By David Hennessy
A collection of rarely seen photographs by renowned Cork photographer Bob Carlos Clarke have been donated to the National Portrait Gallery in London, it was announced last week.
The photographs, taken between 1971 and 1998, feature high profile figures including Rachel Weisz, Mick Jagger, Marco Pierre White, Elle McPherson, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Elton John. The pictures have been donated by widow Lindsey and daughter Scarlett as the photographer himself has been dead since 2006.
Carlos was born in Cork in 1950 and moved to England in 1964 to study art and design at The West Sussex College of Art where he developed a strong interest in photography. He then went on to The London College of Printing in 1975, before completing an MA degree in photography at the Royal College of Art.
Carlos Clarke worked across many photography styles, winning numerous awards for his high-profile advertising campaigns and international recognition for his photojournalism and portraits of celebrities. He is often cited as an influential photographer and he became particularly well known for his controversial portraits, the subjects of which included rock stars and glamorous female models.
Bob Carlos Clarke had two solo exhibitions during his lifetime; Styx at Hamiltons Gallery in Mayfair, London in 1991 and his first digital photography exhibition Love Dolls Never Die at Eyestorm Gallery in 2004.
Speaking about why he never exhibited more, the photographer once explained: “I stopped exhibiting because I’ve had so many problems with galleries. Most charge 50 per cent commission on sales and if that’s not bad enough, many would often fail to pay what they owed. It came to a point that you were putting on an exhibition, selling pictures and then having to fight to get paid”.
He also produced six books: The Illustrated Delta of Venus (1979), Obsession (1981), The Dark Summer (1985), White Heat (1990), Shooting Sex (2002), and Love Dolls Never Die (2004).
Following a period in rehabilitation clinic The Priory, Carlos Clarke committed suicide in 2006. He had suffered with severe clinical depression, the same condition that affected his mother and uncle who killed himself at 14.
In 2007, his wife Lindsey Carlos Clarke opened The Little Black Gallery, a new London photography gallery, in Carlos Clarke’s memory, which showcases artists from around the world and which is also home to the Bob Carlos Clarke Foundation.
Speaking of her donation, the photographer’s widow Lindsey Carlos Clarke said: “I am delighted to donate these prints to the National Portrait Gallery as I feel it is very important that future generations enjoy these intimate portraits.”
The ten photographic prints by Bob Carlos Clarke can be viewed in the National Portrait Gallery’s online digital collection at www.npg.org.uk/collections while plans are made to publicly display the prints in the Gallery in the future.
For further information about the Bob Carlos Clarke Foundation, visit www.thelittleblackgallery.com.