You can tell which men are the photographers – they’re the ones who aren’t that excited about seeing a naked woman, at least not in the sense that most straight men are. Unless (or sadly in some cases, especially if) it’s their partner. To the photographer, they’re more concerned about where the light’s going, how the photo’s going to look, whether the camera was focussing properly or acting up, that sort of thing. Yes, no matter how good your equipment, there are just some days when it doesn’t perform as well as it should…
Or is it just me?
As some of you may have seen, at the invitation of a close friend of mine, sexpert Emma Ziff, I recently went to Erotica 2011 at the Olympia to take photographs and some video footage. My first media pass as a photographer! (I’m not counting the Garth Brooks press conference I went to in Nashville with my father, even though I did take photos of the man himself – Garth, that is – with my Samsung compact camera. I’ve moved on a bit since then!) As the song goes, “what a feeling”.
The rules were that we had to arrive by 5pm, that photos were permitted but I had to ask (not me exclusively of course, that would have been a bit extreme) anyone who wasn’t a performer before I took their photos. Fair enough, and pretty much what I would expect.
We arrived in time, stopping to grab some coffees and a caramel waffle that aspired to have the texture of a piece of sticky cardboard, and entered Olympia, picking up our passes and heading inside. I snapped off a few shots of Emma to get the lighting right, and we started walking around.
For anyone expecting a sexually charged environment, you’d probably be disappointed. Yes, there were some people walking round in PVC, a fair amount of flesh on show too, but mostly, it had the feel of the Ideal Homes show with a sexual twist. There was even an area selling wine. The furniture stand probably would have been a bit shocking to most of the visitors to the Ideal Homes show though… Well, I suppose you could have persuaded some of them that the ropes were to fetch the butler, and securing yourself to them was necessary in case the butler didn’t come for a while and you fell asleep waiting…
It has to be said that the shows were definitely interesting. Or weird, in some cases. This isn’t one of those “I’m no prude, but…” things. I’m just not sure what some of the shows had to do with eroticism. But what we saw was worth the seeing nevertheless. Our first stop was at a staged area where some guy dressed as a pig was prancing about and pretending to eat a meal. Click goes the shutter, so far so good, but not particularly inspiring. Then the guy starts blowing fire. Indigestion? Maybe, but I didn’t care. This was something I wanted to catch on camera.
We started visiting a few more stands, including one for a tv station where some scantily clad girls were cavorting together. Loads of guys around, many taking photos. A brief chat with the lady running the stand and then we stopped off at another stand, this one I think was for Fiesta. Or was it Escort? I’m not sure, one of those magazines which share the same name as a Ford car. I’m still waiting for the Ford Razzle to come onto the market, but I feel I’ve got a long wait. Whichever one it was, there was a guy standing around dressed like a Redcoat, another photo opportunity. That was something I’d notice, guys dressed in period costumes. Not exactly what I’d expected.
And then off we went to the main stage area, which was where the dancing was happening. Positioning myself in a convenient place, shooting with my 70-200mm zoom without flash at about 1/200s. Getting a lot of nice shots of ladies and gentlemen dancing. The clothes varied from the dramatic to the minimal, the moves often very sexual – but then dancing is about sex, isn’t it, so why not? But again, I was not being turned on by any of it – my concentration was taken up with getting the photos, and the whole thing felt somewhat unerotic and surreal.
A bit more walking around, upstairs, where the Dreamboys were performing. I thought it worth taking photos of them, as well as getting shots of the audience reaction. If I was expecting the audience to be screaming and throwing their underwear at the guys, I was a little disappointed. While not comatose, and certainly they were enjoying it, the audience seemed a little reserved. After a few dozen photos, in lighting conditions that were not so great. I lost the will to carry on shooting them, and we went to get something to drink instead, at a bar area run by transvestites/transsexuals, opposite a sausage stand.
A few more photos of various people who were attending the exhibition, and then over to an area where a guy was getting covered in body paint and looking a bit like one of those guys in Avatar, only way cooler and purple. Reminds me of when I was in Virgin Megastore in Tottenham Court Road and there was some anamatronic thing advertising the game Hexen. As I walked near what I’d thought was a motionless waxwork or something similar, this thing turned round and whispered loudly “Hexen!”. Scared the living daylights out of me, I can tell you…
But back to Erotica. I started photographing this guy, while Emma spoke to a lady outside a room which was serving as Tenshi’s Gentlemen’s Club. Negotiations took place to get some photos of some of the girls, but to be honest, they didn’t turn out as good as I’d hoped. The red lighting inside the place was pretty strong, it was like a submarine in an emergency… and I was trying to get that in the photos. Does anyone actually think that red light looks good? I’d agreed to send some photos to the club as a thank you gesture, which I later did, true to my word.
More photos, at a masks stand, the furniture stand, and a few other places, including back at the television girls stand, and then some food and then the train back, where we started talking with some other people who’d gone there… a surreal experience, not particularly erotic, and I got this impression from the people we talked to too. But a great opportunity for photos, and thanks go to Emma for asking me to come along.
(All photographs copyright Alex Saville Photography. For more of our images, visit https://www.alexsavillephotography.com)
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