|GETTING READY by Tiff Oben|
In August 2009, I was fortunate enough to appear on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square as part of Anthony Gormley's ''One and Other'' project. Tiff also appeared on the plinth that summer a few weeks after me when she became the first female nude plinther. Her intention was to make the hour on the plinth an extension of her own artistic endeavours which explore gender, sexuality and subjectivity as unnatural constructions. She undertook a metamorphosis of gender from male to female using costume and masquerade. She stepped on the plinth dressed and made up as a man and then undressed and then donned a female wig and became a woman. It was a very brave performance at 4am with some rather rude hecklers below but she survived. I looked up her website and saw that she was a photographer and so immediately I contacted her asking if she would photograph me and she said yes!
|READY by Tiff Oben|
We emailed over a long period of time and she explained that she was heavily involved with a local Arts Centre in Cardiff called tactileBOSCH run by a guy called Kim Fielding. She was keen for me to speak to Kim about the possibility of him not only photographing me but also about possibly displaying photographs of my own project at the Arts Centre. Eventually, we set up a time for me to visit Wales for further discussions and some shoots with both Tiff and Kim as well as Ami Barnes whose work I saw showcased in the Profesional Photographer magazine. I travelled to Cardiff by train and Tiff met me at the station and we took another train to tactileBOSCH. Tiff had been involved in an installation project at the centre which was the joint creation of Tiff and long-time collaborative partner, Helene Roberts, whom together built the space where the shoot took place. Tiff and Helene and Kim Fielding curated other artists into it including highly respected Welsh artist, Shani Rhys James, and Ali Simpkins and Tom Belton and Dave Cushley. Part of the space was made to look like the entrance lobby of a seedy Victorian hotel and that was where we shot the pictures. Our initial idea was to shoot me dressed and undressed in the same poses.
It was a close run thing choosing between "Ready" and "Getting Ready" to represent Tiff in my project. In fact I chose "Ready" first but I have to say that, whenever I looked at "Getting Ready", I did feel that this was me, the seedy me, the extrovert and the taker of risks as opposed to the saintly me, the shy man who plays safe - I am both people. So, after further thought, I plumped for "Getting Ready"which is a brilliant photograph full of light and darkness, colour, sexuality, challenge and unashamed exposure. Tiff liked the simplicity of the double portrait in "Ready" but also liked the darkness of "Getting Ready" so she was happy with either choice. They are both wonderful images and I was very, very pleased that I had contacted Tiff.
Link to website: www.tiffanyoben.co.uk
Link to Plinth Performance: www.oneandother.co.uk/participants/TiffanyOben