Dean O'Brien's Blog

CW2 Research: The full interview with Ghislain Pascal on the work of Bob Carlos Clarke

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As part of my CW2 essay I am looking into the work of Bob Carlos Clarke.  Bob passed away almost five years ago so I am contacting those who were closest hoping that they can clarify some issues surrounding his work.  What follows below is an interview with Ghislain Pascal who was the agent for Bob Carlos Clarke.   I travelled down to London to meet Ghislain on 11th November 2010 so that he could give me a greater insight into the work of Bob.

‘How do you view Bob’s work and is it demeaning to women?

Well I think if people actually look at Bob’s work and read the words he has bothered to write.  Shooting Sex was kind of his biography and if people read the words that went with the ‘Love Dolls’ catalogue they would see that Bob is not being misogynistic he is actually completely in awe of woman.  He fantasied about women, he was obsessed by women and he never saw them as objects.  The whole concept of the whole Love Doll show was that women are taking over the world and men are redundant so it was completely the opposite.  They need to look at the captions, the titles and words that go with it.  There are lots of photographers who are demeaning, who are not very objective, tacky and crude but that was not Bob’s intention.  He was a little bit more intellectual than that.

Did his images contain a narrative or did he just take images that were aesthetically pleasing to him?

Probably both.  Any photographer would probably say both.  When he was doing his own projects he would have his own concept, a vision.  Bob worked with muses that he worked with over 10 to 15 years so with those there wasn’t a narrative so much, more of a great connection.  With the Love Doll project there was a thought, a concept and then he took it through to fruition.  When he was doing his commercial work that was different as everything had to be planned in advance.  Obviously when you have advertising jobs there are art directors involved and Bob hated working with those.  They would be there trying to tell him how to take a picture.  I mean, why bother employing one of the best photographers in the world and then try to tell him how to take a picture?  He hated doing advertising work and he hated shooting editorial work

Do you believe that photographers can become tarnished and lose work because they are photographing women?

It depends what they do.  The whole reason that Bob got into photography was to photograph women.  He said in his own words that It was a great way to get a shag.  The thing with Bob is that he wasn’t a fashion photographer.  He wasn’t a celebrity photographer.  He wasn’t a portrait photographer.  He didn’t fall into any slot so for Bob he became pigeon holed and known for shooting girls in rubber.  But then because Helmut Newton was a fashion photographer and he shot his erotic pictures for Vogue so for him it wasn’t a problem. He had been commissioned to shoot these pictures whereas for Bob it was his own work.  At one point in his career Bob even used a sudonym which I thought was a stupid idea as everything goes in cycles.  I suppose you have to follow a path and stick to it and not let people dictate to you what they want you to do.

I have often been told to photograph the subject which I most enjoy taking pictures of.  Do you think that all successful photographers abide by this rule such as I believe Bob did or are there those who are frightened by what people will think and inevitably lose work?

Well absolutely.  There are commercial photographers who will carry on doing that stuff till the day they die.  Its difficult as everybody needs to earn a living.  Bob used to say ‘Don’t become a photographer, do it as a hobby.  There are too many photographers out there.’ With the digital age its impossible now.  Even some of the great fashion photographers decide that they want to do do fine art photography and exhibit in galleries.  Its very hard to make that switch.  Some people become famous because they photograph celebrities.  That seems to be the quickest way to get yourself known.  Look at Testino. If he wasn’t photographing Kate Moss do you think he would be famous?  No.  Its all about who you have shot.  Its an irony.  Its almost about who you have got in your pictures.  But actually if you took away the celebrities how good are the pictures?

Which image of Bob’s would you say was the most controversial?

How long do you have?  I think the two most controversial were ‘Tite Street’ and ‘Miss X Was No Angel‘

Many feel that Bob had a special connection with his subjects.  Do you believe this to be true?

Bob always went out and found girls himself.  He didn’t go to model agencies.  He used to find them in strip clubs or wherever else.  Inevitably many of them would become models. He would often shoot with just him and the girl, no assistants or nothing. When we were doing big jobs Bob would be like ‘Can you lot just fuck off?  How is this girl meant to relax with all you lot nattering on your mobile phones?‘  If the girl is not relaxed its going to come straight out in the pictures.  With celebrities there was nothing you could do what with the manager, publicist and the agent all standing there watching.

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