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Clive Murphy, Exhibitionist

May 5, 2013
by the gentle author

Clive plays the giddy goat, 30th September 1992

“I’m definitely up to mischief because I’ve got a bare chest, but who the photographer is I have no idea…” chuckled Clive Murphy, the celebrated novelist and oral historian, when I pulled this photo out of one of  the more than one hundred and fifty albums of pictures he has taken, recording every intimate detail of his life in Spitalfields in recent decades.

Clive is an unapologetic and self-declared exhibitionist, though “only indoors and for one other person” he emphasised – just in case anyone gets the wrong idea.“I am an actor at heart and I just love playing for the camera,” Clive continued, “Unfortunate guests get asked, ‘Would you mind if I dress up and you take my photo?'”

These photographs permit us to participate in the private drama of Clive Murphy’s imaginative world, contained within the two crowded rooms above the Aladin curry house on Brick Lane where has lived since 1973. One of Spitalfields most charismatic interiors, it has become crammed with pictures, papers and mementos of the passing years, until today you can barely get in the door. Assuming alternative identities is in the nature of a novelist and in Clive’s photographs we see it made manifest, in images that record the early stages of accumulation in his famous flat.

“I thought all these pictures had gone to landfill, but I see some escaped,” admitted Clive, referring to the many hundreds of photographs of him in his underpants which he resigned to the recycling bin at the time of transferring his personal archive to the Bishopsgate Institute earlier this year. “I am a pants and beachwear fetishist,” he confided  to me, as if any explanation were necessary for his compulsive “dressing down” in front of the lens. Yet those pictures will remain an eternal enigma in the cultural history of Spitalfields and instead we must content ourselves with these playful shots of Clive dressing up.

22nd December 1991, picture by Mr Gaffar. “Observe how ornate I am with two necklaces and a bangle. and those aren’t socks, they’re stockings…”

21st May 1992, picture by Billy Ranoo. “Look at the hand on the hip , I’ve put down a sheet on the kitchen floor and put those black cushions there for the picture.”

22nd December 1991, picture by Mr Gaffar. “I’m wearing one of several dressing gowns. I like dressing gowns and robes, but it must have been freezing with only my underwear and socks on underneath.”

22nd December 1991, picture by Mr Gaffar. “This was in my kitchen when it had a decent carpet. I’m rather pleased to see I had a tan in those days.”

21st May 1992, picture by Billy Ranoo. “I like this picture very much because it makes me look macho and interesting.”

27th November 1991, admiring cyclamen in an aesthetic manner. “Just to show I do dress normally sometimes.”

21st August 1992 “I was upstairs and we rearranged the furniture for the photo. It may be taken in the card room above my flat where my landlord let his pals play cards.”

Photographs courtesy of the Clive Murphy Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute

UP IN LIGHTS, the memoirs of a 1920s chorus girl by Marjorie Graham, recorded and edited by Clive Murphy, published by Pan Macmillan on 23rd May


You may like to read my other stories about Clive Murphy

Clive Murphy, Writer

A Walk With Clive Murphy

At Clive Murphy’s Flat

Clive Murphy, Phillumenist

Clive Murphy, Snapper

Clive Murphy’s oral histories are available from Labour and Wait

and his ribald rhymes are available from Rough Trade

3 Responses leave one →
  1. May 5, 2013

    I love these pictures! What an interesting man. The photos you took of the flat before he tidied up told a story. I wonderd if you had taken any ‘after’ pictures.

  2. William permalink
    May 5, 2013

    What an interesting man. Thank you for this.

  3. May 7, 2013


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