Oh what a night! I don’t get in to London that much. My friend and Designer Gavin Page (not fashion darlings) came along to join me for the preview of Naked Britain last night at the Herrick Gallery in Piccadilly, in advance of the exhibition taking place between 4th-8th November 2017.
This documentary, photographic tribute to the naturist community has been two years in the making and the resultant glossy black and white images compiled in collaboration with photographer Amelia Allen, by her German publisher Kerer Verlag.
Amelia Allen, a well-known fashion and street photographer based in London, first became interested in naturism at the age of 16 after seeing a photograph of a naturist couple in Kent at an exhibition in New York by Magnum photographer Elliot Erwitt.
Amelia’s research led her to Britain’s national organisation for naturism, British Naturism. In conjunction with them she began to visit naturist clubs, otherwise known (farcically in our climate) as Sun Clubs, taking in clothing-optional and naturist events around the UK and documenting her findings in a series of striking images.
The book Naked Britain contains 80 black and white photographs of naturists at rest and play, in their homes, within naturist clubs and at critical environmental protest events like the World Naked Bike Ride, which takes place annually. Some of these images are on display at the Herrick Gallery to coincide with the launch of Naked Britain which was released for pre-order on 2 November 2017.
Gavin and I travelled into the bright lights from leafy Buckinghamshire. Spurning the crammed upmarket Piccadilly wine bars, the doors encircled by smokers with noxious smoke plumes assailing our nostrils, we settled upon a lovely outdoor market, as it turned out adjacent to the gallery. Infinitely preferable!
Arriving fashionably late, after meandering around the local streets a bit (I knew it was a mistake relying on memory) we approached the gallery which had a throng of people outside but thankfully less evidence of smoking. This was a young hip crowd. As I put on various social media posts last night, two worlds collided, the fashionistas and naturists.
I’m an active networker so can easily transpose myself into different situations and having dressed up for the occasion in designer frocks myself, felt quite at home. It’s our secret that they were procured from local charity shops, discounting the bag; I splashed out.
Effervescent Amelia welcomed us. She’s so warm and friendly and puts people at their ease readily which is why I believe the photographs are a true reflection of our community and the joy and companionship we revel in amongst like-minded individuals. It’s worlds away from the carping, body judgemental society we all have to operate in daily.
Upstairs, photographs lined the walls and images of the front cover festooned the skirting boards. I have to admit since that’s my ass on the front cover, it was slightly disconcerting to see myself 1000 times over.
Frustratingly, I missed the shot too and it’s a moment in time which is captured for eternity
Gavin and I worked our way downstairs after I’d wandered around, snapping a few of the images
On the lower level of the gallery, various naturist friends were assembled in the hubbub of people. It’s always good to catch up, clothed or otherwise and certainly at the beginning of the evening, we naturally gravitated towards our nude camp
Later in the evening, I mingled with the fashionistas, bewitched by their designer rags, securing permission to take photographs of them too.
But enough about us, look at the photographs which give the world an accurate glimpse into the notoriously secretive naturist community in the UK.
The sparkling flowed. Amelia herself sparkled. Friends and family chatted, we mingled. Canapes were handed round, photographs were pored over and a lot of fun was had.
I was trying to keep quiet the fact that it was my ass on the front cover but not being the reticent type, it wasn’t a secret for long and Amelia’s photographer charting the events of the evening took a few choice ones of me messing around with her friends, stylists and publicists. I’ll probably wish I was more introverted when I see the results!
The preview billed as 7-9pm started to slow down and Amelia got to business signing books.
I got in on the act of course and will have a good look over my copy later today. I know a lot of my friends will be attending the clothing-optional viewing this afternoon but sadly I can’t be there. Mind you, it’s November so I hope the Gallery cranks the heating up. It’s pretty damn cold out there!
Shortly after 9pm, Gavin and I started to make our way back to Buckinghamshire. I tend to wake at dawn so my mission at that stage was to get back home to sleep.
Gavin was a complete star the entire evening. Weighed down with glasses, phone, battery pack, champers, mingling, photographing, by the end of the evening I think Gavin felt his role had been to act as my PA for the night. He kindly held my glass on innumerable occasions when I was keen to snap another photo. It seemed appropriate therefore to take a closing picture of Gavin once we alighted at my local tube station, Chalfont and Latimer, in black and white as a tribute to Amelia’s Naked Britain with Gavin and his lovely wry smile before we parted ways.
Try and take the exhibition in yourself if you can, it’s well worth the journey.