
Untitled (Victor Hugo’s Penis)
Date unknown
8.5 x 10.5cm
Collection of Byrd Hoffman Water Mill Foundation


Gary Carsley (Australia 1957-) 'YOWL' [still] 2017


Gary Carsley (Australian, b. 1957)
YOWL [still]
Single Channel HD Video on Layered A3 Photocopy substrate
360 x 247cm
Duration 4.32 min
Videography Ysia Song, Soundscape Tarun Suresh, Art Direction Shahmen Suku


Royale Hussar (Basil Clavering and John Parkhurst) 'Queens Guard 3' 1959-60


Royale Hussar (Basil Clavering and John Parkhurst)
Queens Guard 3
Digital print from original negative


William Yang (1943- ) ''Allan' from the monologue 'Sadness'' 1992


William Yang (Australian-Chinese, b. 1943)
‘Allan’ from the monologue ‘Sadness’
19 gelatin silver photographs in the monologue
51.0 x 41.0cm each sheet
Photograph: William Yang/Bathurst Regional Art Gallery



A photograph from the Sadness series, which depicts the slow death of his sometime lover, Allan Booth.


Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Auschwitz victim]' Nd


Unknown photographer
Untitled [Auschwitz victim]
Photograph: Bathurst Regional Art Gallery



This prisoner was sent to Auschwitz under Section 175 of the German Criminal Code, which criminalised homosexuality.


The picture may have been taken by Wilhelm Brasse who was born on this date, 3 December in 1917, who became known as the “photographer of Auschwitz concentration camp”, though he was one of several, including Alfred Woycicki , Tadeusz Myszkowski, Józef Pysz, Józef Światłoch, Eugeniusz Dembek, Bronisław Jureczek, Tadeusz Krzysica, Stanisław Trałka, and Zdzisław Pazio whom the Camp Gestapo kept alive for the job of recording thousands of photographs of their fellow prisoners, supervised by Bernhard Walter, the head of Erkenundienst.

The photographs themselves present a transgression of the subject’s own self-image. The carte-de-visite format forces a confrontation of the victim (which in this situation, they are) with themselves in a visual interrogation, by placing a profile and a three-quarter view either side of a frontal mug shot. The final image seems to depict the subject beholden to a higher authority.

Brasse had been arrested in 1940, at age 23, for trying to leave German-occupied Poland and sent to KL Auschwitz-Birkenau where because he had been a Polish professional photographer in his aunt’s studio his skills were useful. Brasse has estimated that he took 40,000 to 50,000 “identity pictures” from 1940 until 1945.

Brasse and another prisoner Bronisław Jureczek preserved the photographs when in January 1945, during the evacuation of the camp, they were ordered to burn all of the photographs. They put wet photo paper in the furnace first and followed by such a great number of photos and negatives that the fire was suffocated. When the SS-Hauptscharfürer Walter left the laboratory, Brasse and Jureczek swept undestroyed photographs from the furnace, scattering them in the rooms of the laboratory and boarding up the door to the laboratory. 38,916 photographs were saved.

James McCardle. “Ghosts,” on the On This Day in Photography website 03/12/2017


M. P. Rice. 'American poet Walt Whitman and his 'rebel soldier friend', Pete Doyle' Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle, Washington DC. c. 1865


M. P. Rice (American)
American poet Walt Whitman and his ‘rebel soldier friend’, Pete Doyle
Walt Whitman and Peter Doyle, Washington DC.
c. 1865
Charles E. Feinberg Collection, Library of Congress
Photograph: Library of Congress/Library of Congress/Bathurst Regional Art Gallery



The first extant photo of Whitman with anyone else, here Peter Doyle, Whitman’s close friend and companion in Washington. Doyle was a horsecar driver and met Whitman one stormy night in 1865 when Whitman, looking (as Doyle said) “like an old sea-captain,” remained the only passenger on Doyle’s car. They were inseparable for the next eight years.


Fergus Greer (English, b. 1994) 'Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 34' June 1994


Fergus Greer (English, b. 1994)
Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 34
June 1994
Silver gelatin print
60.7 × 50.5cm


Christopher Makos (American, b. 1982) 'Altered Image: Five Photographs of Andy Warhol' 1982


Christopher Makos (American, b. 1982)
Altered Image: Five Photographs of Andy Warhol
Portfolio of five gelatin silver prints
Each sheet: 20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6cm)
Each image: 18 x 12 ¾ in. (45.7 x 32.3cm)



Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG)
70 -78 Keppel St
Bathurst NSW 2795

Opening hours:
Tues to Sat 10am – 5pm
Sundays 11am – 2pm

Bathurst Regional Art Gallery website


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Exhibition: ‘XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery’ at Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna

Exhibition dates: 19th October 2012 – 3rd February 2013


Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien


Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräsentation: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery



I can die happy now that I have had the opportunity to do a posting on this amazing man. He challenged social stereotypes turning his body into an every changing, ever challenging work of art. He used his body as a canvas and inscribed narratives upon it. He used these narratives to challenge the dominant discourse, offering himself as material evidence to facilitate new perspectives. His body became a performance, the self as performance, one that was not fully pre-determined, for you never knew what he would do next, what social outrage he would offer up.

Through masks, makeup, wigs and body modification, Bowery confronted the viewer with an/other field of existence, one that promoted an encounter with the face of the other, causing an emotional response in the audience, the viewer. As Wendy Garden observes, “Being faced with another provokes a reaction: it makes an appeal, demands an engagement.”1 We cannot look away for we do not know what Bowery will do next. He used his large body, its bulk and presence to bring the viewer face-to-face with an/other. The magnification of his size and the emphasis and manipulation of his face, especially the mouth and eyes, rescales his presence in front of the viewer – at his performances, in the photographs of Bowery. For example, look at his creation Evening Wear – Andrew Logan’s 1986 Alternative Miss World (1986, below). Impossibly high and luridly coloured boots, leggings, a bustled and bedazzled jacket / skirt combo, crash helmet and the most maniacal black and white face you will ever see. Bowery unbalances the fixity of the single perspective and through his transgression destabilises the mastering gaze.

I was living in London at the time Leigh Bowery, Boy George, Marilyn and Divine were strutting their stuff in the nightclubs of London town. What a time. Maggie Thatcher (and I can hardly bring myself to type her name) was Prime Minister of a right wing Conservative government from 1979-1990, a period of social oppression of minorities, the breaking of the trade unions, the beginning of HIV/AIDS. Think Boy George’s famous song No Clause 28 that protested against a local government act that “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” Bowery was a child of his time, a prescient, sentient being who was out there doing his thing, challenging the dominant paradigms of a patriarchal society. He burned like a comet, bright in the sky, and then was gone all too early. But he will never be forgotten. What a man.

Dr Marcus Bunyan


  1. 1Garden, Wendy. “Ethical witnessing and the portrait photograph: Brook Andrew,” in Journal of Australian Studies Vol. 35, No. 2, June 2011, p. 261.

Many thankx to Kunsthalle Wien for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.





The Legend of Leigh Bowery


Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien


Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräs: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery; Cerith Wyn Evans, In Girum Imus Nocte Et Consumimur Igni, 2008
Courtesy Cerith Wyn Evans und White Cube


Installation view of 'XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery', Kunsthalle Wien


Installation view of XTRAVAGANZA. Staging Leigh Bowery, Kunsthalle Wien
Foto: Stephan Wyckoff
Kostüme Leigh Bowery
Kostümpräsentation: Klaus Mayr
Courtesy Estate of Leigh Bowery


Charles Atlas. 'Teach' 1992-98


Charles Atlas
© Charles Atlas, Courtesy Vilma Gold, London


Werner Pawlok. 'Portrait Leigh Bowery 3' 1988


Werner Pawlok (German, b. 1953)
Portrait Leigh Bowery 3
Courtesy Werner Pawlok



“”I think of myself as a canvas,” fashion pioneer Leigh Bowery once said about himself. If there were a formula to describe this enfant terrible who refused all categorisation throughout his life, this would be it: turning oneself into a work of art. Presenting himself in the most garish ways that defied all conventions and stylising himself as a walking work of art, Leigh Bowery, who was born in Australia in 1961, stirred up London’s sub-culture of the 1980s in the wake of post punk and New Romanticism. Being friends with stars of the scene like Michael Clark and Cerith Wyn Evans, he continuously reinvented himself on the manifold stages of the metropolis.

The show highlights Leigh Bowery’s life and work between fashion, performance, music, dance, and sculpture by presenting rarely exhibited costumes, numerous films, photographs, music videos, talk shows, and magazines. It approaches Bowery by way of artistic descriptions, reflections, and documentations in the work of friends, supporters, and colleagues, whose source of inspiration, entertainer, and muse he was: Bowery’s performative enactments oscillating between masquerade and radical self-expression were captured by filmmakers such as Charles Atlas, Dick Jewell, Baillie Walsh, and John Maybury. It took Fergus Greer a number of sessions that stretched over six years to shoot the legendary photo series Looks. As Charles Atlas’s Teach shows, Leigh Bowery developed his unmistakable outfits, gestures, and poses in multiple forms of self-reflection under his companions’ critical eye. Bowery’s one-week performance in the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London (1988) involved a two-way mirror: while the public could watch Leigh Bowery changing his outfits for hours on end, he saw only his own mirror image and remained inescapably confronted with himself and his movements. Though Bowery claimed that he had had to fight his shame initially and hid his room-filling physique behind conspicuous materials such as tulle, glitter, paint, and satin, his performances were anything but embarrassing: “The rest of us used drag and make-up to disguise our blemishes and physical defects. Leigh made them the focal point of his art,” Boy George once remarked. The nightclubs of London provided Bowery with catwalks on which to flaunt his visions of himself and let him always come out on top in terms of maximum attention. Lucian Freud, the British prince of painters, took great pleasure in Leigh Bowery’s fascinating personality and the fullness of his naked body. Bowery became one of his most important models, and the artist depicted him as he could never be seen in public: natural, intimate, and vulnerable.

Leigh Bowery’s art clearly differs from the designs, presentation patterns, and distribution channels of fashion designers. With Trash and Bad Taste irony, Bowery, like his idol John Waters and his main actor Divine, abandoned all conventions and stylistic doctrines in a both cynical and humorous way. His craftsmanship in tailoring and his creative potential constitute the core of an expressive self-stylisation which did not depend on encouraging the public through marketing strategies or offers of consumer goods. His vestimentary creations were based on the work with his own body, which he regarded as a malleable material and workable mass and which was to play an increasingly central part in his late oeuvre. Regarded as inexorably deficient, his body became the origin of those manifold appearances and kaleidoscopic diversifications that we find most astounding when confronted with Bowery’s work. He experimented with second skins of black latex, exaggerated the size and volume of his body with sweeping tulle attires, and made himself look taller with platform shoes. Bowery sabotaged glamorous, ornamental and transparent materials with steel helmets, toilet seats, and skulls. He fastened artificial lips in his cheeks with safety pins and wore flesh-coloured velvet suits that transformed his body into a vagina. Using adhesive tape and a bodice, he shaped his flesh into an artificial bosom, and he concealed his member behind pubic hair toupees or overemphasised it as he did in one of the Michael Clark Company’s dance performances. He disparaged unequivocal gender definitions and transcended their socially informed attributions – Gender Trouble: everything was a look. By and by, Bowery turned into what has been called “the self as performance.”

Leigh Bowery’s existence was the epitome of extremes. He looked for exceptional emotional and physical states like pain and ecstasy that would release him from the mediocrity of everyday life, like in the performance The Laugh of No.12 in Fort Asperen on June 4, 1994. Suspended on one foot, stark naked, wearing a black face mask, and displaying some clothespins on his genitals, he swung through the air uttering a sprechgesang, before he smashed a pane of glass with his bulky body. Exposing himself to his vulnerability in his performances, Bowery overcame physical injuries by showcasing them. His sometimes sadomasochist appearances and provocative lifestyle culminated in an attitude that crystallised into a sociopolitical approach in his statement “I like doing the opposite of what people expect.” Far from nocturnal footlights and kindred spirits’ protection, he – who was “larger than life” in every respect – strained the social limits of propriety with his big and exalted appearance. He enjoyed causing offence and holding up a mirror to the dictatorship of conformism, unmasking its heteronomy.

After an excessive life, Leigh Bowery died from AIDS at the age of 33. He was more than an extraordinary peripheral figure making his mark in the urban arena of exhibitionism and voyeurism. His virtuoso works have influenced haute couture collections by such fashion stars as Rei Kawakubo, John Galliano, Walter van Beirendonck, and Alexander McQueen. In spite of its simplicity, the latest fall/winter collection of Comme des Garçons shows obvious parallels to Leigh Bowery’s designs.”

Press release from the Kunsthalle Wien website


Robin Beeche. 'Evening Wear - Andrew Logan's 1986 Alternative Miss World' 1986


Robin Beeche (Australian, 1945-2015)
Evening Wear – Andrew Logan’s 1986 Alternative Miss World
Courtesy Robin Beeche


Nick Knight. 'Untitled (Leigh Bowery with Scull)' 1992


Nick Knight (British, b. 1958)
Untitled (Leigh Bowery with Scull)
© Nick Knight


Ole Christiansen. 'Farrel House' 1989


Ole Christiansen (Danish)
Farrel House
Courtesy Ole Christiansen


Fergus Greer. 'Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 38, June 1994' 1994


Fergus Greer (British)
Leigh Bowery, Session VII, Look 38, June 1994
Courtesy Fergus Greer
© Fergus Greer



Kunsthalle Wien
Museumsplatz 1
A-1070 Vienna

Opening hours:
Daily 10am – 7pm
Thursday 10am – 10pm

Kunsthalle Wien website


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Exhibition: ‘Gay Icons’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London

Exhibition dates: 2nd July – 18th October 2009


Jill Furmanovsky. 'K.D. Lang, Le Meridien Hotel, London' 1992


Jill Furmanovsky (British, b. 1953)
K.D. Lang, Le Meridien Hotel, London
Gelatin silver print
© Jill Furmanovsky



“How I wish this selection had been available to me when I was young and trying to make sense of my reactions to the world. How inspirational to have had portraits of the great and the good staring out at me telling me that I was not by any measure on my own.”

“… it is her [K.D. Lang’s] androgynous good looks and tendency to strut on the stage which warms many lesbian hearts.” ~ Sandi Toksvig

Many thankx to the National Portrait Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Fergus Greer (born England, lives Los Angeles) 'Quentin Crisp' 1989


Fergus Greer (born England, lives Los Angeles)
Quentin Crisp
Bromide fibre print
10 1/2 in. x 10 3/8 in. (267 mm x 264 mm)
Given by Fergus Greer, 2006
© National Portrait Gallery, London
© Fergus Greer



The first portrait exhibition to celebrate the contribution of gay people and gay icons to history and culture. 60 photographs selected by Waheed Alli, Alan Hollinghurst, Elton John, Jackie Kay, Billie Jean King, Ian McKellen, Chris Smith, Ben Summerskill, Sandi Toksvig and Sarah Waters.

An important photography exhibition, Gay Icons, at the National Portrait Gallery (2 July – 18 October 2009) will celebrate the contribution of gay people – and the significance of the gay icon – to history and culture. Ten selectors have worked with the Gallery to make their own personal choices of six individuals, their ‘icons’. Not only does this exhibition include many well-known icons, who may or may not be gay themselves, it also reveals some surprises and will encourage a wide audience to think about familiar faces in new ways.

The Gay Icons shown in the exhibition will include those people, living or dead, whatever their sexual orientation or interests, who the ten individual selectors regard as inspirational, or as a personal icon. Gay Icons brings together portraits of those people who are regarded as especially significant to each of the selectors, alongside those of the selectors themselves, all prominent gay figures in contemporary culture and society.

Coinciding with the fortieth anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York, this exhibition focuses on portraits of both historical and modern figures. The choices provide a fascinating range of inspiring figures – some very famous, some heroic, others relatively unknown. Each icon is presented with information about their personal, and sometimes public, significance, some of it relating to the sitter but much of it linked to the selectors who have been prepared to share their experiences and feelings in their own exhibition texts.

Themes running through the exhibition include inspiration and how the ‘icons’ have inspired each selector in an extremely personal sense to realise their full potential, human rights, stemming from the specific consideration of sexuality, and how this might lead us to consider parallels between the struggles of different minority groups, re-discovery, or rescuing the reputations of figures who might otherwise have been forgotten or, worse, actively disregarded and surprise at some of the perhaps unexpected choices.

The project was developed from an initial proposal made by Bernard Horrocks, Copyright Officer, at the Gallery. The concept quickly evolved to include invitations to ten gay people – each distinguished in different fields – to act as selectors. They were chosen in consultation with their Chair, Sandi Toksvig.

Each selector could freely choose six ‘icons’, although the Gallery decided to limit the choices to photographic portraits, and therefore to subjects who had lived, more or less, within the last 150 years. This also seemed appropriate because within this same period homosexuality was gradually accepted and made legitimate in Britain.

The selectors are Lord Waheed Alli, Alan Hollinghurst, Sir Elton John, Jackie Kay, Billie Jean King, Sir Ian McKellen, Lord Chris Smith, Ben Summerskill, Sandi Toksvig and Sarah Waters.

Sitters include artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney, civil rights campaigner Harvey Milk, writers Quentin Crisp, Joe Orton, Dame Daphne Du Maurier, Patricia Highsmith and Walt Whitman, composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, musicians k.d. lang, Will Young and Village People, entertainers Ellen DeGeneres, Kenneth Williams and Lily Savage, and Nelson Mandela and Diana, Princess of Wales. Their fascinating stories will be illustrated by sixty photographic portraits including works by Andy Warhol, Linda McCartney, Snowdon, Polly Borland, Fergus Greer, Terry O’Neill and Cecil Beaton.

Sandy Nairne, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, London, says: “Gay Icons is an exhibition in which inspiring stories – both private and public – are shared. These are stories of brave lives and significant achievements, told through iconic photographic images chosen by selectors who are themselves icons.

Text from the National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/07/2009 no longer available online


Gisèle Freund (French, born Germany 1908-2000) 'Virginia Woolf' 1939


Gisèle Freund (French born Germany, 1908-2000)
Virginia Woolf
© Gisèle Freund



Gisèle Freund (born Gisela Freund; December 19, 1908 in Schöneberg District, Berlin – March 31, 2000 in Paris) was a German-born French photographer and photojournalist, famous for her documentary photography and portraits of writers and artists. Her best-known book, Photographie et société (1974), is about the uses and abuses of the photographic medium in the age of technological reproduction. In 1977, she became President of the French Association of Photographers, and in 1981, she took the official portrait of French President François Mitterrand.

She was made Officier des Arts et Lettres in 1982 and Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, the highest decoration in France, in 1983. In 1991, she became the first photographer to be honoured with a retrospective at the Musée National d’art Moderne in Paris (Centre Georges Pompidou).

Freund’s major contributions to photography include using the Leica Camera (with its 36 frames) for documentary reportage and her early experimentation with Kodachrome and 35 mm Agfacolor, which allowed her to develop a “uniquely candid portraiture style” that distinguishes her in 20th century photography.

She is buried at the Montparnasse Cemetery in Paris, France near her home and studio at 12 rue Lalande.

See her full entry on the Wikipedia website


Harper & Brothers. 'Patricia Highsmith' 1942 


Harper & Brothers
Patricia Highsmith
Gelatin silver print
© Patricia Highsmith Collection, Swiss National Library / Swiss Literary Archives, Bern



“… is a significant writer by any standard, but she deserves honouring as a lesbian and gay icon on the strength of one novel alone, The Price of Salt, a wonderfully complex and upbeat representation of lesbian love.” ~ Sarah Waters


Patricia Highsmith (January 19, 1921 – February 4, 1995) was an American novelist and short story writer best known for her psychological thrillers, including her series of five novels featuring the character Tom Ripley. She wrote 22 novels and numerous short stories throughout her career spanning nearly five decades, and her work has led to more than two dozen film adaptations. Her writing derived influence from existentialist literature, and questioned notions of identity and popular morality. She was dubbed “the poet of apprehension” by novelist Graham Greene.

Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times, notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. Her 1955 novel The Talented Mr. Ripley has been adapted numerous times for film, theatre, and radio. Writing under the pseudonym “Claire Morgan,” Highsmith published the first lesbian novel with a happy ending, The Price of Salt, in 1952, republished 38 years later as Carol under her own name and later adapted into a 2015 film.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Paul Morrissey. 'Joe Dallesandro' 1968


Paul Morrissey (American, b. 1938)
Joe Dallesandro
Gelatin silver print
© Paul Morrissey, 1968



Joseph Angelo D’Allesandro III (born December 31, 1948), better known as Joe Dallesandro, is an American actor and Warhol superstar. Having also crossed over into mainstream roles like mobster Lucky Luciano in The Cotton Club, Dallesandro is generally considered to be the most famous male sex symbol of American underground films of the 20th century, as well as a sex symbol of gay subculture.

Dallesandro starred in the 1968 film produced by Andy Warhol, Flesh, as a teenage street hustler. Rolling Stone magazine in 1970 declared his second starring vehicle, Trash, the “Best Film of the Year”, making him a star of the youth culture, sexual revolution and subcultural New York City art collective of the 1970s. Dallesandro also starred in 1972’s Heat, another Warhol film that was conceived as a parody of Sunset Boulevard. …


Underground film career

Dallesandro met Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey in 1967 while they were shooting Four Stars, and they cast him in the film on the spot. Warhol would later comment “In my movies, everyone’s in love with Joe Dallesandro.”

Dallesandro played a hustler in his third Warhol film, Flesh (1968), where he had several nude scenes. Flesh became a crossover hit with mainstream audiences, and Dallesandro became the most popular of the Warhol stars. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby wrote of him: “His physique is so magnificently shaped that men as well as women become disconnected at the sight of him”

As Dallesandro’s underground fame began to cross over into the popular culture, he appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone in April 1971. He was also photographed by some of the top celebrity photographers of the time: Francesco Scavullo, Annie Leibovitz, Richard Avedon.

Dallesandro appeared in Lonesome Cowboys (1968), Trash (1970), Heat (1972), Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, and Andy Warhol’s Dracula (both 1974), also directed by Morrissey. These last two films were shot in Europe. After filming was complete, he chose not to return to the U.S. He appeared in Serge Gainsbourg’s Je t’aime moi non plus (France, 1976), which starred Gainsbourg’s wife, British actress Jane Birkin.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Lewis Morley (Australian, born Hong Kong 1925-2013) 'Joe Orton' 1965


Lewis Morley (Australian, born Hong Kong 1925-2013)
Joe Orton
Bromide print
20 in. x 16 1/8 in. (508 mm x 410 mm)
Given by the photographer, Lewis Morley, 1992
© Lewis Morley Archive/National Portrait Gallery, London



Gay Icons explores gay social and cultural history through the unique personal insights of ten high profile gay figures, who have selected their historical and modern icons.

The chosen icons, who may or may not be gay themselves, have all been important to each selector, having influenced their gay sensibilities or contributed to making them who they are today. They include artists Francis Bacon and David Hockney; writers Daphne du Maurier and Quentin Crisp; composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky and Benjamin Britten; musicians k.d. lang, the Village People and Will Young; entertainers Ellen DeGeneres, Lily Savage and Kenneth Williams; sports stars Martina Navratilova and Ian Roberts and political activists Harvey Milk and Angela Mason.

Their fascinating and inspirational stories will be illustrated by over sixty photographic portraits including works by Andy Warhol, Snowdon and Cecil Beaton together with specially commissioned portraits of the selectors by Mary McCartney. McCartney. All are set in a striking exhibition design conceived by renowned theatre designer, Robert Jones …

This exhibition brings together ten selectors, chaired by Sandi Toksvig, each of whom is a prominent gay figure in contemporary culture and society. Each selector was asked to name six people, who may or may not be gay, whom they personally regard as inspirational, or an icon for them.

Their choices provide a fascinating range of figures – some heroic, some very famous, others less well known. In the exhibition the selectors write about their choices and share their own convictions, experiences and feelings. The display also features specially commissioned portraits of the selectors by Mary McCartney.

Anonymous text. “Gay Icons,” on the National Portrait Gallery website [Online] Cited 18/06/2022


Ian Berry (British) 'Nelson Mandela' 1994


Ian Berry (British)
Nelson Mandela
Gelatin silver print
© Ian Berry/Magnum Photos



“He has touched my heart, just as he has influenced the hearts and minds of people all over the world.” ~ Billie Jean King


“The great single picture is emotionally satisfying, whereas getting a good journalistic story is more about being a professional” ~ Ian Berry

Ian Berry was born in Lancashire, England. He made his reputation in South Africa, where he worked for the Daily Mail and later for Drum magazine. He was the only photographer to document the massacre at Sharpeville in 1960, and his photographs were used in the trial to prove the victims’ innocence.

Henri Cartier-Bresson invited Ian Berry to join Magnum in 1962 when he was based in Paris. He moved to London in 1964 to become the first contract photographer for the Observer Magazine. Since then assignments have taken him around the world: he has documented Russia’s invasion of Czechoslovakia; conflicts in Israel, Ireland, Vietnam and the Congo; famine in Ethiopia; apartheid in South Africa. The major body of work produced in South Africa is represented in two of his books: Black and Whites: L’Afrique du Sud (with a foreword by the then French president François Mitterrand), and Living Apart (1996). During the last year, projects have included child slavery in Ghana and the Spanish fishing industry.

Important editorial assignments have included work for National GeographicFortuneSternGeo, national Sunday magazines, EsquireParis-Match and LIFE. Ian Berry has also reported on the political and social transformations in China and the former USSR.

Anonymous text. “Ian Berry,” on the Magnum website [Online] Cited 16/03/2019


Unknown photographer. 'Bessie Smith' c. 1920s


Unknown photographer
Bessie Smith
c. 1920s
Gelatin silver print
Frank Driggs Collection/Getty Images
© 1925 Getty Images



“A feisty woman who always stood up for herself… She was bisexual and practically an alcoholic – the perfect icon.” ~ Jackie Kay

Bessie Smith (April 15, 1894 – September 26, 1937) was an American blues singer. Nicknamed the Empress of the Blues, she was the most popular female blues singer of the 1920s and 1930s. She is often regarded as one of the greatest singers of her era and was a major influence on fellow blues singers, as well as jazz vocalists.

Read her full entry on the Wikipedia website


Howard Coster (British, 1885-1959) 'Sylvia Townsend Warner' 1934


Howard Coster (British, 1885-1959)
Sylvia Townsend Warner
Half-plate film negative
Transferred from Central Office of Information, 1974
© National Portrait Gallery, London


Sylvia Townsend Warner (6 December 1893 – 1 May 1978) was an English novelist and poet. She also made a contribution to musicology as a young woman.


Bertram Park. 'Ronald Firbank' (detail) 1917


Bertram Park (British, 1883-1972)
Ronald Firbank (detail)


“He [Ronald Firbank] is celebrated as a master of high camp, but he was also a radical technician and radical homosexualiser of the novel.” ~ Alan Hollinghurst


Bertram Park (British, 1883-1972) 'Ronald Firbank' 1917


Bertram Park (British, 1883-1972)
Ronald Firbank



Bertram Charles Percival Park, OBE, (1883-1972) was a portrait photographer whose work included British and European royalty. Engravings of his photographs were widely used on British and British Commonwealth postage stamps, currency, and other official documents in the 1930s. His theatrical portraits were the source for two paintings by Walter Sickert. With his wife Yvonne Gregory, he also produced a number of photographic books of the female nude. He was an expert in the cultivation of the rose and the editor of The Rose Annual.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Arthur Annesley Ronald Firbank (17 January 1886 – 21 May 1926) was an innovative English novelist. His eight short novels, partly inspired by the London aesthetes of the 1890s, especially Oscar Wilde, consist largely of dialogue, with references to religion, social-climbing, and sexuality.


Unknown Photographer. 'Winifred Atwell' (detail) c. 1950s. Courtesy of Getty Images.


Unknown photographer
Winifred Atwell (detail)
c. 1950s
Courtesy of Getty Images



“Winifred Atwell’s piano performances were simply captivating. She showed me what was possible and was a total inspiration.” ~ Elton John

Una Winifred Atwell (27 February or 27 April 1910 or 1914 – 28 February 1983) was a Trinidadian pianist who enjoyed great popularity in Britain and Australia from the 1950s with a series of boogie-woogie and ragtime hits, selling over 20 million records. She was the first black person to have a number-one hit in the UK Singles Chart and is still the only female instrumentalist to do so.

Read the full entry about this amazing women on the Wikipedia website


Elliott and Fry. 'Alan Turing' 1951 © National Portrait Gallery, London


Elliott and Fry
Alan Turing (detail)
29 March 1951
© National Portrait Gallery, London



Elliott & Fry was a Victorian photography studio founded in 1863 by Joseph John Elliott (14 October 1835 – 30 March 1903) and Clarence Edmund Fry (1840 – 12 April 1897). For a century the firm’s core business was taking and publishing photographs of the Victorian public and social, artistic, scientific and political luminaries. In the 1880s the company operated three studios and four large storage facilities for negatives, with a printing works at Barnet.

The firm’s first address was 55 & 56 Baker Street in London, premises they occupied until 1919. The studio employed a number of photographers, including Francis Henry Hart and Alfred James Philpott in the Edwardian era, Herbert Lambert and Walter Benington in the 1920s and 1930s and subsequently William Flowers. During World War II the studio was bombed and most of the early negatives were lost, the National Portrait Gallery holding all the surviving negatives. With the firm’s centenary in 1963 it was taken over by Bassano & Vandyk.

Text from the Wikipedia website


Elliott and Fry. 'Alan Turing' 29 March 1951


Elliott and Fry
Alan Turing
29 March 1951
Vintage bromide print on photographer’s mount
6 3/8 x 4 5/8 in. (162 mm x 117 mm)
Given by the sitter’s mother, Ethel Sara Turing (née Stoney), 1956
© National Portrait Gallery, London



“Turing was one of the most brilliant men of the first half of the twentieth century, but the refusal of post-war society to accept his sexuality drove him to commit suicide… We can and should honour him now.” ~ Chris Smith



National Portrait Gallery
St Martin’s Place
London WC2H 0HE

Opening hours:
Closed until 2023

National Portrait Gallery website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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