The Fetish

I came up with the idea of a man standing on one leg bending down to pick up an object. I could not think what the object should be but I knew that in true surrealist style it had to have “resonance”. The object had to lend the shot significance. There was a a Fiorucci shop on the Brompton Road that loaned me clothes and it was in there that I saw the Jackson Pollack pattern shoes. It immediately brought to mind the Guy Bourdin advertisements I had seen in the annual, Modern Publicity, so thought I would use them.

Jackson Pollack pattern shoe

The Fetish I, The Two Towers

I shot this around midday on top of one of the derelict buildings in front of Battersea Power Station. I put on a polarising and warm up filter and set the 28 mm lens set around f22. I  mounted the tripod column upside down to get low to the ground and the shoe gave me an indication of where I would be placed in the frame. A woman in a block of flats across the road saw me and went back indoors to fetch her binoculars. I started to feel self conscious and ridiculous standing on one leg but carried on. Seeing the result, I realised that there was not just one definitive way to depict this shoe and thought I would make it into a series. I photographed over the next three years and eventually won me a competition for young photographers, the Vogue Sotheby’s Cecil Beaton Award.

The Fetish II, The Shrine

The way to the power station was past by a large Post Office sorting office. I liked the difference in pattern and shot this early one Sunday morning when the light was right and there was no one about.

Jackson Pollack pattern shoe

The Fetish III, The Dream of the Masturbator

I had taken another shot and was about to leave, when I saw the warm light on the side of building. The quickly setting sun was shining through a hole in the canopy. I had to set up fast, quickly banging in two large nails to support the shoe. This was the penultimate shot before the light went.

Jackson Pollack pattern shoe

The Fetish IV, Umbral Spectre at Eventide

I had shot a Newtonesque nude in the doorway and looking at the result, I thought there was something missing and eventually came up with the idea of having the shadow of a man climbing the ladder. I could not get another naked lady back to the spot, let alone when the light was right so decided it to use the idea in my shoe series. Covering half the lens, I held up the shoe and shot the right side then climbed the ladder and shot the other half. I had to wait two or three weeks for the shadow to be that defined. It was shot about eight in the evening.

A couple of years ago I was in the doctor’s waiting room and picked up an interior decoration magazine. In it was an ad for Italian or Spanish furnishing and it had the shadow of a man climbing a ladder in exactly this attitude in hat and coat. I thought this could easily be influenced by me but where could they have possible seen the original? It was then that I remembered that my first book, Bernadinism, How to Dominate Men and Subjugate Women, had been published worldwide. I did not mind because the concept had been altered significantly. It is only when people have copied my work with hardly changing a thing that I am bothered. This has happened in the past. My modest gripe is the photographer probably made more money out of the concept than me. Such is life.

Jackson Pollack pattern shoe

Fetish V, Hand and Knife expressing the Sentiment of Love are Metamorphosed  into a Sundial Illumined by the
Light of the Moon, Whilst the Shade of Alessandro Valente sings Non Piangere Liù from Turandot by Puccini

I shot this in a disused goods lift with concertina gate. I shot the flash through the gate, not quite knowing how the shadows would fall and hoped for the best. I wanted to create the impression of a hand stabbed in the act of reaching for the shoe. The shadow of the knife combined with the placing of the fingernails reminded me of a sundial and I was listening to Valente at the time I made up the title. Incidentally, it is the only time I put both shoes in the same picture.

Jackson Pollack pattern shoe

The Fetish VI, Eucharistic Altar

By this stage I was probably going through a religious phase in my work.  The bread and the wine were undoubtedly referring to the body and blood of Christ. I was trying to infer that the shoe was worshipful. I made the cabinet for my woodwork exam at school and still have it to this day. I took out the back and while I was taking another picture it fell on it’s front, breaking a piece off the door. I laid it on the ground hoping it might imbue the image with perhaps more depth. I had to wait for the sun to get in the right position then work quickly. I used what Cokin described as a colourback filter effect. That is putting a green filter on the lens and the complimentary magenta one on the flash. Where the light falls the colour is neutral while the background turns greenish because that is the colour over the lens. I used gels that turn fluorescent light to daylight and vice versa. You can see the powerstion in the background.

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