"Time flies when you're having fun". Photographer Ralph John Perou - or somebody who says he is him, because he appears in a face mask, dark glasses and a hat - shares with us his two decades of experiences working with Marilyn Manson in a video. He uses the word 'experiences', not just 'memories', because those have become "fuzzy" in his mind. For that reason he decided to display his works with no information about where or when they were taken. It means that spectators have to try to put some sort of chronological and mental order to the expansive and maleficent magnetism he portrays of Marilyn Manson, an artist elevated from the music industry to the category of planetary icon and now the sole subject of '21 years in hell', the brand new exhibition which has just opened at La Térmica and continues until 22 January.
This display of 30 photos by Perou at the cultural centre, which is run by the Diputación (the Malaga provincial authority), remains true to his commitment to contemporary photography as one of his signs of identity, as the director of La Térmica, Salomón Castiel, explained at the opening. He also pointed out that not only is the exhibition completely new, but it also reflects the Diputación's commitment to culture, because despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, it is continuing to organise events which can be visited in person or viewed online.
The exhibition '21 years in hell' includes some images which are out of focus or frame. Perou is one of the most important (and coveted) portrait photographers of contemporary times, said the curator of the display, Toni García, and he explained that Perou had not only selected the works which were to be exhibited but had also decided how they were to be arranged. "Perou asked us for the plans and then designed the layout down to the last centimetre," he said.
Unsurprisingly, as Perou added in the presentation video, "these are just some" of the photos he has taken of Marilyn Manson during 20 years of work and friendship. The result of that relationship is a book of 350 photos, published by Reel Art Press, some of which form part of this exhibition. However, as Perou also said, "It is very difficult to take a bad photo of Marilyn Manson".
The person who began life as Brian Hugh Warner (Canton, Ohio, 1969) is portrayed in a combination of photos where the pose is often combined with a carefully designed visual production. Weapons, tattoos and coloured contact lenses, plus a search for controversy through the use of religious or sexual elements to portray a contemporary icon who has sold over 50 million discs all over the world.
Two cool characters
Perou is not just one of his most enthusiastic fans but the photographer whose name is most closely aligned with him. Just put the name Marilyn Manson into Google and you will see some of the outstanding images by this photographer, whose subjects have also included Al Gore, David Attenborough, Led Zeppelin, Coldplay, Damien Hirst, David Beckham, the Spice Girls, Tracey Emin and U2. However, Perou says he has spent much more time on Marilyn Manson than any of them.
"Probably every photographer who takes pictures of bands wants to be in a band. I have always had a very different way of dressing and liked to be the centre of attention. Sometimes I have had problems because I looked more 'cool' than the person I was going to photograph. But I have never been more 'cool' than Manson", he says.
The exhibition can be seen until 22 January.