The University of Hertfordshire Galleries are delighted to present Sightlines by Julie Cook. This ambitious survey of Cook's photographic work evidences a fascination for representations of the body, sexuality, voyeurism and the places and spaces of the erotic dance industry in London and Las Vegas.
Sightlines: Public and Private (Lives) takes us on a slick erotic historical journey, divided into several chapters - from the nude portraiture of Everyday Erotica, through a personal travelogue of the Las Vegas Diaries, to the 'make do and mend documentation of Olympia Moments Ltd, an alternative strip club owned and run by the dancers themselves in the back rooms and basements of London pubs. Cook is intrigued as much by the 'ordinary' bodies and the clothing and props that dancers use in their performances as by the highly specific and unusual architecture of the spaces - the different levels of influence and control that these environments assert and the representation of desire as a physical commodity.
Creating a remarkable document of this often-misunderstood world, Cook has spent a substantial period in residence within these 'erotic' environments, building up trust with the performers and observing both them and their audience, and the dynamic between them.
Las Vegas Diaries, created over five years in collaboration with architect and writer Paul Davies, explores the challenging logistics presented by life in an environment built for excess. In Some Las Vegas Strip Clubs: extravagant table dancing clubs are photographed with the lights up and empty of people. The spaces of public fantasy are unique architectural environments - a pastiche of 'luxury' materials and design. Cook's decision to photograph in daylight exposes the artifice upon which the pregnant fantasies of the evening are built. Beauties of Today, a portraiture series, explores the glamour and role play of both men and women in a London burlesque venue, set against the slightly shabby and careworn environment in which the burlesque evenings are staged.
Presenting erotic portraiture and performance to the camera within both public and private spaces has history - original photos from erotic camera clubs, Polaroids, cuttings from glamour magazines, cigarette card collections. All are often hidden away in very private collections, but hold a fascination as objects as well as subjects. In examining the infrastructure of excess and the 'permission' that portraiture gives us to step into a role, Sightlines is thoroughly consistent with UH Galleries' long-standing commitment to photographic portraiture.