Love me ‘Tenders: A Journey Through East London Erotica

This exhibition covers adult themes and is not recommended for visitors under the age of 18 or with a sensitive disposition. Children are admitted only in the company of a responsible adult.

Love me ‘Tenders is being shown in the Kazemi Suite (2nd Floor) until March 2018.

An extraordinary and intimate exhibition of hitherto-unseen images submitted by local residents. What began as a piece of PhD research by anthropologist Robin Foster at the University of Bath has evolved into a stunning and provocative collection, exploring hidden fantasies and the texture of human desire.

The exhibition is accompanied by a video installation featuring an interview with Foster and some of the project’s contributors. Below are a series of short excerpts from the interview.


Jane (2005)

Walford Contemporary: Tell us about this piece. How did you gain access to such an intimate photograph?

Foster: It’s simply breathtaking, isn’t it? This was donated by an anonymous resident who prefers to go by the pseudonym M. Branning. It was discovered on the laptop of the (now deceased) Steven Beale, a relative of the couple depicted in the photo.



Phil (2008)

Walford Contemporary: This is one of our favourite pieces. The playful – almost cheeky – grin of this unknown model suggests a close personal relationship with the photographer. What is known about the genesis of this image?

Foster: A good question. This, like many of the pieces in the collection, is of unknown origin. What we can say with confidence is that it was produced professionally. It was posed for, edited, and printed. It is anyone’s guess how public this photo was intended to be, but it is clear this is a man who is comfortable in his body.


Ian (2006)

Walford Contemporary: I personally find this image among the most arresting of the whole collection. The depth of concentration and coquettish stare of this model is surely redolent of the earliest childhood forays into sexual awakening. Unlike the exhibitionism of Phil, this is clearly a candid snapshot of a very personal moment in time. How did it end up in this collection?

Foster: The history of this image is an interesting one. I was shown it in strict confidence by the model himself, following a long and frank conversation about our experiences growing up as gay men in the 1990s. I was struck instantly by – as you say – the intimacy of the setting, the familiarity of his expression, the softness of his reclining form. After much persuasion and the censorship of his most intimate parts, he kindly allowed me to share the photo.


Shirley (2011)

Walford Contemporary: This shot is a masterclass in tension and sexual compression. The strength of pose and tightly-controlled languidity speak volumes here. The setting, much like her stern expression, traverses the line between public and private, flaunting and fragile.

Foster: Exactly. This is one of those “amateur” shots – I hate to use that word – that really encapsulates a fragility and sense of presence that a professional photographer would struggle to capture. Beneath her harsh confidence there is an all-too-human vulnerability, that – almost imperceptibly – problematises the narrative of confidence suggested by her pose.


For more photos in this series and to hear the Foster interview in full, please visit the Kazemi Suite (floor 2) at Walford Contemporary.

Love me ‘Tenders runs until March 2018.


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