Whatever you thought of Malcolm McLaren as a man you couldn’t have not had an opinion on his impact on music and fashion. Whether you considered the man a fake, a genius, a svengali or a con man there is no denying he had way more than his allotted 15 minutes of fame. For a short while he managed the New York Dolls and with his business partner Vivienne Westwood he revolutionised fashion through a small shop in London’s Kings Road; Sex.
He was the man behind the Sex Pistols, he delivered them spitting, pogoing and swearing onto the London gig scene during a time when ABBA and Brian Ferry were topping the charts and the British youth had nothing to look forward to except another year of unemployment, strikes and misery. He gave anti-establishment a fashion, a voice and heroes at exactly the same time that the establishment was celebrating the queen’s silver jubilee. The timing couldn’t have been better.
He revelled in and courted controversy; Who else would steal Adam Ant’s backing band and front it with the then unknown, 13 year old, Annabella Lwin to form Bow Wow Wow? He would then be investigated by Scotland Yard when the group’s second studio and arguably biggest selling album: ‘See Jungle! See Jungle! Go Join Your Gang, Yeah! City All over Go Ape Crazy!’ Featured the 14 year old Annabella naked on it’s cover in a tribute to Manet’s The Luncheon on the Grass. There would be further Bow Wow Wow controversy later as to whether Malcolm and the group plagiarised Burundi and Zulu cultural music…
…loooong before Enigma did the same with Gregorian chanting and Deep Forest made off with the Baka pygmies but by then the road had been paved.
With his album ‘Duck Rock’ Malcolm was an early pioneer on the Hip Hop scene popularising it, at least in the UK with two tracks from the album; ‘Buffalo Girls’ and ‘Double Dutch’ both of which reached the top ten in the UK’s singles chart, highest positions 9 and 3 respectively.
Love or loath both him and his impact on the world you couldn’t have ignored him… On the 8th of April 2010 he died of Mesothelioma, a rare form of Cancer. He was buried at Highgate Cemetery, London on the 22nd of April. Rest in Peace Malcolm… I hope God took you in!
Could a man like Malcolm have gone to Heaven? A man steeped in controversy, a man who made money through the sale of bondage goods and clothes? A man who made money by promoting anarchy and supposedly ‘lewd’ music? A man who featured a naked 14 year old girl on an album cover, was cleared of child pornography charges but wasn’t allowed to label Lwin as a ‘Sex Kitten’ in the same vein as Marylyn Monroe? Was Malcolm accepted through the pearly gates?
Will I be let into Heaven when I myself die?
Regardless of my own controversies the Church and I have become friends. Honest friends; they don’t condone my work in any way and I won’t promise not to repeat the work I started. But we’re friends. Friends with differing points of view both trying to get the other to understand us. I’ll freely admit I upset people and The Church as a body but I’ll repeat to my dying breath that that wasn’t the intention. Even Christians are divided as to whether my work is art or blasphemy.
The Bible is ambiguous on the subject; Taken out of context there are passages that condemn what I do and passages that imply there is nothing wrong and that nudity is Godly. Bricks and mortar are not holy, man makes them holy by designating them as a place of worship. A church is literally a congregation of people, God says that whenever a group of Christians meet then He will listen intently. God is not in a particular church anymore than He is in my own house or in a sun dappled woodland grove or on a moonlit beach. God is all around us. He surrounds us and penetrates us. He binds the galaxy together.
I no more offended God by shooting in a church as I would have if I’d shot in my own bedroom or the models living room. If one believes, then the beauty and architecture of a church is man made but from a God given talent. If one shoots nudity in the great outdoors then one is actually shooting amongst the beauty and nature that God himself created. Which place is more Holy?
I was once caught mid-shoot in a church near Derby. As the church caretaker screamed at us to leave while literally beating on us with a broom and calling us all kinds of Satanists, the model I was shooting, while hurriedly dressing, asked the caretaker mid-broom-beating what her problem with nudity was and weren’t Adam and Eve naked originally and weren’t we all born naked? I kind of think she had a point. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that ‘nudity’ per se is wrong. Rather it says that nudity that promotes lust is wrong. One has to be subjective though, what kind of nudity promotes lust? One mans art is another mans porn and vice versa. The Bible has so many meanings and translations it is not a book to be read with objectivity, it can’t be.
God created Adam and Eve naked, only after they ate from the tree after being tempted by the Devil did they gain self awareness, conscience and the notion that nudity was somehow wrong and they should cover themselves up. If God created the original man and woman and the Bible is a book that helps us overcome evil and return to the state that God created us then isn’t the overall objective to return to a form where nudity is good again? If we were to return to the state that God created us then we would see no wrong in nudity and see the beauty in human body as God given.
The soft curves of a womans breasts, her hips, her mons pubis and the softness and folds of vaginal skin are all beautiful. The curve where a womans neck meets her shoulder, the curve where her shoulder meets her arm, all beautiful, all created by God. The hardness of a mans well worked and maintained chest, of decent biceps, abs, thighs and calves can all be considered to be beautiful. Even an erect penis can be… Well, if not beautiful at least artful if looked at from an abstract point of view.
Rule 34 states: Pornography or sexually related material exists for any conceivable subject.
Does that mean I should stop shooting Champagne bottles, Celtic crosses and skateboarders?
Rule 34, though created for the internet is generally accepted now… If people look hard enough they can find sin and lust anywhere. There will always be people that find my work lustful, I personally don’t. Surely it is not for man to judge me but for God alone?
1 Cor. 10:29: For why should my freedom be determined by someone else’s conscience?
Titus 1:15 (New International Version): To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.
Taken a large step further one could argue that porn has it’s place in society. Sure it’s been argued to me that it’s addictive and has destroyed lives but so is and have sugar, alcohol and chocolate. People become addicted to porn without doubt, porn has destroyed lives, porn has broken marriages and porn has corrupted people. The porn industry is greedy, it can be abusive, it can be immoral and totally lacking in respect for either the models feelings or her body. These are the very reasons I pulled out of the porn industry early in my career.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want to shoot porn though. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to satisfy a need for some people, I just want to do it in the right way, my way. Put bluntly I would rather a man (or woman) wank over my images of naked 18 year old girls than sit looking out of a window wanking over schoolies standing at a bus stop. I would prefer he found consolation in my work rather than finding consolation by force in the real world.
As much as there is an argument that violent films and video games create violent people there is an argument that people that fantasise over porn take their fantasies into the outside world. Neither argument has definitive proof. On the flip side porn has actually been used therapeutically for some sexually related psychological problems.
I was once involved in a porn shoot where blatantly the first time model hadn’t thought through the implications of being an adult model. She was shy, she was lacking in confidence and ultimately she didn’t want to be doing what she was being paid to do. It was primarily a video shoot but my involvement was to shoot the stills that went along with the film. Both the director and the videographer had utter disregard for what the girl was feeling. In their minds they were there to do a job and the girl was being paid to do that job regardless. They talked to her, they cajoled her, they played on her conscience and they put her into such an uncomfortable position that she felt obliged to carry on.
At the first opportunity I had to get her alone, while I was supposedly shooting my first set of stills I told her to get dressed. I told her to get dressed, stop crying and to tell the director that the shoot was over. No ifs, no buts, the shoot was over. I sat with her while she did so and stood up for her when needed. I ushered everyone involved in the shoot out of her house and into their cars, it was a long drive home with the director and I never worked in the industry for anyone but myself again.
Some girls have a desperate need to become models. Some girls want to model for fun, some see the glamour surrounding the modelling industry and the small fortunes that can be made.
Models will model regardless whether I’m working as a photographer or not. Surely then it is better that a few responsible and moral photographers are working in the field to help guide and teach new models the whys and wherefores, the paths and the pitfalls and help them further their chosen careers or hobbies safely?
As a man I am open about sexuality and my desires, as a photographer I am transparent in my working methods and explicit in my desires before, during and after a shoot. There are no surprises, the model knows exactly what the shoot entails and makes her mind up before I set the camera up. She knows that no means no and that she can stop the shoot at any time if she feels uncomfortable. She knows that before, during and after she can ask questions and get honest answers to them.
I hope during any shoot a working friendship is made and that a model can feel free to contact me any time after the shoot for advice or help. Each and every model can become my muse for a short while should she choose to. Each and every model can lean on that friendship and be entitled to the respect and encouragement that a muse deserves.
I work entirely within the laws of men but push those boundaries, sometimes past the point of comfort for some. That is the artist in me. Past that, only God can judge me surely?
As I see it; a lot of people and a lot of Christians (though not all) think they know everything. They read the Bible or get taught it’s words in church and they think they know how God thinks. The truth is, our human intellect is absolutely nothing, almost absent, compared to God’s. Who are we then to be so bold as to have the audacity to proclaim that we know what God thinks about an issue? Who is to say that what I do and what I’ve done is wrong?
I’ll leave you with the words of Pope John Paul II, make of them what you will…
“This by no means signifies that impurity of body is identified simply with partial or total nudity. There are circumstances in which nudity is not impure. If someone uses it to treat the person as an object of pleasure – even if it is by bad thoughts – he alone is the one who commits an impure act. Impurity of body only occurs when nudity plays a negative role with respect to the value of the person. One can say that what happens then is a de-personalization ….
Even knowing that nudity is not identical to impurity of the body, a real interior effort must be made to avoid assuming an impure attitude before a nude body. We should also add that impurity of action is not identical to the spontaneous reaction of sensuality that considers the body and sex as possible objects of joy. The human body per se is not impure, nor is the reaction of sensuality, nor sensuality itself”.