- Iconic Portraits
Clay has chosen this selection of historic portraits, some of which the National Portrait Gallery have acquired for their collection, where Clay is cited as being a photographer of note. These portraits were commissioned by the Sunday Times and the Sunday Express magazines.
Clay’s quiet but persistent approach has made it possible for him to capture the essence of his subject. He either gets his photograph at the beginning of the shoot or when his subjects are tired or bored and have forgotten that they are being photographed.
The cell phone has changed the path of photography for many, both for the good and the bad, it is now possible to to take photographs in countries where it would have been extremely difficult, without giving offence. This also means that the journalist on an assignment can take an adequate snap without a photographer present. But the art of true observation and talent shines through, giving pleasure to all and will surely survive.
- The World of the Rose
Leading designer, Peter Windett of Crabtree & Evelyn, commissioned Clay to photograph ‘Evelyn’ a rose that he had asked David Austin, rose grower of genius, to create for his renowned shops, that sold wonderful unguents, smells, and soaps.
Seeing Clay work David Austin announced that he wished to do a book with him, as no one had captured the true beauty of his rose before, Peter insisted on designing it and Anne Furness commissioned and published it. This book ‘David’Austin’s English Roses’ was incredibly successful, being hailed the best in the world.
Clay’s unique portrayal of the rose has not been easily copied by others, his knowledge of light being his innate skill. Clay also worked with Peter Beales, renowned for his old fashioned roses.
Clay has a huge archive of these wonderful flowers photographed with great sensitivity. He has been sent all over the world to capture their beauty.
Dumont publishing, in Germany have produced numerous rose calendars, which has been made possible by Clay being given unlimited access to a glorious collection of roses that are grown by Roseby and Robert for the ‘Real Flower Company’. Maggie and Clay work on them together. Maggie arranges the bouquets and Clay shoots them, it is indeed days of wine and roses.
The rose is the most beloved and romantic flower surrounded by mystery, folklore and legend, it never ceases to enchant the beholder, from the simplicity of the humble dog roses in the hedgerow to a wonderful curated collection, there is a heady charm which brings extraordinary solace.
- Heritage Fruit & Vegetables
Finding the works of Juan Sanches Cotan born, on the 25th of June 1560 coincidentally sharing the same birth date with Clay, although some 340 years earlier, inspired Clay’s still life photographs for his recent book of “Heritage Fruits & Vegetables.” This being a collaboration with Thames & Hudson and The Royal Horticultural Society, with text by Toby Musgrave.
Cotan reproduced a ‘contorero’ a pantry in which fruit and vegetables were traditionally suspended to prolong freshness, to create his still lives. Traders in the hot and dusty streets of Marrakech still use this method to display their produce. A carpenter friend constructed one for Clay making it possible to capture the beauty of these important foods, working closely with Tim and Candy Smit , and all at the’ Lost Gardens of Heligan’.
The book was an amazing wonderful collaboration, freshly plucked produce changed hands at Reading, Paddington and Earls Court stations and was photographed in the corner of Clay’s studio in Ladbroke Grove. it was extraordinarily successful resulting in a glorious record of these important heirloom fruits and vegetables that we must fight to preserve.
Some of the photographs have been exhibited at WIsley Gardens, the beautiful Lost Gardens of Heligan and the RHS autumn exhibition 2012 where they received a gold medal.
- Industrial Age
These photographs have been selected because they contain all aspects of Clay’s work. The ultimate professional he approaches the diverse qualities of his assignments in his unique way, combining integrity with great observation and distilling the essence of his subjects, whether portraying the perfection of an exquisites rose, photographing a monolithic turbine, or taking a revealing portrait. David Noble, author, journalist and publicist, has long recognised this rare quality and has commissioned and worked with Clay on many assignments.
Here are the results of an extraordinary project for ABB, Asea Brown Boveri who manufacture robotics, heavy electrical equipment and automation technology worldwide. They asked for a brochure show the extent of their work.
Clay was sent on a round-the-world trip starting in Europe, then from Paris to New York on Concord, where he photographed the Amtrack train, then by helicopter and planes on to Rio where he worked with an armed guard. From there on to the Iguazu Falls, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Tokyo at night, and to Jourdan, culminating in a trip to North of the Artic Circle in Norway, on a skidoo. An extraordinarily demanding trip never to be forgotten, an example of his versatility and dedication.
- Cable Street
where, as Colin MacInnes wrote in his book ‘City of Spades’, ‘The castaways from the islands perform their sad and endless ballet, to which they are the only audience’. Inspired by the photographs of Bruce Davidson and Robert Frank Clay captured the strange mix of poverty, drug dealing, and sex for sale, within a kindly but dangerous community. This was the time of the Kray brothers and neighbour- hood rivalry; not as noble as the Battle of Cable street, where the inhabitants defeated the followers of Oswald Mosley in 1936. Here it awaits demolition, in the slum clearances of 1972.
Some of this material can be seen in the archive of the Autograph gallery in Shoreditch where it formed part of an exhibition called ” A Different Light Light “ in November 2017.
- Rhythm & Blues
Giorgio Gomelsky was the manager of Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds, and he commissioned Clay to take photographs of the group. So Clay travelled North with them in a battered Ford Transit van, staying in cheap lodgings, in the time honoured way.
The photographs have recently been published in” Eric Clapton a Live History”, published by C Larsen & Sons in Denmark.
The photographs of Eric Burdon and The Animals were taken just as they achieved great fame with the recording of ‘The House Of The Rising Sun’, which, sadly was the end of their fame, due to internal issues. But the music lives on.
- Glorious Gardens
‘The Glory of The English Garden’ written by Lady Mary Keen, a doyen of the esoteric world of gardens, sent Clay to magical places. Her knowledge and his unique approach, changed the boundaries of this world of light and shade, and garden photography forever.
The breathtaking crescendo of the dawn chorus that heralds the day, and the softening of the evening light, as the gardens nocturnal inhabitants emerge, are daily miracles that never disappoint.
Clay has chosen these wonderful gardens that we can all visit, they include, La Majorelle, Y,ves St Laurent’s masterpiece in Marrakech, Villandry the most exquisites potager ever, the masterly planting of La Plume, in Northern France, and the ever changing, painterly colours of Wollerton Old Hall garden in Shropshire, these are all represented here and many other gardens that inspire his work.
- Surreal Portraits
A series of surreal portraits of waxworks and Mannequins, assorted limbs and heads, photographed in the studio of Keith Gems
in Ladbroke Grove. Some are being prepared for Madame Tussauds’, others for fashion houses. A bizare collection of the macabre photographed as found.
The pantomime animals were for an article in Tatler magazine. Dick Whittington’s cat met Clay at the station accompanied by the Mayor. Mother Goose was delighted to take a walk in her neighbourhood with Clay, her eggs were safe at home.
The identical twins who were a pantomime horse, lived with two very small identical twin husbands in great harmony.
- Signals Gallery
Clay’s photographs record an exciting time in the 1960s. His vibrant and developed aesthetic has come to define the period and the way events are recalled.
Signals London embarked on an ambitious series of exhibitions curated by David Medalla and Paul Keeler. Clay was engaged to record these and contribute to the newspaper ‘Signals News Bulletin’. As Guy Brett wrote , ‘the quality of lucid visualisation and sensory richness define Clay’s work’. He recorded David Medalla’s ‘Cloud Canyons’ by day and night, and the vibrant and crowded exhibitions of visiting artists.
When Signals was dissolved he went on to photograph exhibitions at Indica and the Lissom Gallery. David and Paul formed the amazing ‘Exploding Galaxy’ and Clay gravitated away from the art world leaving a unique and important record.
These works have been shown at England & Co, his gallery who are guardians of this important archive, and administrate it on Clay’s behalf. This work has also been shown in the Tate Gallery, Sotheby’s Gallery, and in Sao Paulo.
- Greece Portraits & Landscapes
Forward looking publisher Anne Furniss commissioned ‘ Vanishing Greece ‘ understanding that this was a precious time in the history of this country. Patrick Leigh Fermor generously wrote the introduction, also recognising that the book would be both important and timely.
A personal Odyssey for Clay and his wife Maggie, this has resulted in this glorious and pertinent collection of beautiful photographs. They depict the awe inspiring landscape and record the quality of a time- honoured noble people, whose way of life had not yet been permeated by the homogenisation of the world.
On their journey Clay and Maggie indeed met the Baucus and Philemon of legend, personified in the photograph of the ancient cheesemakers in Karpathos. ‘You must always welcome strangers for you never know when you are in the presence of the Gods.’