Review - “The Exhibitionists” with Rusty Lindsay and Barbie Lindsay, 14 Jun 2021

A review by Helen Jones - “The Exhibitionists” with Rusty Lindsay and Barbie Lindsay, 14 Jun 2021
I have long been aware of the work of Rusty and Barbie Lindsey so I was delighted to welcome them to the Club with their talk “The Exhibitionists’.

Rusty and Barbie moved from darkroom to digital in 1996 but were already using Photoshop in the darkroom to produce creative work. The Exhibitionists took us on a retrospective journey, showing us their most successful exhibition work from the last 20 years of photography.

Original, creative, imaginative, wacky, surreal, challenging are some of the words you could use to describe their work which is so often laced with a refreshing sense of humour. The way their imaginations work is incredible – they just need one thing to trigger the idea and train of thought then they seek out all the component parts needed to create that idea. They are also the masters of the clever title – something that so many of us struggle with!

We started with Barbie’s self-portraits taken during lockdown – but these weren’t your conventional self-portraits. They featured a skeleton called Steve that they keep in their bedroom and a very creative photo of Barbie ‘ironing’ Rusty! Barbie then took us through some of her composite pictures explaining how the model was shot in a studio – but the costumes were doll clothes, photographed on a Barbie doll in the same position and same set-up, then dressed on the model in Photoshop. Barbie explained how she had a huge catalogue of bits and bobs for her creative images, including body parts – so that she could easily create composite images when the idea came to her. If she didn’t have the right element in her collection she would go out and hunt it down and photograph it specially.

Rusty also creates incredible composites, often with a street theme, always so clever that it isn’t obvious it is a composite. He likes to take semi-candid shots of people for his street work – unposed - he makes it obvious he is photographing them in order to get a direct stare and eye-contact. It takes a lot of courage to do that with complete strangers in the street! Barbie talks to her characters first and take looks of photos to get her characters through the smiley, self-conscious stage as she tries to avoid people smiling. She also looks for a triangular composition with one character behind the other, reminding us of the strength of the triangle in photographic compositions.
There are certain elements that crop up time and again in their work: Barbie’s extreme shoe collection, plastic models at Camden Market, masks, tattoos, light at the end of the tunnel, Banksy, musicians for Rusty, male nudes for Barbie and even a fetish convention (don’t ask)! Rusty also showed how he used repetition to great effect.
They also both love cats and their own cat family have modelled in the past! We saw some of Rusty’s cat photos with a difference. Their current cat, also called Steve, made his presence known last night!

It wasn’t all surreal and creative however. Their photo repertoire stretched wide. We saw landscapes – mainly bad weather with soft mist or dramatic skies. We saw work from Rusty’s car-themed FRPS panel. We saw straight street, travel, photo-journalism, portraits and nature. Barbie has a particular love of insects. They also have a pet tree frog who appears in many photos. They seemed to be able to turn their hand to any genre and produce award-winning work across the board.

Both Rusty and Barbie have a wonderful sense of humour and their imaginations know no bounds. They were generous with their tips, willing to share explanations of how they created some of their amazing composites. The evening was full of jokes and banter.

Rusty and Barbie are extroverts, larger than life and full of fun. Their photography echoes their personalities. It's photography with character and personality. Their talk ended our season on a high. Thank you, Rusty, Barbie and Steve the cat for a wonderful evening of entertainment!

~ Helen Jones