I first met Bob in 1995 when I was a celebrity publicist and he was photographing one of my clients Tamara Beckwith (now my partner in The Little Black Gallery). Tamara and Bob were old friends. The shoot was on the roof of Whiteleys Shopping Centre in Bayswater, West London. Tamara came straight from a nightclub with no sleep and the shoot was a disaster! Nevertheless Bob and I hit it off and we became friends. He ended up shooting all my clients whilst he introduced me to one of his muses Gabrielle Richens, who became a client [Photo 1].
Over the years he created some amazing shoots with my clients which became instant classics such as ‘Masked Blonde’ [Photo 2] and ‘Infanta Electronica’ [Photo 3]. Then in the late 90s I became Bob’s agent and we started working closely together as I handled all Bob’s editorial, syndication, and commercial work. I cannot take any credit for Bob’s successful career as obviously by the time I met him he had already become a legend!
What Bob and I did do together is successfully launch his ‘Love Dolls Never Die’ series and exhibition in 2004 – his first exhibition in 14 years, and his first digital series. He did not shoot the images digitally, as he always show using film, but these were the first images that he manipulated in post production – adding shark fins to girls (Adult Females Attack Without Provocation) [Photo 4] or mermaid tails (Fantasy Females Are Impossible To Satisfy) [Photo 5]. The exhibition opened at Eyestorm in London in 2004 and was an instant success – both critically and commercially. Many people misinterpreted the images as misogynist – when in fact the whole point of the series was Bob saying that women are all powerful, can do everything, and are taking over the world, whilst men are becoming redundant. He included the amusing picture ‘Men Have Feelings Too’ to illustrate the point (pic 6). The exhibition then moved to Madrid in January 2006 to huge fanfare, and was scheduled to open in Barcelona in April. Sadly Bob took his own life on 25 March but we decided to continue with the exhibition.
Since Bob’s untimely death I have had the great privilege to manage the Estate of Bob Carlos Clarke, on behalf of his wife Lindsey and daughter Scarlett. My main job is to protect, secure and enhance Bob’s legacy. The first thing was to recall all the prints sitting in galleries around the world to stop his images flooding the market. During his lifetime Bob was a reluctant salesman, as he had a loathing for galleries, so luckily there were not many out there. Since his death his prices have risen 2000%.
In 2008 we opened The Little Black Gallery in memory of Bob. A partnership between myself, Lindsey Carlos Clarke and Tamara Beckwith our aim was to use the gallery to showcase the work of Bob, as we’d rather sell and manage his photographs ourselves. We have a permanent room of his work on rotation downstairs, and have an exhibition every year in the main gallery. Prices have continued to rise as we drip-feed the market and the secondary market is now very strong with a record price of $17,000 achieved for an unsigned giclee print (for Adult Females Attack Without Provocation) at Christies in 2012.
Our new show ‘Living Dolls’ [Photo 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10] is the biggest and most ambitious exhibition we have put on yet of Bob’s work to coincide with the 10th anniversary of his ‘Love Dolls Never Die’ exhibition in 2004. It includes images from that series, many unique prints from the archive, and the complete set of images released by the Estate of Bob Carlos Clarke since Bob’s death.
There have been many other things we have done to promote Bob’s legacy including the publishing of a biography ‘Exposure’ by journalist Simon Garfield (Ebury Press, 2009). We have also been working with a number of museums selecting and donating images to their permanent collections, including the National Portrait Gallery (http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp84119/bob-carlos-clarke?role=art) and the National Media Museum. The acquisition by the National Media Museum is part of an ongoing project to create a large archive of Bob’s work at the museum so future generations have full access to all his images.
Future projects include the 25th anniversary re-publication of the classic cook book ‘White Heat’ with Marco Pierre White [Photo 11, 12]– including previously unpublished images. We are working with the publishers Octopus and will have an exhibition in February 2015 at The Little Black Gallery to coincide with the publication. We are also working on a short film, ‘Darkroom: The Obsessions of Bob Carlos Clarke’, with the female directors Bert & Bertie, and are currently trying to raise the finance (watch the trailer at: http://www.bobcarlosclarke.co.uk/darkroom-the-obsessions-of-bob-carlos-clarke/). And in the not too distant future a show with the National Media Museum and a retrospective book. So lots to do – but I think Bob would be happy …..
Ghislain Pascal is Co-Founder of The Little Black Gallery. For more info visit www.thelittleblackgallery.com or www.bobcarlosclarke.com