County Cork, Ireland, 1950 – London, 2006
Described as ‘Britain’s answer to Helmut Newton’, Bob Carlos Clarke was one of the most versatile and influential photographers and printmakers of the last few decades. Perhaps most celebrated for his dramatic monochrome works of voyeurism and erotica, his confessedly addictive career was tragically cut short by his suicide in London on the 25th March 2006.
Carlos Clarke came to England as a schoolboy in 1964, attending Wellington College, before going on to study art and design at the West Sussex College of Art. There he picked up a camera so he could ask a girl he fancied to pose for him - and a few years later she became his wife, although their marriage did not last. After a degree-level course at the London College of Printing and finally gained an MA in Photography at London's Royal College of Art, then the only postgraduate photography course in the UK, in 1975. While a student he began taking pictures of the fetish scene, which was to become such an important aspect of his work. Carlos Clarke said of his photography "It's not a job, it's an addiction," and for him it was very much an addiction to women and to sexual fantasies. He often used an analogy between sex and photography, suggesting that a good portrait session was a similar activity to making love to the sitter. Typical was also the advice he gave to those wanting to take up nude photography: "Do it to get laid; but get a real job."
Within a few years Carlos Clarke was established as a first-call fashion, portrait and commercial photographer, injecting his own unique energy into his iconic celebrity portraits of among others Jerry Hall, Keith Richards, Rachel Weisz & Liz Hurley and his distinctive advertising work for Levi's, Smirnoff, Volkswagen & Pirelli. He perhaps gained greatest global acclaim for his series of books, the majority of which transport the brilliant technique of his advertising work into a world of voyeurism, drama and sensuality. After making an illustrated version of Anaïs Nin's erotic classic Delta of Venus and the well-received solo book Obsession in the early 80s, Carlos Clarke landed a worldwide hit in 1995 with The Dark Summer, a book whose unconventionally sensual imagery and flawless black and white photography made it a word-of-mouth bestseller.
His last book, Love-Dolls Never Die, ventures into one of Carlos Clarke’s final obsessions that the line between live and fantasy females has been blurred into oblivion. ‘Living Doll-Women are everything a man thinks he desires, and his worst nightmare. Like supercars, they are desirable, dangerous, unconfortable, high-maintenance, hard to handle, and useless for carrying luggage, exhilarating for a short ride with the top off, but long haul hell.’
"Best tip in affordable contemporary erotic photography is Irish-born Bob Carlos Clarke. Both Maclean and Juliet Hacking, head of Christie's photography department, tip him as the new Helmut Newton (the German-Australian photographer... - The Observer, Sunday May 7, 2006.
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY Carlos Clarke, Bob, Insatiable, scheduled for publication in 2002 Carlos Clarke, Bob, Shooting Sex, scheduled for publication in 2001 Carlos Clarke, Bob, White Heat, Octopus, UK, 1990 Carlos Clarke, Bob, The Dark Summer, Quartet, UK, 1985 Carlos Clarke, Bob, Obsession, Quartet, UK, 1981 Carlos Clarke, Bob, The Illustrated Delta of Venus - with short stories by Anaïs Nin, published by WH Allen, 1980
LOVE DOLLS NEVER DIE This is a recreation of the late Bob Carlos Clarke’s last London Exhibition in 2004. This Landmark Exhibition was the first time BCC had embraced the digital revolution and his first show in London for 12 years.
In discussions about the exhibition BCC said “My new show is the antithesis of everything I have ever preached. I’ve gone for brutal clarity and intense manipulation. It’s a complete fusion of old and new technology: Traditional darkroom ‘wet’ Processes and state of the art Photoshop retouching. The files are huge and are going to be printed five foot high.”
For the exhibition one complete set of very large prints were made, eventually to be available in an edition of 9 and in a smaller “trade” edition of 100. Due to Bob Carlos Clarke’s untimely death very few prints were made and signed.
The entire collection of Exhibition prints was acquired at the time by a private collector who has now consigned them to 20 LTD. 20 LTD has also available a number of prints in the smaller format also signed by the artist.