It was back in 2009 that I became aware of a new ‘alternative photography’ Meetup Group which was going to be operating in London. I felt that I could contribute, and because it was new, it would not already be shaped by a clique and be fresh and exciting.
So here we were upstairs in a London pub, a diverse group of about 20 photographers and models and models / photographers trying to work out how we could collaborate together to produce what was a vision for all of us, eclectic alternative art.
Although it was slated as one of the main potential subject matters, it soon became clear that there was little interest in shooting the nude. Perhaps this was because so few of us knew each other and being naked in front of strangers with cameras is just a little too personal.
However what seemed to unite a large proportion of the group was an interest in fetish photography. Now, this is something I knew very little about and I confess that I was initially disappointed at this particular direction. People started chatting about ‘dungeons’ and ‘play equipment’ and I just had little to say. However it was soon clear that this was going to be a wildly interesting subject to shoot if I approached it in my role being an editorial photographer, recording what was going on rather than pretending that in any way I could set the agenda. I will note that in many ways it seemed to me to be as personal as shooting the nude for here were people willing to be shot participating in an alternative lifestyle which tends to be kept confidential.
The F club in South London was chosen as the first venue for a collaborative shoot. I googled it. The website characterised it unequivocally as a swingers club, but what was clear to me was that in this group of people there was going to be no swinging. There would certainly be acting, posing and performing.
We hired the whole place and having agreed in principle what could be done with the images we pitched up and set about being creative. Despite the numbers in the club, the images you see were mainly shot on a one-to-one basis, a few with people who I had never met before being friends of those at the first meeting. It was very dimly lit and I refused to use flash but nevertheless I got a lot of images, some noisy, some blurry, which would feature within a list of what I might call the best images that I have, capturing raw emotion.
Everybody was so gentle and respectful and open to ideas. In my case it was more about making it clear that the individuals could express themselves, which they did. Thereafter I was not afraid to shoot, sometimes in a most intimate way.