The Making of The Great Exhibitionist

I enjoyed writing the story of my escapades with @Fdotleonora in New York Public Library and the ‘making of…’ theme carried through to Whitechapel Smile. People seemed to enjoy reading these little insights so I will continue sharing the fun of Exposing 40’s collaborations…

I’d had my eye on taking a picture in my local park since last summer. As I took breaks from my desk, or cut through it on the way to the pool, I would eye up its nooks and crannies – stone archways, wooded areas, an ancient maze with its escape gate, DINOSAURS! I actually had it in mind as a location for a friend whose picture I enjoy taking occasionally. I probably banged on about it a bit too much, not being very mindful of the fact that however lacking in inhibition someone is, getting up at 6am to take all their kit off in a London park might not be their cup of tea.

It turns out it’s mine.

Sunday’s photo has been on my list since before I even set up this blog, a recce shot snapped and the words written way back in early February when I was still fresh from the adrenalin rush of my ‘tits in Tiertgarten’ photo. Mid-February round a pub table and Exposing 40 was born; that night I asked my friends to take the photograph. Ever since, we’ve been waiting for a suitably sunny morning to coincide with the weekend when the runners and dog walkers would not be out quite as early as in the week.

Or so we thought.

Striding towards the park, shortly after 6.30, clutching plastic beakers of tea, it’s hard to ignore the number of people out and about. “There won’t be as many in the park,” I muse out loud, aware that I am trying to reassure myself more than make conversation. We’re bleary-eyed but excited. Three of us had chatted energetically the night before about our own personal responses to this project and the thoughts and feelings it’s throwing up as we more keenly think about our own self-image and relationship with our bodies. Ideas were born for future photographs. For me and for them.

Into the park and down to the arches. A jogger passes. We glance at each other. “What are you doing? Go back to bed you fool!” says L, not loudly enough for him to hear. I start to strip off, grabbing the sarong I have brought in case a quick cover-up is called for. My back is to the park so I don’t really have a clue what’s going on behind me. I trust my friends completely.

M: “raise your arm,” “arch your back,” “turn a bit towards me,” “stick out your chest.”

L: “you’ve got about ten seconds,” “that dog walker is staring,” “Ok, STOP. NOW!”

I feel far calmer than I thought I would. The sun feels warm. I am enjoying myself.

ShadowArchways done we start to explore other ideas. M decides the park is getting too busy and the giant rhododendron bush is a bit too scrubby for me to walk across the grass and disappear into it as she planned. Then we inadvertently interrupt a drugs deal while scrabbling round an overgrown terrace. Enough. Time’s up.

We walk towards the spot where we plan to have fizz and pastries. We chuckle at a bloke doing self-conscious lunges in a flat cap. Then we look ahead and see the sun shining perfectly on the stonework ahead.

“You’ve got to do it,” says M.

I do.

Flat-capped-lunging-man can’t stop staring.

That photo will follow in a few weeks. In the meantime I give you another arches shot. I was going to post this alongside Sunday’s image because we decided we liked them equally but somehow when posted together they detracted from each other. Did I make the right choice on Sunday or do you prefer this one?

*we now have a black and white version too!


No! NO. Oui: the making of a Sinful Sunday photograph

If two women are going to take a Sinful Sunday photograph in a library then it’d really help if they’re those softly-spoken, discreet kind of women who do a sort of silent glide. Exuberance, laughter, kicking off shoes, and running up and down the stairs would definitely not be the way to behave…

“I’d like to try and get a Sinful Sunday photo while we’re in here,” I said to F Leonora Solomon as we wandered around New York Public Library.

Rose RoomI was thinking back to a shot from some 18 months back, taken at the Saison Poetry Library in London. Only intended for an audience of one, it was my first photo in a public place and it was snapped furtively and nervously. While taking that photo I had looked up to see the beady eye of a security camera right above my head! That image has long since been deleted, but I would love to recreate it with more confidence and with consideration for the composition. What better location than the beautiful and elegant Rose Reading Room? Except it’s closed for refurbishment…

We’re mooching around a couple of photography exhibitions, keeping an eye out for alternative locations; I am listening to F’s enthusiasm for this art form tumble from her tongue. “Would you ever take part in Sinful Sunday?” I’d asked over brunch. “No!” had come the very decisive response. I mention it again now. “NO, really, even my family struggle to get a snap!” “Shall I stop going on about this?” I laugh, not wanting to spoil a new friendship…

I sit down on a grand staircase, willing the security guard who’s in my eye line not to look up and beckoning forward tourists who hesitate to walk through the shot, styling it out nonchalantly as if sitting barefoot with my dress hitched up round my arse is a completely normal thing to do. F runs up and down the stairs showing me the shots, making suggestions about the position of my hands, my legs. “I am having so much fun!” she exclaims.

IMG_3636“I think this is the shot we want,” she says.

“I like it,” I say, “but look at the hideous scabs on my knees, I look like a three-year-old!”

“WHAT? I really don’t think people will notice.”

She runs up the stairs, plonks herself down and takes a picture of her legs.

“Look at the scars on my legs, they’re shouting through my tights!”

 “I can’t see anything,” I say, astonished.

And there you have it. We always see in ourselves the faults that others don’t, even when we point them out.

 F’s staring at the photo of her legs. “I’m going to do Sinful Sunday!”

 “Yes!” I am delighted.

She leaps up, runs back down the steps to her handbag and grabs the necklace she bought half an hour earlier and drapes it over her thighs.



PS: F, I will be back and when I come we’ll get the reading room shot and I will do a better job of flashing my knickers!