Grayson Perry's Photo Album
In Our Erranda Studio – Entry Free with Exhibition Day Pass
"We used to say transvestite gatherings should be sponsored by Kodak" – Grayson Perry
This intimate small-scale display shows a series of photographs and spreads from a private photo album owned by artist, Grayson Perry. Taken with a 35mm Zenith SLR camera, printed at a high street chemist and preserved in a classic ring-bound stick-down album, these personal photos offer a rare glimpse into the development of Perry’s alter ego, Claire.
Although cross-dressing had been a part of his life from early childhood, and his first public outing in a wig and skirt was at the age of fifteen, Perry was largely uncomfortable and inexperienced with presenting this part of himself at a young age. It wasn’t until he went to study at Portsmouth Art School in his early 20s that he was able to find the confidence and freedom to explore his identity within a creatively supportive and encouraging environment.
The images here date from this time and provide an important visual record of his experimentation and flourishing – especially that of Claire. While the Claire who appears today is an extrovert, flaunting provocative, vibrantly styled outfits, theatrical make-up and daring attitude, in these photographs we see a quieter, fledgling version. The images show Perry trying on and posing in unmistakably suburban outfits and settings, which also pre-empt an enduring interest in exploring tensions between the subversive and the banal. Perry has always been clear in his motivations for his adoption of typically "female" clothes: ‘it’s not about being a woman, but about dressing as a woman’.
This album represents an alternative and significant set of "family" memories; he has almost no photographs from his own childhood, because - as he has poignantly put it - ‘unhappy families don’t take photos’. Through these seemingly ordinary images Perry can claim both a history and an evolution of the very public persona we know today.
Grayson Perry is an award-winning artist, writer and broadcaster whose keen observations of contemporary culture and society have brought him wide public acclaim and affection. The first ‘transvestite potter from Essex’ to win the Turner Prize, Perry’s alter-ego Claire forms an important part of his public and private persona and an additional platform for pushing forward an uncompromising exploration of personal and social concerns.