Jamie McLeod is essentially a deviant artist who brings together his passion for sex, art, and rock and roll in a sleaze-tastic melee of demi-monde deconstruction. He continues to explore the underbelly with a harem of antiheroes he finds from his exotic nightlife dalliances into subcultures where most people are simply denied entry, for him it’s access all areas. Specializing in a curious hybrid genre, mashing up classic portraiture and blurring the lines between photography, iconography and the graphic arts, making cinematic-like cameos for his subjects to exhibit and expand within.
McLeod says his job is somewhere between a butcher, a surgeon and a jazz musician etching his film noir-like poetry embedding his own pathos into scenes from his psycho-metropolis. It’s as if he conjures up pulp fiction images from the city’s hypnotic neon glitches, noise and static included. Focusing on territories where the flesh and the spirit are in eternal opposition, in a land of dead-end chancers, exhibitionists, pop stars, femme fatales, wrestlers, transvestites, criminals, poseurs and whores.
Forever celebrating the outsiders, the transgressive souls, the night people, the lost boys, and the eternally glamorous who perform for his camera as if in their own X-feature. He treats all of his subjects as superstars in their own right, working a taboo vernacular and taking the viewer on a sensational ride through the luxe-lands and into trash cans, via Heartbreak Hotel and then back again for some more.
“JAMIE IS AN ARTIST WHO BRINGS OUT THE PUNK IN MY SOUL! WHETHER IT’S POP VAUDEVILLE, NEO GLAM OR SIMPLY MAKING ME LOOK GOOD, JAMIE HAS THE EYE. THAT’S WHY I LOVE WORKING WITH HIM”. Marc Almond
To recognise what makes Jamie McLeod’s work unique, one only has to compare his many portraits of the singer Marc Almond with those by Pierre and Gilles of the same subject. Both clearly share an attraction to Mr Almond’s world of bohemian saints and sleazy angels. But while Pierre and Gilles turn their sitters into surreal visions of porcelain and light, Mr McLeod prefers to locate his within the lived-in shadows of the real world at large. If Pierre and Gilles are Dali, he is Sickert.
Everything matters in a McLeod portrait, from the facial expression to the props to the exposed flesh. All these details are palimpsests of the life beneath. In his eyes, tattoos become the true canvas of the soul, raging against the shortcomings of body and moment. If he uses trickery, it is always to amplify the self-expression of the subject rather than distort. His images are portals into tight little worlds of cracks, scratches, war paint and stickiness. And such stains! We come for the bodies, but stay for the stains.
In Birds of Paradise, his study of modern dandies, Mr McLeod strongly evokes the title of Sebastian Horsley’s autobiography, Dandy in the Underworld. Except that here are dandies in underworlds, plural: private spaces for those who have taken individualism to the point of ostracism. Here is the top-hatted Mr Horsley himself, his photograph all the more valuable since the man’s untimely death. Not enough attention was paid to Mr Horsley in his lifetime: one hopes that portraits like Mr McLeod’s will inspire others to learn more about that unique Soho artist. Here too, is my own self from a decade ago, sitting in the Highgate furnished room that I rented for twenty-three long, dark years. I am still unaccountably alive, but the room has since been sold as part of the respectable family house it once was. So Birds of Paradise is also a record of paradises lost.
Today, in an age when people dress up as other people’s ideas and call it ‘cosplay’, dandyism has become the cosplay of the self. Mr McLeod’s work tells us that these people existed too, and this too, was a way of being alive. His portraits offer vital hope to all those ever called ‘freak’ or ‘weirdo’. These words are, as Mr McLeod well knows, the highest compliments imaginable.
By Dickon Edwards
“These photographs by Jamie McLeod are not candid snapshots; they really are art in its purest form. They have taken a great deal of thought and work to bring them into being, as does all art. They are like tableaux that have been posed to perfection, with an emphasis on colour and composition at their core. Jamie sometimes uses props to create alternative atmospheres, even working on top of the taken photograph to bring into being the image he wants. This artist’s hand never subtracts from the essence of the subject that he wishes to immortalise. These are images that are subversively seductive in their representations of dreamlike imaginary worlds; they entice the observer with their androgynous beauty. These are camera ghosts preserved in a poet’s absinthe and they have no set time frame; perhaps from fin de siècle Paris, or perhaps from the distressed dark future? There is a dichotomy between the ultra-slick skill of the graphic eye and the brutalism of the rebel’s frenzied hand wielding both a flick knife and a paint brush to the sound of a demon in red velvet. Long Live Art”.
“McLeod’s essentially masculine photos of androgynous men work off the conflicting energies of finding soft in hard, hard in soft. And whether it’s backstage against the exposed plumbing of a urinal at the Royal Festival Hall, a butch leather-capped sexual outlaw, or exposing a private geography of body tattoos, or standing on rubbled beaches by the muddy Thames in Bermondsey, McLeod’s camera finds Marc Almond, even when relaxed, in the image of the singer internally waiting to go on. It’s also a defining feature of McLeod’s iconoclastic aesthetic to incorporate disembodied text, song lyrics, slogans and graffiti into his backdrops as a lost and found street poetry mashed up viscerally like mince-meat into a visual riot. Imaginative, dispensing with obvious visual props, willing to create daring backdrops and to interact with his subject’s obsessions, his gift is a rare one, using empathy to create the image. In photographic terms the visual equivalent of the French writer Jean Genet. His fusion of gritty street reality with acute lyric sensitivity brings his subjects vitally alive in a way that no other photographer has done since Mick Rock”.
“Jamie McLeod’s work is extraordinary on two levels, his talent as an artist speaks for itself, you just need look to see that, but what drives his work through the wall is because he wears his spirit, his soul, up front, hence makes showing one’s own back to him and his camera a natural response. The adage ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is absolutely apt here”.
Little Annie Bandez ( Aka Annie Anxiety )
• • Please Note : All images on this website are protected by international copyright laws and owned solely by Jamie McLeod. They may not be stored, reproduced, circulated or manipulated without my prior permission. Only with a legally binding contract and payment for usage.