Photographer Fergus Greer shot Leigh Bowery numerous times over a period of six years, and now the resulting images are going on show in London
After first meeting in 1988 at Anthony d’Offay gallery on Dering Street, performance artist Leigh Bowery and photographer Fergus Greer began a fruitful six year-long collaboration. It was suggested by a mutual friend, art dealer Lorcan O’Neill, one night as Bowery staged performances at the London gallery that the pair make photographs together. Following their first session a month later, Bowery would get in touch with Greer whenever he had new ‘looks’ to shoot. The resulting body of work, taken between 1988 and 1994, captures the artist and designer wearing some of his most extraordinary creations, complete with distinctive exaggerated make-up and overdrawn lips.
In an exhibition at Michael Hoppen Gallery entitled Fergus Greer: Leigh Bowery – Looks, Greer’s remarkable photographs are going on show in London, 25 years after Bowery’s death in 1994. “Leigh brought himself and his looks and creative vision, I brought my cameras, lighting and films, and my craft and creative vision, and together those things produced an alchemy,” Greer tells AnOther of their unique collaborative process.
Bowery is seen in typically outlandish outfits – one series of images sees his face entirely obscured by various ruffled “pom-pom head” spheres, and in another colourful paint drips from his head down his face, in what would become a signature aesthetic – the kind that he was recognised for on the London club scene of the era, and that caught the attention of Boy George, Michael Clark, and Lucian Freud (Bowery sat for Freud numerous times).
Greer’s vivacious portraits speak to Bowery’s larger-than-life character, with his surprising and flamboyant designs taking centre stage. There are nods to Bowery’s performance art too: one shot sees Nicola Bateman, Bowery’s wife, strapped upside-down to his chest, a reference to the infamous performance which saw him ‘give birth’ to her on stage, with a string of sausages for an umbilical cord. Greer, whose photographs of Bowery were also published in a photo book of the same name as this exhibition in 2002, cannot pin down a favourite: “The black and white full rubber outfit, the one of Nicola strapped to Leigh, and the series on the dark grey background of a red outfit, a green outfit, a heart-shaped centurion outfit, and the stripe outfit, and the pom-pom heads set too... I think for any photographer he was a dream to shoot and it would have to take someone with no creative sensibility not to get inspired by his looks.”
Fergus Greer: Leigh Bowery – Looks is at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, from March 7 – April 27, 2019.