Call For Exhibition Artwork: LGBT Representation and Photographic Discourse

Shake the Bottle: We are seeking new/recent photographic work that reflect and capture contemporary LGBT experience, culture and politics. Submissions will be towards an exhibition exploring shifts in photographic representation and discourse between the late 1980s and now.

The catalyst of this event is the UCA archive of Tessa Boffin, an LGBT photographer in the 1980s/90s, who undertook work around AIDS and exploration of the tensions between contemporary media representation and ways in which performance and stereotype could be exploited through tableau, drawing on historical and mythical figures. With Sunil Gupta, Tessa co-curated Ecstatic Antibodies, an exhibition which contributed to the role that images played in the understanding of AIDS. Tessa Boffin, (with Jean Fraser) also edited ‘Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs ‘(1991). The catalogue is available here

Keywords: LGBT gender & sexuality, HIV/AIDS, performance, masquerade , politics of representation

The exhibition will be at the Herbert Read Gallery, University for the Creative Arts, Canterbury, to take place in September 2015. Please see here for further information on the Gallery and previous exhibitions

A series of talks responding to the themes raised will follow

Dates for submission: Work should be sent by Tuesday 31st March 2015, 5pm. Please submit as PDF with an artist’s statement (maximum 300 words) contextualizing the work, to Adrian Lovis at

Selection outcomes will be notified by the 30 th May 2015.Tessa Boffin image

For any further information or questions please email Adrian Lovis at

Images from ‘The Sailor and the Showgirl’, by Tessa Boffin



AIDS in Image: World AIDS Day

For Worlds AIDS Day on the 1st December, we are shedding a light on our resources in Archives and Special Collections, and how material on AIDS or the body and disease, can be used in your creative practice. You can find our archive catalogue on our website, and you can search for keywords such as AIDS or disease.

Tessa Boffin, undertook photography work around AIDS, in the 1980/90s, a terrifying time when the stigma of AIDS was just emerging, and the persecution of the LGBT communities in this regard was most notable, with backlash from the media. The adverts around AIDS at the time, including this advert highlight the terror around this.

Tessa Boffin co-curated an exhibition, Ecstatic Antibodies, with Sunil Gupta in 1990 which played an understanding in how image contributed to the AIDS crisis; the finished book  is available on our library catalogue



Her archive  shows the whole artistic journey related to her work with AIDS. of her original notes shows exactly where she got her inspiration from, relating to the persecution of LGBT communities via the media. Her carefully articulated notes document different media forms and how they portray LGBT communities, and AIDS, such as radio and television, with the name and date of the programme. After providing a summary of the media, she analyses the material to see how it can be used in her own artistic practice.

Coursework regarding her AIDS work

Coursework regarding her AIDS work


Her study notes also use religious imagery, including images of Martyrs, and her work Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune: AIDS and the Body Politic, also references Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Her archive also includes reviews on Ecstatic antibodies.

We also have the archives from our previous 6 art schools, which includes student magazines, which highlight attitudes to LGBT issues, and safe sex, with one magazine with the front cover on AIDS.

So how can material on AIDS in the 1980s be used for Creative Practice today? Well one of the areas is theoretically to look at the social commentary related to this practice :-

how does the media’s voice differ from the 80s -90s? Does it? What do differing newspapers say? Why do they have that perspective?

What are the attitudes to safe sex then and now?

Is image and disease still a key area in Creative Arts? Why do you think that image and Disease works?

Look through the images related to AIDS in our archive.  What significance regarding the colour? Why are there allusions to Shakespeare?

The topic of persecution

Practice based creative work has also be created in relation to AIDS work. Recently first year Fashion Promotion students created responses to Tessa Boffin’s archive, in an exhibition entitled Stolen Glances, after a book by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser.  This was done as a homage to her, looking at her technique.

Another way of looking at this, is ‘then and now’- would these 1980s/90s images fit in today’s setting? How would you interpret them?

To find more about our AIDS archives, you can access our catalogue on our website, and search for ‘AIDS’. Alternatively you can email us at for 1-1 tutorials. We can also advise on other AIDS collections and archives.

For further inspiration take a look at library books in our library catalogue on AIDS


Stolen Glances Exhibition: UCA, Rochester, UK

Stolen Glances
Zandra Rhodes Gallery, UCA Rochester
From 15th September to 18th October, 2014
Opening reception on Thursday 25th September, 5:30-7:30pm
A creative collaboration between Beige magazine, BA Hons Fashion Promotion students and the UCA archive.A provocative fashioned response to the photographic work of KIAD (Kent Institute of Art & Design) lecturer Tessa Boffin, which addressed issues of sexual identity and the representation of the LGBT community in the 1980s and 90s

Stolen Glances comes from the book – Stolen Glances: Lesbian Photography Anthology by Tessa Boffin 1991.

This exhibition is part of a larger initiative to explore LGBT issues within the creative arts.

Work is commencing on a further exhibition/conference for September 2015 in UCA Canterbury, influenced in part by this Stolen Glances exhibition.
cropped-lgbt-representations-header.jpgThe exhibition soundtrack has been composed by Music Technology students from MidKent College inspired by their response to the UCA archive and refashioned images.

Stolen Glances: LGBT Work with the Tessa Boffin Archive

Beige LGBT magazine has released two more interpretations of AIDS images of from the Tessa Boffin Archive.

Tessa Boffin, working in the 1980s, undertook photography work in LGBT issues, which included work around AIDS and the way homosexuals were portrayed by the media. As AIDS was only just coming to the fore, it was especially terrifying, and LGBT groups were particularly marginalized and demonised.

The two students work featured play around with the idea of being masked, and hidden away

Visit the students work and the source of the inspiration on the beige website


Shannon McGrath


Cross Dressing Talks and Exhibition, Kent History Centre, LGBT Month February 2014

Through LGBT month, February 2014, a series of talks on the history of cross dressing will be held at the Kent History Centre, including on Lady Hester Stanhope (6th February), the photographer Tessa Boffin (13th February) ( and Cross dressing in Shakespeare’s England (20th February)

Cross dressing talks poster, KHLC

All talks are free but booking is advised. Contact Elizabeth Taylor on

This is to compliment a collaborative cross dressing through the ages exhibition by Kent History and Library Centre and the University for the Creative Arts. UCA will be exhibiting the 1980s-1990s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) photographic work of Tessa Boffin, who undertook work around AIDS, and cross dressing.

Tessa boffin

Above, Tessa Boffin photography on herself cross dressing, posing as different figures, man women, or all together genderless. Tessa Boffin archive is held at UCA Maidstone.

London Metropolitan Archives, LGBT Conference at Guildhall Yard, 16th February 2013

Presenting the Tessa Boffin Archive at Brave New World

On the 16th February 2013 at the London Metropolitan archives LGBT conference, held at the stunning architectural and design surroundings of Guildhall, UCA Archives presented the Tessa Boffin archive, a Photographer specialising in LGBT issues including cross dressing,which looks at gender identity, and photographic responses to AIDS, alongside professional Photographer, Rebecca Andrews’, recen, around 2000, female body builder images. Andrews also looked at ways that gender identity can be portrayed (looking at Tessa Boffin’s 1980s archive and her own recent body builder work)

See Rebecca Andrews website

See Tessa Boffin Archive

Brave New World, Conference

Guildhall art Gallery also has an ongoing exhibition from acclaimed Photographer Ajamu, of under 35 LGBT black British born individuals, Fierce

Themes of the day included Policy – Action and Impact, LGBT History and the Future, Community projects, and Culture and LGBT identity, from a range of passionate speakers

Brave New World Rebecca Andrews  16 February 2013

Brave New World Conference Rebekah Taylor, 16 February 2013

Brave New World Conference Guildhall venue 2, 16 February 2013

Archives LGBT Conference, Guildhall and Guildhall Art Gallery


Sailor and the Showgirl Project (cross dressing and safe sex)

Sailor and the Showgirl Project (cross dressing and safe sex)

UCA Archives and UCA Photography graduate, Rebecca Andrews, will feature in the 10th Archives LGBT conference, held at Guildhall Library on the 16th February.

UCA Archives will showcase the Tessa Boffin Archive in a display. The archive is currently held at Maidstone campus.

Tessa Boffin was a lesbian photographer, writer, curator and performance artist. She studied photography in the 1980s at Polytechnic of Central London, and her work involved sex and sexual fantasy, where she explored issues such as transvestism, homosexuality and lesbianism. She was the first British lesbian doing political work around AIDS as early as the 1980s. She co-edited the 1990 Ecstatic Anti-bodies with Sunil Gupta, and edited Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs with Jean Fraser. Although her life was cut short at the age of 32, she built up an impressive body of work

Tessa Boffin’s archive is visually attractive and suitable to make an engaging display. It contains her student photographic work of The Slings of Arrows and Outrageous fortune AIDS: the body politic, her project work, including concept photographs of her cross dressing and safe sex project work ‘The Sailor and the Showgirl’ and her photographic project books.

Andrews’ work compliments the archive of Tessa Boffin. She explored transvestism, photographing couples, and explored issues of sexuality and gender identity, including interviews with, and photography work on female body builders. Her work for female body building looked at the concept of ‘wearing’ the body and how we choose to wear our bodies in a society that generally corresponds to fixing boundaries of gender, which the female bodybuilder departs from.

Alongside the display a talk from Rebecca Andrews will take place regarding the work done, inspirations, and what she found regarding her transvestite work, also using the Tessa Boffin work and archive to suggesting whether there are similar attitudes now, as there was to cross dressing and transvestism in the 1980s.

The conference costs between £25 and £35 pounds and booking is essential

The Tessa Boffin Archive catalogue can be accessed here

To contact UCAArchives please email, or contact Rebekah Taylor, Archivist, on

Tessa Boffin archive catalogue online

The archive of Tessa Boffin, photographer who worked in the 1980s, has now been catalogued.  She specialised in sex, sexual fantasy,Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender issues, and looked at the portayal of AIDS, including AIDS in the media. Her archive also sheds light into the technical side of photography

It can be accessed online on Archives Hub at

Of note include her technical books on photography, her project books where Boffin analyses the media on topics such as AIDS, feminism, homosexuality, cross-dressing, for inspiration for photography ideas, her project work on ‘The Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune: AIDS and the Body Politic’, and her project ‘The Sailor and the Showgirl’, which explores cross-dressing, gender, and safe sex.

The biographical information of her life is as follows:

Tessa Boffin was born 24 December 1960. She was a lesbian photographer, writer, editor, and performance artist. Her work was at the front-line of international queer culture and politics. She initially studied photography in the mid 1980s at the Polytechnic of Central London, under the tutorship of Simon Watney. She undertook an MA in Critical Theory at the University of Sussex in 1987-1988.

Her teaching was as a part time photography lecturer at Adult Education, London from 1986 to 1987, worked at Oxford Polytechnic,1987 and 1989, worked at West Surrey College of Art and Design from 1988, Polytechnic of Central London, 1990, Kent institute of Art and Design from 1990.

She edited Ecstatic Antibodies in 1990 with Sunil Gupta, and co-curated the exhibition, which contributed to understanding of the role images played in the AIDS crisis, and in 1991 edited Stolen Glances: Lesbians Take Photographs, with Jean Fraser, which is contemporary lesbian photography. She was the first British lesbian doing political work around AIDS as early as 1985.

She died on 27th October 1993, while working as a lecturer at the Kent Institute for Art and Design

Tessa Boffin was a remarkable woman, and her archive sheds an evocative light of the portrayal of LGBT issues in the 1980s.

Rebekah Taylor, Archivist & Special Collections Officer

The Archives and Special Collections Project: Aims and Objectives

School of Architecture Prospectus, 1962

The University for Creative Arts has started a project to make accessible and promote their archives and special collections. The University for Creative Arts is made up of five campuses, Maidstone, Farnham, Rochester, Canterbury, and Epsom, and has been providing a specialised curriculum in creative arts for students since Victorian times.

The collections include the university’s institutional records, including prospectuses, degree catalogues and exhibitions, press cuttings, and minutes, and document issues within the creative arts, including perceptions towards the subjects, the changing nature of courses, and different trends. Also included is the notable archive of Tessa Boffin (1980s-1990s), a photographer, and former lecturer at the university who specialised in LGBT issues, and sex and fantasy. Her archive is an illuminating snapshot into how LGBT issues was perceived in the 1980s, and also includes the perception of AIDS

This blog aims to highlight progress in the project, including  progress in cataloguing, preservation and collection policies, and development of a new Archives and Special collections section of the website, including subject guides, a rare book and archive of the month, and online exhibitions. Events and news, including physical and online exhibitions, will also be recorded.

Canterbury Architectural Students’ Association Magazine, 1949


Rebekah Taylor, Archivist & Special Collections Officer