An Australian photographer at the height of London’s high fashion world finds that fame and success are no longer enough. The 28 minute documentary film A Life Exposed, featuring the life and work of photographer Robyn Beeche, screens on ABC1 on Tues 25th June at 10pm. The film received support through Metro Screen’s Jumpstart program, and was directed and produced by Lesley Branagan. Australian-born photographer Robyn Beeche became renowned in London for her iconic 80s images. In a time rich with experimentation and creativity, she was celebrated for her ground-breaking photographs of painted bodies, and collaborations with counter-culture personalities Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood, Leigh Bowery and Divine.
At the peak of her career, Beeche was transformed when she experienced the Indian colour-throwing festival of Holi. “Drawn like a magnet”, she gave up her high-flying career for the life-changing move to the Indian pilgrimage town of Vrindavan. 25 years later, she continues to document the area’s vibrant traditions as spiritual service, and her extensive archive is prized by international scholars.
A Life Exposed 28-minute documentary weaves between Australia, London and India, depicting the life and work of Beeche, and her extreme paradigm shift to a radically different life and photographic practice in India. Viewers will recognise many of Beeche’s iconic images – from Visage’s Fade to Grey album cover, to the “puritan” image which inspired David Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes film clip. Experts indicate how Beeche’s works are now being appreciated not merely as ‘retro relics’, but as NGA-collected authentic works of art that employed groundbreaking techniques in a pre-Photoshop era.
Through stunning footage shot by award-winning cinematographer Bonnie Elliot, A Life Exposed dramatically shows how India’s rich visual content paradoxically provided Beeche the chance to nourish her main themes (theatricality, illusion, transformation, androgyny) in a culture where they occurred spontaneously as religious expression, and were not constructed.
Passionate, active and articulate, 67-year-old Beeche continues to function as a spiritually-motivated visual anthropologist, documenting rituals that are rapidly changing due to modernisation, and producing arresting images.
Seven years in the making, in A Life Exposed, filmmaker Lesley Branagan absorbs viewers into the dynamic world behind Beeche’s process of constructing images, conveying the transformed meaning she found for photography through a compelling narrative and outstanding visuals.