Confessions of an Exhibitionist

By Geoff Adams-Spink

I’d never really considered myself an exhibitionist – certainly not in the dirty mac sense in any case.  Perhaps though my behaviour over the years tells another story.

When Kathryn Rennie did the Thalidomide at Fifty Exhibition a decade ago, she photographed me naked from almost every angle because her original plan was to cast me in bronze.  Unfortunately, the budget never ran to a life-size sculpture, but the photos inspired her to do a couple of nude sketches of me, one of which ended up in the exhibition.

Thanks to a bit of string pulling, the collection was shown at City Hall in the days when Ken Livingstone was Mayor.  The BBC had a London-based politics show on a Sunday morning and my naked form appeared behind the presenter’s head.  I can therefore honestly say that I have appeared naked on BBC One during the daytime.

The same sketch also occupied an entire page of the Sunday Times magazine.  This prompted my mum to tell me that there was no need to make such an exhibition of myself!

Perhaps I got a little buzz from this indecent exposure?  The fact is that when my friend Rosalind Furlong – a former BBC colleague who was doing a degree in photography at the London College of Communication – asked me to pose for a series of portraits, I readily accepted.

“Can they be naked?” I asked expectantly.  She explained that she was looking for something a little more sedate.  She asked me to bring along an outfit in which I would like to be photographed.  Since I had a need for some decent portraits of me in business suits for my website, I came along in my most sober dark grey suit, but the showoff in me couldn’t resist accessorising it with a silk scarf, a cashmere overcoat and a rabbit skin hat.

Rosalind did a fabulous job.  She made me look at the same time serious with a hint of mischief.  Her work was commended by her tutors.  And that was essentially that.

She then contacted me out of the blue a few months ago and told me that she had submitted one of the photographs for the British Journal of Photography’s Portrait of Britain collection.  I then got another excited email telling me that my image had been shortlisted and that it would appear on JC Decaux billboards all over the UK throughout the month of September.

Rosalind explained why she had chosen my image out of no doubt hundreds of subjects that she had photographed: “I took the photo of Geoff five years ago when I was training at the London College of Communication and have always thought it was quite special. He brought this brilliant outfit to the photo shoot and the fur hat, silk scarf and little aeroplane badge, together with his slightly haughty, almost Napoleonic expression, are what elevate the picture above the ordinary. People have looked at this photograph and not noticed his physical differences because his character is what stands out. Portraits are always a collaboration between the photographer and the subject and Geoff certainly did me proud on this one.”

I’m not a great user of public transport, so I never actually saw myself in the flesh as it were.  However, thanks to the power of social media, I was spotted on a London street, and at many of the capital’s main rail termini including Waterloo, Euston, Kings Cross, Liverpool Street and Victoria.

Having enjoyed my thirty days of fame – and all credit goes to Rosalind not to me – I can now retreat once more into the shadows.  But who knows when I will next get an opportunity to shock the nation and shame my poor old mum?