A collection of Dave Brown‘s photographs of The Mighty Boosh are currently on display at The Book Club in Shoreditch. Mog headed down to the exhibition on our behalf when it first opened; here’s her report…
There’s something special about photographs of people taken by their friends. The resulting images are natural, easy and inclusive, authentically capturing a resonant moment in time. The trouble for most of us is that the pictures our mates take tend to be a bit rubbish: poorly composed, mid-blink visual messes.
By contrast, photographs taken by professionals are a feast for the eyes: perfectly-framed and popping with rich hues and crisp lines. But the images they present never feel entirely real – a re-enactment of life rather than life itself: perfectly-formed fakeness which doesn’t quite capture what it was truly like at the time.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could combine the best of these alternatives? Luckily for us, that’s exactly what Dave Brown has achieved with his photographs of The Mighty Boosh: professionally put together images, captured by one of the gang. The resulting images allow us to see a side of the Boosh that no other photographer has been able to show us, or could show us – the inside.
Dave’s photos weave around their live performances over the years, backstage and before/after gigs, as the boys fill the time between stage and sleep. The result is part-rock band on tour, part surrealist pantomime, as Julian/Noel/Rich, Mike/Dave and the characters they play jostle for wall space. Thanks to Dave’s unique perspective, we get to see it as it really was, not as it was styled to be. Even when they’re posing and pulling faces, it’s just a bunch of friends mugging for the camera.
Personal favourites include a backstage shot of the five of them from way back when – the stark beauty of youth staring down a dressing room mirror; a sumptuously-coloured, delicately vulnerable and wide-eyed Old Gregg which dominates the main room; and a sequence of Julian and Noel’s friendship played out across a contact sheet (which may have found its way onto my Christmas list).
Many of the pictures stand up as photographic art in their own right. You don’t need to have been a fan to appreciate them. For Boosh fans, however, particularly those lucky enough to have seen them on those tours, the photographs pack a hefty emotional punch. What The Mighty Boosh had/have is very special – the creativity, the energy, and the relationships – and it’s wonderful to see it played back through these images.
If I have one complaint it’s that I would have preferred more of the images to have been printed large; these are pictures of a story that deserves to be celebrated, and the bigger prints are the ones that draw you in and envelop you in the moment. But then this is a show that has been created to fit around a working social venue not a blank exhibition space, so needs must.
The great and good connected to the Boosh were there on the opening night: Julian Barratt, Mike Fielding, Steve Oram, Tom Meeten, Simon Farnaby, Julia Davis, Mercedes Grower, Holly-Jane Shears, Nigel Coan, Jake and Neil Cole. Sadly Noel Fielding and Rich Fulcher were out of the country, but I like to think they were being channelled by the Boosh-connected offspring who were running around the venue, giddy with the excitement of staying up late.
While most of the photographs in the exhibition are by Dave, there are a handful of pictures from other people: a few front of stage shots of a Wembley show from December 2008 by comedy photographer extraordinaire, Andy Hollingworth; a set of acrylic paintings by Ivana Zorn, which were used for the Outrage playing cards; the original cardboard box artwork for the Book of Boosh by Noel; and one-off illustrations from collaborators and friends, Mr Bingo and Jake.
For the obsessed amongst us, these extras are a real treat – an opportunity to glimpse another angle on the weird and wonderful world of Boosh, but to the more normal folk out there I suspect these additional images represent a bit of a disconnect; although they have a clear link to the subject matter of the exhibition, I’m not sure if they fully belong.
For the most part, however, this exhibition is a friend’s eye view of The Mighty Boosh through the ages – from bashful studenty types dipping their toes into comedy waters, through to technicolored megastardom on stage at Wembley. Thanks to Dave’s photography, we can begin to imagine what it was like to be there while it happened.
The Mighty Boosh photography exhibition will be running until January 29th at The Book Club. To find out more about the show, have a read of our recent interview with Dave. If you’re interested in buying a print for yourself, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a full print and price list.