At Home With The Furries.Posted: May 16, 2016
Moon, a deer in Sheffield. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.
From Wikipedia entry Furry fandom:
The furry fandom is a subculture interested in fictional anthropomorphic animal characters with human personalities and characteristics. Examples of anthropomorphic attributes include exhibiting human intelligence and facial expressions, the ability to speak, walk on two legs, and wear clothes. Furry fandom is also used to refer to the community of people who gather on the Internet and at furry conventions.
Sticks the fox and Terry, Wimbledon. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.
D.S.: Tom Broadbent has been photographing members of the ‘furry’ community for the past seven years, following a chance meeting with a six-foot wolf called Smirnoff. Tom speaks warmly about the furries and their acceptance of him is fully evidenced by the photographs. Furries inhabit a world of elaborate fantasy, albeit one with a curiously quotidian aspect. They might be in revolt from the mundane but they find release in performing ordinary tasks in the personas of their animalistic alter-egos (or fursonas).
I suppose you could call it a form of living theatre, or lifestyle as theatre. As Tom says, ‘There’s no one reason why people identify as furry; and in terms of ‘costume play’ (or cosplay) most of them create their own characters, drawing on a wide range of Fantasy and Sci-Fi influences, from classic Disney cartoons to Star Wars’.
Marshall, a border collie, Woking. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.
In Tom’s photographs, we often see his furry subjects in their domestic settings. The ‘at home’ scenes are as sweet as one could wish: a rabbit tending his garden in east London, a Glam Rock border collie playing his Les Paul in his bedroom on a 1960s estate in Woking, and so on. These images speak of tidy, ordered lives which just happen to incorporate a bit of dressing up. And although the fetish undertow is always present to some degree (bit of a touchy subject for the furry community) that isn’t the top note here: Tom’s furry friends are endearingly wholesome.
Edward Fuzzypaws shares a moment with labradoodle Teddy, Richmond. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.
Furries are an international phenomenon, but there is a quintessential Englishness about the activity as presented in Tom’s photos. These characters might be bit players in an unproduced film by Alan Bennett or Victoria Wood. But what makes Broadbent’s pictures more than just another showcase for native eccentrics are the moments where the photographer accompanies his subjects through the looking glass into the realm of private myth. That’s when the child-like delight in costume gives way to something wilder.
Bhavvels Bunny, Barking. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.
A nod to Lewis Carroll isn’t inappropriate, given that the furry domain shares some of the dreamy charm, transformative power and moral complexity that he represents. That seems obvious enough. But the image of the stag invokes the iconography of the pre-civilized mind and a time when woods were feared and venerated. This stag is a forest god; one that might be worshipped as part of the sacred, time-honoured rituals of Summerisle.
Fangorn, a Jedi tiger, in his living room, Swansea. © Tom Broadbent courtesy of the Laura Noble Gallery.
As for the Jedi tiger, he inhabits a different galaxy to the one you or I live in. He’s about to climb into his own Swansea-moored spaceship and leave for somewhere very far away. Nothing cosy about him. And I am afraid that stag will come to stalk me in my dreams.