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April 22, 2015

Crowning Miss Nude Australia 2015 exhibition

Photographer Ben McGee hadn't spent a lot of time in strip clubs before he was asked to document the Miss Nude Australia 2015 pageant. But what he observed that evening fascinated and surprised him so much that he was compelled to create an art book and exhibition with the images.

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  • Pictures: From the exhibition series

“I definitely had all the normal stereotypes in my head as I was going in,” says documentary photographer Ben McGee of the night when he photographed the Miss Nude Australia pageant at the Crazy Horse Revue.


The exhibition opening takes place Thursday April 23, from 5 pm – 7 pm.

The gallery is open to the public from April 24 – 26 between 10am – 5pm.

The Adelaide exhibition coincides with the premiere season of MADAME: The Story of Joseph Farrugia – a new performance work based on the life and times of adult entertainment trailblazer Joseph Farrugia, long time director of  the Crazy Horse Revue and Madame Josephine’s.

Throughout the evening though, Ben found his expectations went almost entirely unfulfilled.

“Because I was focussing a lot on the audience member and dancer interaction, I was surprised to see there was a lot of delight, a lot of enjoyment and it was very respectful,” he says.

Later – as he sifted through the images he’d created, Ben was struck by the world they portrayed and how different it was to the one he had built in his mind.

The exhibition he opens tonight at the Burnside Ballroom is a way of sharing that with a broader audience.

“There was so much unexpected and hidden in the photos for me and for other people… until you see them you don’t really understand,” he says.

Characterised by an ability to frame dancers and audience members alike without straying into the territory of objectification, the photo series will also be released in an art book accompanied by an introductory essay by renowned photographer and photography critic Robert McFarlane.

“… McGee’s work displays genuine affection and understanding for his subjects,” writes Robert.

“Consciously rendering the surreal nature of what he saw in rich, deep tones of black and white, Ben presents a timely and surprising idea: despite bleak, Biblical portrayals of naked as evil, coupled with today’s commercialism of female nudity, the female aesthetic’s durable power remains intact. As broadly as eroticism might be presented to the Miss Nude Australia pageant’s enthusiastic, mostly respectful male audiences, residual mystery survives, despite the explicit nature of some performances.”

After the Adelaide exhibition, Ben will then tour the works to Sydney as part of the Head On Photo Festival, with a show opening on May 5 at Tap Gallery in Darlinghurst.

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