A darker shade of gay

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Matthew Stradling Matthew Stradling - Justin David
Posted: Wed Sep 26 2012

A new photography exhibition takes a look at the shadowy after-hours lives of some of London's gay icons.

Gay people have often been characterised as creatures of the night. In the days before Gay Liberation, many lesbians and gay men lived in the shadows, afraid of persecution or prosecution. News reporters spoke in hushed tones about the 'twilight world of the homosexual'.

Now artist and writer Justin David has reclaimed the night with a celebration of queer lives lived after dark. Billed as a series of 'improvised nocturamas', 'Night Work' features staged photographs of subjects as diverse as anti-drag queen David Hoyle, reigning Alternative Miss World Fancy Chance, bearded lady Timberlina, director Nathan Evans and author Jonathan Kemp.

'I make no apology for calling my subjects “creatures of the night”,' says David. 'These artists happen to be gay, queer, outsiders or “other”. It's no surprise, is it, that they are drawn to after-hours creative professions?'

The idea for the exhibition began when David was taking some promotional shots for a show by Nathan Evans and was offered space at Jacksons Lane. 'I'd also been doing a lot of night time photography of friends in dim alleys and shadowy doorways around the East End of London,' he says. After first photographing performers Hoyle and Fancy Chance, he approached other subjects. 'Jonathan Kemp, author of “London Triptych” agreed to pose in a cemetery for me. The artist Matthew Stradling posed amongst yards of tulle in an androgynous and opulent mix of Miss Havisham from “Great Expectations” and the evil queen from “Snow White”. Most artists survive in this city by having a day job and day jobs are dull. I wanted to be carried away from all that.'

So there's no chance of a follow-up show called 'Day Work', with images of people in suits sat at their desks? He laughs. 'I wouldn't hold your breath. I'm not done with the night yet. I like what happens when the sun goes down.'

‘Night Work' is on display at Jacksons Lane until Nov 30.

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