Behind the Walls at Berns
by daniela trujillo EVB
Humour and photography: those are two things the mind doesn’t exactly associate together, well at least not initially.
When I heard about the photography exhibit showing at Berns by Dave Brown- a celebrated British comedian and photographer- for the first time my brain was asked to put those categories side by side, photography and humor.
As the press release told me, Berns’ walls are currently covered in Brown’s work, which ranges from tightly shot, beautiful portraiture of both humans and animals to medium, environmental shots or images highlighting geometry in our everyday spaces.
Celebrated for his role as Bollo the Gorilla on the hit TV series The Mighty Boosh that airs on the BBC, Brown was consequently invited to the south London Chessington Zoo to spend some time with a gorilla… a real one.
His encounter and images of Mjukuu won him the semi-final spot in the prominent Wildlife Portrait Awards.
As a photographer, I fell and fall in love with the glances he captures and applaud greatly the stark yet melodic contrast of the collection. I have never been a talented curator but Jenny Theolin takes the prize for this exhibit!
I enjoyed the images too much to not dig a little deeper and I was too curiously confused by the artist’s two vocations not to ask some questions.
So, that is exactly what I did.
Brown was kind enough to entertain and reply to my questions with humility, grace and speed! Let’s take a closer look at the man and his mind and the history behind the images that hang on Berns’ walls.
Which came first: comedy or photography?
Photography came first. I studied it at university which is where I met Noel Fielding.
We were obsessed with anything funny, we watched nothing but comedy and we’d go see any comedian that came into town. Harry Hill, Kevin Eldon
and funnily enough Julian Barratt.
Eventually Noel would get signed to the same agent and they would start writing together. That was the birth of The Mighty Boosh.
I’ve pretty much had a camera in my hand from day one.
I recently had a London exhibition of these shots called Behind The Boosh and hope soon to publish a book of the ten years or so since we all got together.
What was your reaction when you were invited to spend time with Mjukuu? what is it like being in front of such a wonderful animal?
She was very, very special and I felt so privileged to spend some time with her.
She was so very gentle, graceful, thoughtful and human. I didn’t get my camera out for about an hour, I just sat outside her cage whilst she ate and rested away from the public.
Her boyfriend the huge Silverback down the corridor could smell me and was not happy that I was hanging out with the love of his life! He was posturing and sounding out with amazing chest beats, terrifying to think what he’d have done to me if he’d got out of his enclosure.
She was so at ease with me shooting her, the shot that reached the semi final of World Wildlife Photographer of the year was such a special moment. The sun came out and shone perfectly through her enclosure window whilst she ate an orange. She just glanced up as she was chewing and stared right down the lens.
I would have given anything to know what she was thinking.
I knew the second the shutter had closed that I’d grabbed a special shot. A real beautiful moment and without a doubt the best photographic moment I’ve had.
Tell us more about your character on the show for those of us who aren’t familiar/aren’t UK- cultured.
I was given the opportunity to visit Juki by her keeper Iona, she was a huge fan of the The Mighty Boosh mainly as there was a talking Gorilla in it and there aren’t many of those on English television.
One of my characters on the show is Bollo, the gorilla. He was the sidekick to a mystical shaman, Naboo (played by Micheal Fielding).
Bollo and Naboo lived in Dalton in Hackney London. Bollo would DJ, play drums, bass guitar and get up to various ridiculous adventures with Vince (Noel Fielding) and Howard (Julian Barratt).
Why do you want people to see this series of your work?
There are shots from 5 different bodies of work in this exhibition:
My portraits of comedians recalling their worst ever gigs called ‘Tough Crowd’, my portraits of Mjukuu the Gorilla; my work documenting The Mighty Boosh and portraits from my time in Africa with child rights charity AfriKids, along with some shots from my series of everyday street / travel photography.
I guess what I would like people to see in this work is my ability capture a moment in time.
With the portraits, a connection to the characters and a beauty in their expression and thought; in the reportage and everyday shots I hope that people can see the importance of never switching your eyes off and to always look at the compassion that moments in time have, which you can pause and enjoy forever.
What is next? Comedy? Photography?
I will soon be producing a book of my Boosh- photography and am working on a number of new photographic and graphic design projects.
As for The Mighty Boosh, we will never say never… who knows? If they start running the series on Swedish TV we could come over there for a few live gigs!
What a wild and seemingly appropriately symbiotic world Brown has brought together!
And until Swedish television begins to air The Mighty Boosh, take a look at here, on YouTube.
*Dave Brown’s photography will be on display at Berns Asiatiska until November 26th. There after the work will be showing at Berns Hotel throughout January 8th, 2015.*