Bob Carlos Clarke

Bob Carlos Clarke

Irish photographer
Date of Birth: 24.06.1950
Country: Ireland

Biography of Bob Carlos Clarke

Bob Carlos Clarke, an Irish photographer, was known for his provocative and sexually charged photographs that challenged societal norms. Born in Cork, Ireland in 1950, Clarke fondly recalled his early childhood, free from the fear of being misunderstood or the constraints of societal expectations. However, as he entered his teenage years, he realized that his radical views and talent for visual provocation would not gain recognition in a predominantly Catholic society that rejected sexuality and sensuality.

One vivid memory from his youth was the small peephole in the door of the communal showers. Every Friday, he would watch Sonia, the eighteen-year-old caretaker, as the silver streams of water cascaded down her naked body. This was the first time he experienced the allure of voyeurism, a feeling he would later rediscover from the other side of the camera. Sonia became his first imaginary model.

In the scorching summer of 1968, Clarke finally broke free and left for England, carrying with him his accumulated possessions, mostly books, posters, and records. It was the era of the 1970s, with the Tate Modern exhibiting the work of the super-commercial avant-gardist Andy Warhol. Under the enormous silver helium-filled balloons, Marianne Faithfull swayed, singing "The Ballad of Lucy Jordan" with her hazy, cocaine-infused voice. Mick Jagger stood nearby with his beautiful daughter Jade, resembling delicate ephemeral beings hovering above the crowd. It was a time for creativity, a time to turn his focus to the depths of his soul, which had been suppressed in the past. Clarke enrolled at the Worthing College of Art and met Sue, a senior student. When he learned that she worked as a model, he realized that it was time to pursue his dream of becoming a renowned photographer.

Several years later, they moved to the outskirts of London, settling in a damp basement apartment with worn floors and black graffiti on the walls. Clarke registered their relationship officially, and he continued to photograph incessantly. He preferred working with non-professional models who did photoshoots for fun, as they brought a genuine sincerity to his work compared to professional models who posed solely for money. In his small home studio, he perfected the technique of photomontage, combining street photographs with portraits of models, manipulating the composition to the point of unrecognizability.

His passion for Sue eventually faded, and they divorced. Lindsay, a successful model with her own unsuccessful marriage, entered the picture. Chaos reigned in their new home in Balham, with paint stains, constant fabric covers on furniture, and piles of photographs scattered about. It was during this time that Clarke became friends with Allen Jones, a man who fought for the legalization of rubber fetishism and whose artistic works were a nightmare for feminists in the 1980s. Jones' influence changed Clarke's creative direction, turning him into a devotee of dangerous women dressed in tight ensembles of shiny vinyl and towering heels. These works would later become his signature in brutal photography.

At 2:30 in the morning, Bob Carlos Clarke orders a cocktail and reflects on how nothing has changed except for his age. He is no longer sixteen but fifty, secretly wishing for the most interesting moments to happen during the day rather than the night. An alluring blonde gets into an argument with her boyfriend and now, left alone, she appears more vulnerable and captivating. She orders a double whiskey, drinks it in one gulp, and slams the door as she exits. Outside on the cold, wind-swept streets, she raises the collar of her light suede coat, her untied shoelaces brushing against the asphalt, and her long neck gracefully arches... someone's daughter. In the past, she may not have escaped so easily, but Bob Clarke is tired. He feels the weight of the world on his shoulders, and perhaps she wasn't as extraordinary as he thought. Maybe it was just the illusion of the late hour... tomorrow, a new day will dawn.

Bob Carlos Clarke tragically took his own life in 2006, throwing himself under a train. Four years later, his widow, Lindsay Carlos Clarke, discusses the atmosphere of those times and why she accepted his work and life without questioning. She describes how Bob photographed in an extremely expressive manner, often capturing provocatively sexual women in his photographs. When asked if it was difficult for her to accept his profession, Lindsay replies that she knew what to expect from the beginning. Being a model herself, she developed a tolerant attitude towards the world and embraced creative and eccentric people. She always viewed photography as a little mystery, separate from real-life events. The images that models assumed for Bob were merely a game, a fantasy brought to life on paper.

Lindsay also reveals that she occasionally posed as a model for Bob, but her appearance didn't fit his desired aesthetic. Despite her efforts to embody a more brutal image with latex and vinyl, Bob felt that it lacked the necessary intensity. Eventually, they stopped experimenting, and Lindsay focused on the financial side of their endeavors.

Describing a typical day of a Bob Carlos Clarke photoshoot, Lindsay explains that when they moved to a larger studio, they turned the work process into an enjoyable experience. She prepared lunches and constantly fed the models, ensuring there was always chilled champagne in the fridge. They became a close-knit family, often staying in the studio after the shoots to discuss the photographs, socialize, and laugh together. Lindsay reminisces about that time as a touching adventure, contrasting it with the more commercial and indifferent nature of contemporary photography.

When asked about Bob's sources of inspiration for his experiments, Lindsay shares that Bob would observe potential models from a distance, studying their movements, way of speaking, and only approaching them when he was fully convinced they fit the theme and concept of the photoshoot. He could be inspired by the simplest girl in a nearby bar or an emotionally charged chef passionately preparing steaks in a restaurant kitchen. Inspiration knows no boundaries in his work and depends solely on personal perception.

Regarding Bob's association with latex and vinyl, Lindsay clarifies that when they traveled to Japan, his fans sent boxes of provocative latex and vinyl clothing to their hotel room, believing that these were the sources of his inspiration. However, Bob was never actually interested in latex clothing itself, nor did he consider it inherently provocative. In a certain context, it took on a completely different meaning and became interesting in its own way.

When asked about Bob's personality, Lindsay describes him as the simplest person in the world – easy-going, smiling, and slightly shy. He used to say that a good photographer is like an octopus; they must be a virtuoso in many aspects, possess impeccable visual perception, technical skills, a sense of humor, and be as captivating as Casanova. Fame also played a significant role since everyone dreams of working with a renowned photographer.

Reflecting on her memories of Bob, Lindsay reveals the immense personal tragedy she experienced upon his death. She was in a state of lethargic sleep, a strange hypnosis, for the first year, always expecting Bob to open the door and appear with his heavy camera and a light smile on his lips. When she finally realized that it would never happen, she had to make a choice – to descend or rise. She chose to live and be strong despite everything. She had no room for mistakes because their daughter, Scarlett, was only fourteen, and the responsibility for her future rested on Lindsay's shoulders. In Lindsay's memory, Bob lives as a flash of photographic light preceding a moment of eternity.