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May's Nuclear Photo Shoot

Last Friday, my friend Sammm Agnew (who in her own words, looks like a woman dressing like a man dressing like a woman, in the best possible way), a makeup artist by trade and yes her name has 3 'M's, sat on our warehouse apartment floor, sorting out huge handfuls of colourful (fake) hair and separating them neatly by colour and type. Meanwhile, my highly metrosexual other half, DdV, and I traipsed through the rails that make up our wardrobes (there's not much furniture in our effort to be open planned minimalists), contemplating what clothes would be more appropriate for an underground photoshoot at the heart of a 'Secret Nuclear Bunker'. I ended up carting along far too much, and forgetting essential things like latex shine spray - it's motorcycle silicon spray from Asda. You don't know how important it is until you've worn the stuff, spit and polish just doesn't cut it.

On a road in Kelvendon Hatch, near Brentwood in Essex, there are bemusingly conspicuous signs saying "SECRET NUCLEAR BUNKER THIS WAY". Not so secret then. It was decommissioned in 1954, and serves as a tourist attraction. We however, would get to touch the exhibits, and there were promises of a weapons expert kindly visiting with his collection of ancient and modern weapons to use in the shoots. The forum about the shoot (53 pages of it!) confirmed that there were over 20 photographers, and over 30 models expected, some inevitably expected to have last minute cancellations (baby sitters cancelling, a forgotten date, nothing to wear). What an endeavour!

Early Saturday morning, Sammm got to work on us, adding gashes of red and yellow, piled high and billowing from my head. DdV was blue. My Festival of Sins presenter, Nathan Shame was trussed up in seductive pieces of red and black. Quite a merry bunch riding in a Nissan estate car, we didn't half attract attention as we slowly drove past the weekend market in Dalston. Nathan Shame suggested it might be wise to lock the doors in case anyone decided to jump us, judging by the gawping.

A short hour later, arriving from our journey dubbed "DdV, Queen of Brentwood" (DdV has always been able as big a queen as Priscilla), we knew we'd arrived when we saw a random gothic clad lady astride a wooden table on a hill, being photographed by a man lying close to the ground.

Then followed 4 hours of jumping around trenches, climbing into (an out of, which was the hard part, in latex trousers) an armoured truck, and considering the pros and cons of posing like Charlie's Angels. Half the fun was examining the replica weaponry including a gigantic metal gauntlet that DdV commandeered. Some of them were heavier than they looked, and took some lugging around (maybe I just wasn't dressed right for carrying heavy machinery).

At 5pm, the nuclear bunker closed to the public and we rushed eagerly inside. One of the organisers of this great event, GothX, gave us a little tour. Through the office rooms with silent mannequins, past the bed with a (creepily) cheery John Major mannequin in bed (it is a favourite of models to get into bed with John Major, I heard), a sick bay (where we would later see mock amputations of a perfectly clad stocking-ed lady), a huge machine room (where several Matrix style shoots took place) and long silent corridors (the nuclear bunker has 2 ghosts, apparently, one of a builder who fell and his body was encased within the building, I think). 3 floors to play in.

The photoshoot went on late into the night, there was even a "Hell" scene taking place in one of the curved metal tunnels, but we had to scurry home in late evening to be alert for our Festival of Sins debauched family photoshoot taking place the next day because we're gluttons for punishment. Or just crazy. The latter seemed more likely after 4 hours sleep on Sunday. Much fun however was had, and we're eager to venture back, perhaps with better plans of outfits and toys to make full use of the unique space, visuals and atmosphere.

They say there's a beautiful early morning mist in the corridors of the nuclear bunker. Maybe next time.

That's the type of weekend I lead.

Photographer credits:

Photo 1: Andy Owen AKA Jake41

Photo 2: Nigel P Crick, ...

Photo 3: Mark Adams