Thursday, 7 July 2011

"Who are the Butterfly Boys?" Part 1

Over the years many people have asked Paul Biddle "Who are the Butterfly Boys?"

The Butterfly Boys

Well the simple answer is Urchin Boy and his brother the Man with a Fish on his head.

Paul Biddle first met the identical twins at an impromptu party in 1875 long before either of them were born. Just like any normal person he was overcome with a desperate urge to stick things on their heads. They were in effect a blank canvas, a phrenologists delight.

Dog Biscuit Mantle
Urchin Boy
He approached them with the idea of making a portrait. Paul Biddle  confesses that he made no mention of his desire to place objet on their heads. What follows is in Biddles' own words.

"Myself and my Muse and Missus arrived at their residence. Only one of the twins agreed to sit for a portrait. The other - lets call him Twin B positively refused and hid upstairs in a room which can only be described as being filled with the dust gathered from ancient Grand Pianos. 

We busied ourselves setting up lights and the camera - mere devices for capturing likenesses. Meanwhile I was desperately trying to look as though I knew what I was doing but in truth I had a pocketful of sea urchin shells which I was desperate to stick on the models' bald head. I came clean and told him of my intentions - UrchinBoy responded with the beginnings of a quirky smile.

My Muse and I began to try to attach the said Sea Urchin shells to his head, a task easier said than done. We laboured for some time to no avail, as you have probably found out when trying this for yourselves at home. Sea Urchin shells resist being stuck to anything on Principle. After several hours we had to use a special Trade Secret to apply those pretty little shells to his head."

Many people - well a few - have cried -  Those Eyes   Those Eyes - Is it Picasso? A firm NO has always been my answer
The tattoo on his arm is not in fact a tattoo it is a real sea-horse.

After processing the film I made a black and white print in my darkroom  and took it into the studio. Whereupon I covered it in pieces of broken glass and used a spot of light here and there to bring the image to life and yes you are quite right the object bottom right is a dried and rather smelly Flying Fish.
Collectors of my prints will tell you there is a fly buzzing about the set.
As to the meaning behind these images I have always left it to the viewer to decide. Often they arrive at  much better
concepts than I could ever come up with."

The Magician's Lair

Postscript to the Post:

Yes, the Dog Biscuit Mantle is made by my Muse and Missus

and yes it is made from real dog biscuits

Rather apt we thought

EDITORS NOTE : Paul sometimes uses dates which have little or nothing to do with reality.


  1. Fascinating post! Hey to the Butterfly boys!

  2. Great blog Paul, thank you for allowing us a peep through your creative curtains :-) Marvellous stuff!!

  3. andy christian18 July 2011 at 02:17

    But what about caterpilers?

  4. Hairy Caterpillars make excellent eye-brows it is true; but on the whole I have found them to be a mistrustful bunch. They have a propensity to roam around ones face and thus destroy the idea of the eyebrow wig.

  5. Dear Mr Biddle,
    I hope you don't mind me asking, but are you a gentleman of about average height and weight with a pleasant easterly aspect? If so, I think I saw you yesterday coming out of Peacocks, Stoke Newington with a camera slung over your shoulder. Your manner was fractious, so I did not intrude, but perhaps I may introduce my mother on another occasion?
    She, in particular, is a fan of your work. She tells me that the photos remind her of something, but is not quite able to say what that is. High praise from my mother, I can assure you.
    Keep up the good work!