Yesterday I went along to Sam Roddick’s Hidden Within at the Michael Hoppen gallery and I was not disappointed – not least because Sam herself was there and was very happy to discuss her work with me. Although I wish I’d gone along better prepared to meet the woman herself.

The founder and former owner of Coco de Mer, Sam mentioned how part of the inspiration for the Hidden Within pieces was very much born out of her experience with the brand where time and time again she experienced what she terms the wounded male gaze. Explaining the wounded male gaze to Hunger magazine she describes how:

In our society we have noticed that women are very fractured from their bodies and from their sexual power. But we haven’t really acknowledged the male wound within it. And religion has done equal damage severing the relationship men have with their own sexuality and bodies.  

In person and in print though Roddick is keen to stress how this understanding emerges from a compassionate position, one which whilst acknowledging how women are themselves ‘fractured from their bodies’ – in a lovely echo of John Berger in Ways of Seeing – also acknowledges how the male wound in this fracturing has not itself been addressed or healed.

This sense of wounding and the split it engenders is also mirrored in the gulf Roddick observes between how we actually experience sex and sexuality and how we engage with each via cultural discourses, a fissure – or cultural fracturing akin to the fracturing of female corporeality – which has led to dishonesty and been filled by anxiety.

Personally I love this link between a careful, fruitful and ethical consumerism focused on sexuality and our bodies and a fledging philosophy of sexuality and the gaze.

And from the shop floor and the boardroom Roddick now finds herself face to face with Italian architect Carlo Mollino and Carl Jung.

Very much an avowed homage to Mollino’s Polaroids – a collection of 1000s of photographs Mollino took of prostitutes – in Hidden Within Roddick recreates a number of Mollino’s photographs and encases them within a lushly textile frame that is expertly confected with cross-cultural symbols such as snakes and wasps. Literally expertly as those responsible for crafting them possessed over 200 years of experience. Simply put the juxtaposition between the photographic and the textile create layers and it is between these alternating layers of symbols (snake, wasp, idealised and objectified female beauty/bodies) that the meanings hidden within and indeed across the multiple frames crystallises.

It was not all just straight shop talk though and Sam kindly shared some hirsute pistes for further reflection including Thailand’s merkin trade, the photography of Marilyn Minter and Tyrone Lebon (which includes snaps of Lily Cole with armpit hair), Tom Ford’s infamous pubic Gucci ‘G’ and the alarm that some of her models experienced at not being able to grow a full enough bush following years of waxing – a curious sentiment given all of the work they had put in to remove their pubic hair over the years.

Marilyn Minter
Tom Ford at Gucci
Tyrone Lebon

When I returned home something even more curious emerged: Sam had been banned from Instagram for life which I find incredible for a someone who produces such delicate, intimate and intricate photographs. In solidarity I reproduce one of the offending pictures here.