Pentax User Archive: Through A Keyhole
Leading erotic photographer Bob Carlos Clarke's view on sex, his book publishing venture and on Pentax cameras (2003).
He's photographed the rich, the famous, girls in bondage, girls wearing absolutely nothing - inside and out! It's the sort of job that most men would give their right arm for and it all started through a keyhole. In his youth, at a Dublin prep school, Bob used to take it in turns with other boys to peer through a keyhole to see an 18-year-old housemaid undress and take her weekly bath.
Now, some 40 years later, he still associates the camera's viewfinder with that keyhole. Pentax User caught up with Bob for this exclusive interview as he published his latest book Shooting Sex - a fascinating auto-biographical guide to undressing beautiful women.
Bob on his latest book
Pentax User: You ran into problems trying to get Shooting Sex published?
Bob Carlos Clarke: UK publishers suck: they're either stuffy, bent, incompetent or insolvent. I faced exactly the same problems in selling 'White Heat' - my book with Marco Pierre White. It was an innovative concept and nobody understood it. Of course it became a bestseller, and now every cookbook, from Jamie Oliver to the Ivy have followed it.
With Shooting Sex I went through one publisher after another until it became a humiliating farce, and, after a couple of years, I began to realise that I was going to have to go it alone. Shooting Sex is the first book that recognises that the mindset is more crucial than the aperture/speed setting. A good idea poorly executed is far preferable to a bad idea well done.
Pentax User: What was the experience like going it alone as publisher?
Bob Carlos Clarke: My friends in the business warned me that it would be a very stressful and expensive experience. I'm considering suing them for understatement.
Pentax User: Would you do this again?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Quite probably, but only under heavy sedation.
Bob on sex
Pentax User: Do you think you'll ever get blasé about shooting naked women?
Bob Carlos Clarke: No - because they're never alike.
Pentax User: What has been the most embarrassing moment?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Misidentifying a loose white thread on a pair of knickers, and tugging it smartly out of a model.
Pentax User: What piece of advice would you give aspiring glamour photographers who are just starting out?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Forget glamour, go straight to porn and get rich.
Pentax User: How do you feel that your style, especially from your earlier work in The Dark Summer, has been copied by many photographers?
Bob Carlos Clarke: The copying is tragic but to be a source of inspiration is OK.
Bob on Bob Carlos Clarke
Pentax User: What has been your most challenging experience?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Around 10 years ago I was shooting an ad campaign for a new Fiat in Ireland. I was shooting car-to-car at high speed on extremely narrow bog roads in appalling weather with absolutely no prior experience and an excess of Draught Guinness. And then there’s my self-publishing venture that I mentioned earlier.
Pentax User: What has been the most rewarding moment?
Bob Carlos Clarke: It should have been on receiving the first bound copy of my new book, Shooting Sex, but I was so battered from the whole production experience, I felt like a woman who'd just endured an extremely traumatic labour. It's becoming more pleasurable with hindsight, and now I'm bonding well with my new "baby".
Pentax User: If you could have the time again how would you do things differently?
Bob Carlos Clarke: I would focus more exclusively on my personal work, follow my instincts, take more risks and emigrate to the US.
Pentax User: Where would you most like to see your photographs displayed and why?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Picadilly Circus, Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard, T-shirts, shower-curtains, beer mats, buses and telephone kiosks. They would be big, bold and brazen.
Pentax User:: Do you have any unfulfilled ambition?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Many, but as yet unidentified.
Bob on his cameras
Pentax User: Which Pentax cameras do you use?
Bob Carlos Clarke: I use both the 6x7 and 645 models.
Pentax User: Why did you choose these over other makes?
Bob Carlos Clarke: The first real camera I owned was a Pentax 67 - I had no idea that it was such a great camera - I just wanted to own this sexy black beast with its huge gleaming lenses and a shutter that sounded like a muffled explosion. 30 years on I'm still using it. Nowadays for most of my colour magazine work I use the 6x45. I also love my Olympus mju's and OM4-ti which travel with me in the car. Another good reason is that Pentax and Olympus give me great support and back up and Fuji and Canon give me bugger all.
Pentax User: How do you get around the non interchangeable backs?
Bob Carlos Clarke: The best photographers in the world didn't have interchangeable anything.
Pentax User: What's your most used Pentax lens?
Bob Carlos Clarke: 100mm macro
Pentax User: Are there any features that you wish Pentax had?
Bob Carlos Clarke: A faster sync speed on both cameras, redesigned flashlead sync connection sockets (they're the worst) and an auto film winder on the 6x7.
Pentax User: Do you have a film preference?
Bob Carlos Clarke: Ilford Delta 3200
Pentax User: Have you seen a change in what picture editors require (are smaller formats now more accepted)?
Bob Carlos Clarke: I've never asked them and they've never complained - at least not yet.
Pentax User: What's your feelings on digital photography?
Bob Carlos Clarke: I think it's the best and worst thing that ever happened to photography for a multitude of reasons too convoluted to debate here. It's certainly been a black hole that's sucked all the funding away from conventional photography, and yet so far it has failed to compete with the true masters like Bresson, WeeGee, Lartigue, Brassai etc. It is however a remarkable facility, but in being so, it has also entirely undermined the truth and believability of photography, I could go on.... but it’s here to stay. My mission is to infiltrate the ranks of Digital Photo User, and preach the wondrous gospel of The Church of 100% Pure Photography.