Love Bites



I think it must have been in 1980 that I become a lesbian.  In fact, I am sure of it and I know precisely who I was with and why I mark that Big O moment as the birthplace of Della Disgrace. I just wish I could remember exactly when. Knowing myself as I do I would probably chart the moment. Astrologically that is.

It didn't take long to realize I did not belong to the mainstream "Lesbian Nation" when I found a second home at Scott's Bar in San Francisco. A working class dyke bar populated by high femme sex workers and their super butch girlfriends. It was my refuge from my other life as a scholarship student at the San Francisco Art Institute, a place populated by over privileged trust fund babies and a few amazing artists who would go on to make a big impact.
I realize this is turning into a long story. So to cut it short. I was in art school, living in San Francisco, in a studio at The Goodman Building (An Artists-Societal Reject Hotel) in the very room Janis Joplin shared with her Jewish lesbian lover!), on rent strike from the city, working as a motorcycle Funeral Escort for Chinese funerals at Green Street Mortuary, (with Punk Rock legend Olga De Volga). I needed to make some work and so I did what I always did. I photographed what was happening in my life. I stuck close to my heart and my politics. I photographed what was around me, what I desired, what I wanted to be. But it is hard to be what you never see.
Chain Reaction was the name of the queer dyke sex-performance club we ran at The Market Tavern and other venues in central London. Our motto was "Permission to Play" and we did a lot of that.  Rather than bring my camera into the club, a sacred and profane space, we ofren went out into the world and created public spectacles of ourselves: on top of Soho skyscrapers and the infamous and broken Cold Store overlooking the Thames. We posed and performed for each other, in parks and alleyways, in the back of Camerawork Gallery on the Roman Road in Bethnal Green. I think it gave us all a sense of satisfaction to see the looks on some faces when confronted with two dozen dykes in leathers and looking fierce and fabulous.
Some lesbian photographers didn't want to show in exhibitions I was in or curated. Some lesbian and gay bookstores didn't stock my first book, LOVE BITES, because they (said) they were afraid of the Obscene Publications Act, even though mainstream bookstores were selling it, albeit shrink wrapped in cellophane. 

More than 30 years later some of the images in this gallery have become part of a film and a movement called REBEL DYKES.  Its about time, 'our time' and the ways we "got in the way" were important contributions to an LGBTQI+ archive that far too many of us are still absent from.