Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
Spitting: Photographs by Andrew Bruce and Anna Fox was commissioned by James Hyman Gallery in order to coincide with this year’s general election. One of the most popular British television programmes of the 1980s and 1990s, watched by an audience of 15 million people at its peak, Spitting Image featured puppet caricatures of prominent celebrities of the time, including international politicians and the Royal Family, among others. The series was cancelled in 1996 but remains a seminal piece of British television.
Echoing the garish photographs made by Spitting Image creators Peter Fluck and Roger Law before Martin Lambie-Nairn approached them to suggest adapting their creations for television, Fox and Bruce spent weeks in the studio working with a selection of the original puppets, crafting these ominous images. Photographed either against brightly coloured neon backdrops or shrouded by darkness, each image depicts a former Tory party member. Rendered in extraordinary detail on large format film, at times stripped of their clothing, every mark on the latex or foam is made visible and accentuated, including signs of wear, fragility and decay. Presented in this way, the puppets become evocative emblems of a past era and a faded power. There is an awkward tension in these photographs between the puppets as depictions of people, as cultural icons and also as crumbling modern artefacts.
Fox and Bruce say of their experience of making the work, ‘Once we had them out of their packing cases, lying on the studio floor, the puppets looked broken, aged, decrepit and lacking any glimmer of life…Spitting Image was a great show that was made, in the wake of Python, at a time when humour really could be outrageous. These puppets, imbued with satire, represented our most significant politicians at their worst…Now….we are left with the remnants of a different age.’
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