As part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations I decided to do a little photo-essay. I realise that the Jubilee was a fortnight ago, but it took time for the film to come back from the lab; that's why journalists generally don't use film any more. With film you can only see the past, never the present, and certainly not the future. Never coming back, ever running over.
I used a Mamiya C33 twin-lens-reflex loaded with Fuji 400H colour negative film. In order to make the essay uniquely British I put an orange filter on the lens, so that everything would look as if it was floating in piss. Dilute piss. The Queen spends a lot of time with horses, she's not squeamish.
There are few things more British than a car
"On the house tops thousands of people were to be seen,
All in eager expectation of seeing the queen;
And all of them seemed to be happy and gay,
Which enhanced the scene during the day."
Brompton Cemetery again, but this time with a Mamiya C33 loaded with Fuji 400H, a popular negative film. Fuji 400H didn't click with me until recently, the reason being that I was stuck in the digital mindset whereby you should never overexpose, not ever; never yield to overexposure, never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the sun. "Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days."
This served me well with the slide film I have predominantly been shooting. Slide film does not cope well with overexposure. It is much like digital capture in that respect. Overexpose slide film and it looks like this:
Which is to say bloody awful. Washed out and dead, just like an overexposed digital photograph, or the corpse of a trawlerman lost at sea. No amount of tinkering with Photoshop will bring the colours back. In contrast, however, Fuji 400H doesn't mind overexposure at all. In fact it loves light. It begs you to ram light down its throat and spank it, and when you've finished it thanks you. Over the years its senses have become dulled, because it lives in a highly excited state of overstimulation. In that respect Fuji 400H is a metaphor for modern society. It craves the thing that kills it.
If you want to dance with Fuji 400H you have to throw away outdated notions of guilt and shame, and restraint, and unleash your animal self. Shoot towards the sun. Expose for the shadows, and then open the aperture up a tad more; add transgression to transgression. Most of these images were shot at 1/500, f/4 or f/2.8, even though it was a nice sunny day and I was using 400-speed film. This went against all my natural instincts. I felt sick and wrong, and at the end I had to stumble off, sweating and palpitating, so that I could be sick in private. The vomit and the tears mingled but the blood stayed in. Good.
"Oh, this is Hardcore:
there is no way back for you
Oh, this is Hardcore:
this is me on top of you"
Eventually you learn to feel nothing.
"Oh, that goes in there
Then that goes in there
Then that goes in there
Then that goes in there
And then it's over"
Off to Brompton Cemetery, which has a population of over two hundred thousand people and some dogs, all of them dead. It's very popular with filmmakers and photographers, because it's easy to get to, it's quite secluded, and it looks awesome. And it's full of dead people.
Including top late photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, who shot several iconic images at Brompton Cemetery, including this one, which was used on the cover of The Damned's Phantasmagoria, and this one, which wasn't. Clarke loved the place so much he was buried there. With a camera? I don't know. Perhaps he wasn't really dead, and right now he's tunnelling under the ground, photographing the caskets from below.
Here lies Louis Campbell-Johnston, who was fingered by God until he died. I hate old-fashioned Victorian-style poetry. They thought they were masters of the future, those Victorians. But it's impossible to imagine the idea of God's finger touching someone without laughing. God's finger would be massive; it would crush a human being like a bug. Not send him to sleep. I can think of few things less likely to send me to sleep than being touched by God's finger.
I Hate Victorian Poetry
who is neither posh nor rich nor dead (yet)
with your thine and thou and seem'd
and clutch'd and I find it hard
to take you seriously;
your aggressive obsession
silent breasts, woolly breasts
It rhymes with west and nest
and best and lest,
test, rest, unrest, harvest exprest, which would explain
but not dull
of reading your poems
out at school
and having to say breast
whilst keeping a straight face.
Perhaps you meant it,
really felt it
but sticking to a rigid style
you had to compromise,
to squeeze your beating heart
into a smaller hole;
smooth it, mould it, cut it off
and present it dead and cold
polished and frozen.
A stuffed native,
spear in one hand,
skin stretched over straw,
another dead thing to admire.
The silver arrows you set loose
into the future fell
into the long grass;
bored children were compelled
on pain of pain
to study the ballistics
of your infertile projectiles
a skeleton, with a screaming skull
his suit torn
his air hose cut.
Long years have passed and
the line between McGonagall
becomes more fine
"It's all stupid", they will say
"Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay drew downward: but all else of heaven was pure the storm fiend did loudly bray, up to the Sun and may, from verge to verge, on the last Sabbath day of 1879 Make thine heart ready with thine eyes: the time fill’d all the peoples hearts with sorrow, And made the heavens between their fairy fleeces pale.
Shall I cease here? Is this enough to say I must now conclude my lay"
Has Brompton Cemetary changed since the hands of Bob Carlos Clarke's camera's lens set foot on its hallow'd ground? Back in the mysterious 1980s? I have no idea. The place is half-overgrown, half-undergrown, and most of the tombstones date from before I was born, but perhaps they had more death then. Long ago it was quite a way from London, but London has grown to surround it, like an airbag. It's apparently popular as a cruising ground for gay men, perhaps because of all the dead people. There's something sexy about dead people; they're so vulnerable, and they no longer have nostril hair.
"Therefore, ye sons of great Britain, come join with me,
and welcome in our noble Queen’s Jubilee;
Because she has been a faithful Queen, ye must confess,
There hasn’t been her equal since the days of Queen Bess."