In Pursuit of the Hirsute. Adams & Ruddock

Natural History Museum, South Kensington, London SW7. August - November 2004.

In pursuit of the Hirsute exhibition, Natural History Museum, London 2004

In Pursuit of the Hirsute
A celebration of a Museum's living collection, photography by Derek Adams and Paul Ruddock.

an introduction by Gabby Campbell-Johnson

Be it handlebar or mutton-chop, goatee or braided, facial hair makes a visual statement about the personality of the wearer.

When HRH Prince Philip said, 'what a fine collection of beards you have
here', at the opening of the Darwin Centre at The Natural History Museum, in October 2001, he acknowledged what many people within the institution have known for years…that there exists another unique collection behind the scenes of the Museum, an altogether more hairy and surprising collection. A living collection rich in diversity, style and inventiveness that convey subtle nuances of the wearer's personality and passions.

This expressive and beautiful collection of images is a unique insight into and exploration of the people behind the scenes at a grand national Institution. Sensitively shot to represent the subjects with integrity these are aesthetically consummate images that explore the visual playfulness of each subject and his beard. Natural contemporary curiosities, these intriguing photographs are fine examples of 21st century photographic portraiture.

Shot in monochrome, the resultant photographs are grainy images that are masculine beyond the obvious. Many subjects are photographed with the tools of their trade or a reference to their role within the Museum. The composition is strong and startling, the images are thought provoking and eccentric. The artist's tongues are firmly planted in their cheeks yet the viewer is drawn to the images constructing possible scenarios that go beyond the apparent and obvious humour. There is an innate naivety and beauty in this eclectic exhibition.

Adams and Ruddock have recorded a selection of the various unusual facial hairstyles developed and worn by staff at The Natural History Museum. These marvellous barbs are rarely seen by the public. In bringing these images together this exhibition celebrates the diversity and splendour of this unsung form of human expression. As a historical record it documents styles that, once faded from fashion, may never be seen again. Photographed in Spring 2004 by Derek Adams and Paul Ruddock, they have caught on film, a moment of permanence and continuing growth, preserved for posterity in the flux of time.

These photographs by Derek Adams from the Photo Unit and Paul Ruddock from Design and Installation Department, at the Natural History Museum, untangle and plait a world of friends and colleagues from across the Museum who display a flair for facial hair or a 'tache with panache.

A selection of photographs from the exhibition - click on thumbnail for larger versions

Deryck Jones

Johannes Vogel

Peter Tandy

Robert Symmonds

Jack Reehal

Chris Mills

Robin Armstrong

David George