Interview with Holly Revell – photographer of queer performance, portraits and projects, by Lauren Hurrell

READTHEMUSE.

RTM Words by Lauren Hurrell. Photographs by Holly Revell. 

Holly Revell has achieved an abundance of credits as a talented creative behind the camera, for capturing iconic looks in the queer scene, from portraiture to artwork and behind-the-scenes candids of projects in the making. Holly works as a photographer of queer performance, portraits and projects. Originally from Derbyshire, (as the oldest of fourteen siblings!) Holly has now lived in London for almost twenty years, and has dedicated the past decade to performance photography – shooting, seeing shows and getting to know the makers, helping her find her place in queer London.

Intrigued to learn more, I had the opportunity to interview Holly Revell for Read The Muse, to ask about her role as the creative behind the camera, what draws her towards the queer scene, her muses, how she came to find them, and her book on performance artist David…

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2015 Look Back

WOW well what a year – my haven’t touched the ground!! Here are some of the hi-lites.

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The GLORY has been open just over a year now and so much has happened there – love my role as one of their in-house photographers!

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here’s a video I made for their New-York collaboration ‘Pussy Faggot’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aw17lAi7TCQ

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Working on characters with Jonny woo is literally a scream!

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I have developed new relationships with performers such as Jacqui Potato

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and photographed her maker; Julien smith’s fashion collection

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I spent a glorious week on residency with Scottee in Margate over the summer working on his project Luck https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fbq73pSzDws

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we stayed at Amy Redmond’s (co-founder of sink the pink) wonderful new space Margate Arts Club

https://www.facebook.com/Margate-Arts-Club-345023989002926/

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I have continued to work closely with David Hoyle and his team documenting his London shows and developing work for an upcoming book

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and of course Scottee and the gang travelling around the country as he takes over the universe!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBvVFP9iyzrxPEwEN6JN1e7YjdOORl9im

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I did the promo and docu for Duckie’s blockbuster Border Force

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and ended the year with one of their wonderful community projects ‘Hackney Honky Tonk’

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I’ve been working with Bird la Bird a lot too this year on some videos for the V and A digging up hidden or erased queer histories in its collection… (video link coming)

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Studio SHOWOFF is my latest pop up – a drop in photo studio

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D.A.R.C. (documentary action research collective) is an exciting new group I am part of, we received arts council funding to develop a website and pilot the initiative and are due to officially launch early 2016. Part of the pilot was a collaboration with Spill festival doing some of their promo images. Here’s a link to our website http://www.darc.media

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and finally I finished a project!! TRANSformations will be exhibited early this March…

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THANKS FOR STAYING WITH ME!!

NEW YEARS resolution = DO MY BLOG REGULARLY THIS YEAR!!

LOOKING BACK 2014

It’s been a busy year for me with my freelance cabaret and performance photography work, and in developing some personal projects ready for fruition and exhibition next year, so why not have a look back at some of the highlights!

I was very proud to do the promotional imagery and videos for Scottee’s Hamburger Queen – the final season.

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 and of course to document the show for the third year running both in pictures and in video.

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I have made numerous videos for Scottee this year so have set up a playlist just for them

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBvVFP9iyzrxPEwEN6JN1e7YjdOORl9im

So happy to be part of Scottee Inc. and his Hamburger Queen family!

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I continued my work as the official photographer for Duckie’s major events which has been a blast and Duckie are wonderful to work for!

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I met CHRISTEENE and fell head over heals in love with her and those ponies!!

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But she fell in love with David and they got married at Vogue(waye) Fabrics!

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However, I was their wedding photographer and videographer!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weBO02SDWr8

I was in a fantastic group exhibition called Sin in My Heart which was curated by ‘two little birds’ Paul Darling and Peter Gwyn and I was proud to be exhibiting alongside David Hoyle, Lee Baxter, Jamie McLeod, Matthew Straddling and many more… we showed in Manchester and in London

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as well as having work on the wall, I had my DARKROOM installation which was a huge success, making lots of new friends and collaborators in this intimate setting…

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Here’s a video of the space we had in London

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRMqgYq1xEQ

The Edinburgh Festival is always a treat of course!

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Working with Scottee and his gang at Bestival has been a highlight of my year for 3 years running now!

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_iZk-OyI14  

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I have also been shooting more for LADA and their events and shows such as Steakhouse Live and their charity auction…

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This led me to discovering LADA’s DIY initiative and I participated in an intense 4 day workshop with Live Art Photographer extraordinaire Manuel Vason called ‘The Photo Performer’ – OMG how could I have not have done this workshop – it was so good to meet like minded people who exist somewhere between performance and photography like me… it was both physical and theoretical and just what I needed in terms of taking my performance documentary work further, contextualising it and reconfirming its validity and importance… next year is looking to be very exciting in terms of taking this forward and collaborating with others…

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I also did a 3 day workshop with Anders Peterson which was equally fantastic – he is a master and was so generous in what he gave us – it was a weekend of pure photo indulgence! I had a portfolio review which has given me the confidence to complete a couple of projects I had ongoing and plan for exhibition next year, I was also given invaluable advice on a longer term book project which I knew needed to get deeper – I am so excited about executing this work in the new year!!

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Shooting David Hoyle’s London shows is an ongoing pleasure and obsession!

‘Still Life’

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‘Illustration’ RVT

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‘I Victim’ Chelsea Theatre

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… and this has led to an intimate relationship back stage where David has given me full access to document him pre-show, post-show and in the intervals during his shows – we are working on making a book with these images and some other stuff from the ‘Parallel Universe’.

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I created a ‘Living picture’ at the RVT during one of David’s shows – a photographic installation mirroring the stage with our own platform opposite where the audience could join in and create pictures with my beautiful assistants Zachariah Fletcher and Alfie Ordinary… a lit variation of my DARKROOM…

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…when Pippa Dee stripped off and joined the picture she completely and deservedly stole the show!!

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I have shot so many wonderful artists this year and seen some amazing shows – I love working with these people and really enjoy the role I play in the community and the connection the camera helps to enable with other artists…  a few of many here…

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Ben Walter’s eclectic variety show ‘Come with me if you want to Live’

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So I am now working to finish a few projects ready for exhibition next year…

‘Boy with…’ is a series of pictures based on old master paintings of ‘girls with … ‘ something such as Vermeer’s ‘girl with a pearl earing’

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‘TRANSformations’ features drag artists and the transition back to their original self all in one shot…

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‘Performance Portraits’ capture the essence of a full performance or concept in 1 image.

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Thanks so much for joining me in my look back – it’s been a FANTASTIC year and I am very excited about 2015!! Stay with me if you like pictures like these!!

Last night I was of course with Scottee at his ultimate NYE party CAMP and look here he is – Eeeeek I have an edit to do now so best be off … no rest for the wicked!!

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SIN IN MY HEART 2 – LONDON

Following the success of our show in Manchester – SIN N MY HEART came to London for its second coming at the perfect venue – a dungeon in North London called the Bunker.

Here’s a quick video of the show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRMqgYq1xEQ&feature=youtu.be

My DARKROOM installation was open for business once again and we made some stunning pictures. This time I had my faithful assistant and collaborator Zach Fletcher to lend a hand in his own special way – he certainly added a certain draw to the DARKROOM for some and features in many of the images made!!

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Friday night started with the liberation of a series of women posing nude or semi-nude for the first time…  I love it when this happens – new people pushing their personal boundaries and taking home new experiences and hopefully feeling a little more confident or fulfilled in their daily lives…

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We had some beautiful men in too making classic images …

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People became very playful and were having fun – the camera facilitates this HAPPENING of actions and intimacy – participants are playing to the camera – it allows people to exagerate themselves and play out their desires…

“It’s like the camera gives you the licence to take of your clothes and create a scenario” (participant saturday night)

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… and as the evenings progressed, the wine and conversation flowed around the dungeon and things got quite steamy down our corridor – the venue of course lent itself to a more sexual experience and our art lovers took the opportunity to fully experience the powers of the DARKROOM…

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… and finally here’s Paul Darling – without him and his colleague Peter Gwyn none of this would have happened – massive LOVE and respect to these ‘two little birds’ who put the show together and whole heartedly support the queer arts… !

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TRANSformations (work in progress)

Working with drag artists, these images are about the transformation back from drag to boy; I am fascinated by the way many artists I know take forever lovingly applying the drag for a performance or shoot… but cannot get it off quick enough at the end, armed with baby wipes they return to their former self in minutes.

GINGER-DONALD-306-SECS                     ‘Ginger to Donald in 306 seconds’

The images record that transition starting with a posed portrait in drag, the exposure keeps going while they wipe it all off and put their boy or day clothes on and are repositioned to complete the image. The length of time it takes to remove the drag makes the title of the picture.

MYRA-GARETH-499-SECS                            ‘Myra to Gareth in 499 seconds’

Harking back to early portraiture, I use long exposures and limited light sources in order to capture the transitions. Some of them also echo spirit photography and the viewer may well question is that really the same person in  the image – perhaps they challenge the notion of the photograph as a truthful image. They capture a period of time where something is happening, a change is being made in one single frame or image.

SHARON-JUSTIN-277-SECS‘Sharon to Justin in 277 seconds’

They evidence the person behind the drag and reveal the often, contrasting characters. They record traces of post performance fatigue and the melancholy that can often follow a show after the adrenalin runs out…

Sometimes I find it difficult to shoot the performers I know when they are not in character or drag as I haven’t studied them as hard off stage; I know their character’s moves and expressions and so do they – they are used to being photographed in all their glory but can become awkward or a bit stiff without the face and clothes… (sometimes not always!!)

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‘Scottee in 297 seconds’

It is interesting to see how they position themselves from their drag character to their natural selves and the way they interact  with their two selves – it is a collabortive process and I want to get as much as I can of the relationship they have with their character in the image.

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‘Tom Harlow in 263 seconds’

I have a fair number of people who I want to work with for this project and once it is finished I plan to make large prints for an exhibition in London next year so watch this space!

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‘Divine to Zach in 381 seconds’

Entering the Photographic Portrait Prize – an emotional rollercoaster!

This year I finally got my act together and entered the National Portrait Gallery’s annual exhibition ‘The Photographic Portrait Prize’. I chose to enter one of my portraits of David Hoyle snapped in his dressing room at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, as this is a sustained project that we have been working on for a couple of years and I feel we have got to a point where we have a number of good portraits.

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Initially all you have to do is give the NPG a title and pay them some money, so I had a while after the initial deadline to make a final decision on which one I would choose from the series ‘David Hoyle – Paralell Universe’.

Upon entering I was confident that I had lots of pictures to choose from that were strong enough, my main concern was that they were snapped spontaneously using just the available light in the dressing room, there wasn’t a sitting as such and no special lighting which is part of what often makes a stunning portrait, however I felt that his character radiated through as well as our relationship and the intimacy he has allowed me in giving me full access backstage…

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Once I began the process of selecting that one amazing portrait that would hopefully capture the judges eyes and hearts, I began to lose my confidence and question whether I was good enough. I scanned catalogues from previous shows and wondered did we fit in, did we have a hope in hell? Many of the portraits chosen are beautifully lit and there is a bit of a trend in the types of portraits that make it through… there certainly hasn’t ever been anyone who looks like David in there! I wondered do I think these portraits are good because I love my subject, what makes a winning portrait?! At times I thought who do I think I am entering such a prestigious prize and doubted my talents but other times I thought WOW these are great and could fit in!

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With about a 1% chance 60/6000 entries I think roughly, I really will be amazed if we make it but the process has been massively beneficial in analizing my work and thinking to the future… I asked a number of friends and colleagues for their opinion and have really appreciated their input…

This is David’s choice, of course he went against the grain in choosing this rather messy one showing him in a beauty pose amidst the chaos of his dressing room,

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which he rather cleverly compared to Fragonard’s ‘The Swing’!!

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 His choice made me think differently in what I was looking for and I thought perhaps you’re right – lets just go for it…

But after talking with others, I lost my nerve and decided to go with something more traditional – in David’s words “the old man with a painted face…” Oh no, don’t say that,  I said – is it a cliche…!”

I eventually got it down to 2 portraits and had them both beautifully printed at Metro. Much of my work doesn’t make it to print these days so the process of making a professional print was also of great value.

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This portrait was the favourite and has indeed appeared on one of David’s flyers and posters… It was descibed as something less familiar, it draws you in…

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Whereas this one, which was my favouite initially was descibed as a more familiar image, like an actors portrait almost, I hadn’t realized this so that was interesting, although it put me off a bit until I saw it in print – and as suspected the colours really sang, so this is the one that I chose in the end.

I hand delivered it to LCC and out of the few I saw in the que I thought yes it held its own and even stood out so who knows – I really will fall of my chair if we do get in, but it’s about time they had this wonderful representative of the “trans-spirit” on their big posh gallery walls!!

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Ann Liv Young at DUCKIE Gay Shame and Lesbian Weakness

I dont intend this blog to just be for my nude non Facebook friendly photos, however here we go again! For this years Gay Pride (anti-pride party) I was shooting for Duckie at their annual ball of FABulousness of course! and amongst all the wonderful stuff to see and do including LEGENDry CHRISTEENE (see here for pics of them!) we had the AMAZING dance company that is Ann Liv Young!

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What emerged was a full on dynamic ritualistic animalistic performance of beautiful nudity in many shapes and forms… I think the pictures tell the story, however the live experience was something else!! As the performance grew and grew moving into the crowded audience and bringing some of them naked up to the stage too – this was a HAPPENING of mammoth proportions! and with the projections reflecting from stage to audience, everyone was truly involved…

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It was a total joy to shoot this performance – making pictures from something so organic and exciting – you can’t beat the liveness of this kind of work but it is important to have some kind of document – my aim was to capture the energy and create a beautiful visual from what was before me… The second half found me on the stage with the performers fully immersed…

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