Gentlemen 1981–1983

The photographic works Gentlemen (1981-1983), photographed in English gentlemen’s clubs in Saint James’ in central London, consider the patriarchal values of the English upper middle classes with text constructed out of speeches of parliament and news. The complete series of 26 images and texts investigate the values that ally these classes to conservative aristocratic values where primogeniture is still an issue in a country symbolically ruled by a constitutional monarchy.

Until the early 1970’s a married women still needed her husband’s endorsement for any household purchases. Whilst women now have full property rights, they still remain under-represented in key positions of governance and in financial and academic worlds. It is still a boys club in which some women are honorary members.

I wanted to make work that used irony and parody in which to explore attitudes prevalent amongst the English establishment in the 1980’s. Despite being Prime Minister and head of the Conservative party, Margaret Thatcher as a woman was not allowed full membership at the Conservative Gentlemen’s club ‘The Carlton'. Women are still not allowed full membership at the Carlton or Whites, both situated in Saint James’s Street.

Old Etonians, like the past leaders of the Conservative Party such as David Cameron and Boris Johnson still belong to such Gentlemen’s clubs. It is in these clubs that behind the scene influence and where networks of powerful men are still used to influence politics and business. Today in Keir Starmer’s recently elected Labour government much hope is now pinned on more diversity and women in the cabinet and parliament, including the non elected House of Lords.