The Kings of England
5 December 2019
Forever Elvis – Graeme Oxby
There are people who love Elvis.
It’s not a figure of speech.
It’s a real, honest to goodness, all out love.
They buy his records, watch his movies, his concerts, his every move.
People ink his face on their arms.
They sing to his records, sing in the car, alone.
People sing at karaoke, they buy a wig, rings, belts, a suit.
They are In Love.
They pay Tribute to the King.
These words are from Graeme Oxby’s photobook The Kings of England, a collection of portraits and reportage featuring Elvis impersonators taken from all over the UK over a period of five years.
The project started as an exploration of the iconography of popular culture and of Presley himself, arguably the most photographed man on the planet. But it developed into a more personal study of the hundreds of Presley devotees Oxby met.
Coming mainly from working class backgrounds, the Elvis impersonators shared their own stories of personal tragedy and vulnerability. In taking on the personae of Elvis they wanted to perpetuate the memory of the King, but also a way of life that has been diminished following the closure of coal mines, steel foundries and manufacturing centres across the UK.
The result is a series of intimate personal portraits showing the drama, colour and spectacle of these Kings of England.
Graeme Oxby is a documentary and portrait photographer who concentrates on class politics, entertainment and religion in the UK and abroad.
He is also Course Leader and Senior Lecturer in Photography at The University Of Lincoln in the UK.
Graeme has been a creative professional since the late 1980s working in the commercial, music and entertainment industries based in London, Dublin & Manchester making music videos and commercials as well as TV and film commissions.
He also travelled widely on assignments from Angola and Mozambique to the former Soviet Union, The Far East, North & Central America.
Graeme wrote produced and directed “Shotgun Dave Rides East” starring Peter Capaldi and funded by The UK Film Council in 2004 before developing a feature project “Perfect Match” in 2005.
Graeme took a break from film making and photography in 2008 to oversee the return of influential Art Rock band Magazine to stage, screen and recording studio, returning to his photography practice five years later.
He was Artistic Director of The Hull International Photography Festival in 2015 and was commissioned by Hull City of Culture 2017 to deliver the Hull Beermat Photography Festival with winners chosen by Martin Parr.
Graeme contributed a portrait to the 2018 book “Invisible Britain” published by Policy Press supported by The Young Foundation, a charity that tackles major social challenges by working alongside communities, using the tools of research and social innovation.
Graeme has been regularly published in national and international publications including Stern, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Vice (Worldwide), Huck Magazine, Metro, BBC, and The Times Literary Supplement.
Graeme’s five-year project on Elvis Impersonators entitled “The Kings Of England” was published in October 2018 by Bluecoat Press.
The Kings of England project was selected for exhibition at Format International Photography Festival 2019 where Graeme was also selected as The Photography Show Award winner.
Graeme was part of the group exhibition Photography On A Postcard in Somerset House at Photo London 2019 and selected as one of the images for publication in the 2019 box set.
In 2019 Graeme Oxby began working on a photography and poetry project entitled “Red White & Black” funded by Arts Council England and Hull City Council.
Graeme’s work is held in the collection of the Michael Komechak O.S.B. Art Gallery, Benedictine University in Chicago IL.
Graeme is represented worldwide by Institute Artists.
Open evening agenda
Welcome to our 6x6 launch event for Graeme Oxby’s The Kings of England exhibition here at the Lightbox Gallery at Ropes & Twines.
Graeme will introduce his work via short presentation to start the evening off.
Thereafter there will be six short presentations by six Merseyside-based photographers in the following order:
The Streets of Liverpool
Jane MacNeil is a photographer, born in Liverpool, she has been documenting her hometown for the past nine years.
Cian Quayle is an artist and writer, born in the Isle of Man in 1966. Since 2007 he has been Programme Leader in BA Photography at the University of Chester.
John is based in Liverpool and is currently in the third year of his photography degree at Hugh Baird College. His work is predominantly documentary and socially engaged projects.
John Davies has been making documentary urban landscapes since the 1980s. His new work retraces a selection of these early landscapes to reveal the changes that have shaped our urban environment in recent times.
Working full-time in a care home Liam works on self-initiated projects around his job and family life. He is driven by archiving our times his work focuses on the world immediately around him.
Emma is a Photographer now based in Liverpool. Whether it’s a wedding, commissioned work or a socially engaged project Emma is fascinated by how we connect, particularly around relationships, culture and heritage.