Wednesday, 11 January 2017

OVER THE HILL: A PHOTOGRAPHIC JOURNEY

OVER THE HILL by Roberto Foddai

          
‘Alright boys, this is it, over the hill’ is the intro of the song “Bring on Lucie” by John Lennon and, although the phrase ‘over the hill’ has somewhat negative connotations, it is announced on the record in a very positive way by Lennon who goes on to sing ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it now!’ and so, for me, the title of this exhibition is optimistic despite the double meaning.

In May 2007, I answered an advertisement in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery, whom I know now to be an extremely talented professional photographer. He was compiling a book of nudes and wanted to photograph the first 100 people to answer the advert so I thought ‘why not?’ and went along and found that I was number one! Strangely enough, two other photographers advertised in the following two issues of Time Out, this time for people to pose for portraits, and they both photographed me subsequently. That was that for a while until, in February 2008, I answered an advert in our local newspaper from a student, Daisy Lang, who wanted to photograph people with illnesses for her final year’s project. Subsequently, I discovered that there were many photographers advertising on the Internet for models for particular projects. I wrote an email to the first photographer explaining that I was 57 and had Parkinson’s Disease and that ‘I wanted to continue on my path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness’. Suddenly, as I wrote those words, I realised that I had my own project.

Since then, over 400 different photographers have photographed and filmed me and it has been incredibly interesting and exciting as I have seen the project develop day by day. I have met many wonderful, skilful people many of whom, normally, I would never have met let alone spent several hours with them.

It has been a fascinating journey. I have always loved photography but never had the patience or skill to practice it successfully. However, being a model has enabled me to collaborate with brilliant practitioners of the art and to be part of the artistic photographic process.

I decided on "Over the Hill" as the title of the project in January 2009 but I had not discussed this with anyone until I met Roberto Foddai a few weeks later to talk about his ideas for our shoot. He produced two pieces of headgear he wanted me to wear and said that one of them had some wording on it which he felt was somewhat ironic. He turned it over and on the front were the words  – ‘Over the Hill’.


This project is dedicated to my wife the artist, Jane Andrews, who has taught me about integrity, truth and wisdom through acts, words and deeds all of which are encompassed in her truly wonderful paintings which can be found on www.janeandrews.co.uk

Free the people, now.
Do it, do it, do it, do it now.

Tim Andrews


Saturday, 7 January 2017

I'M YOUR MAN by Graeme Montgomery THE FINAL SHOOT Part Two

I'M YOUR MAN by Graeme Montgomery


17th June 2016 - the end of Over the Hill. People asked at the time and have asked since why I felt that I had to end it. I began to feel that it had had its day as a project even though I was fairly certain that I would carry on collaborating with photographers. Also, there were some tiny things that tipped me over the edge and I thought yeah, I think it's time to stop this, tie a ribbon around it and put it up on to the shelf and bring it down every so often to wonder at the fantastic times I had had with such clever, imaginative and talented artists.

Initially, Graeme reached out to me or people like me when he placed the advert in Time Out. At the time, neither of us were aware of what he had started so it seemed appropriate for me to ask him this time. He was very enthusiastic about it and said that he would like to film the final shoot as well.

I was nervous and sad as I reached Farringdon Station. Then suddenly I was confronted by the familiar smiling face of Alex Bamford. Alex, who had been so kind first on my shoot with him in February 2014 on the beach at Peacehaven when he photographed me naked in the moonlight and provided a dressing gown and a hot water bottle (and slippers?) and then again a few months later when he printed the labels for the exhibition as part of The Brighton Photo Fringe. I told him where I was going and somehow it felt right for him to be a witness to the end of this journey as he and his shoot summed up all the factors that had made the project what it was. The need to go further than I had gone before, to challenge myself and to expose my body and my feelings and to be met with simple acts of kindness in return. It is difficult to understand how it feels to be told you have an illness like Parkinson's. At the time, I thought I took it in my stride but with hindsight, I have understood more.

I found myself on the bank of a fast flowing river and I had fallen into the water and was flailing about and grabbed what seemed to be a branch of an overhanging tree but it was the paddle of a small boat being held out to me by an old man who was naked - as he hauled me to safety, I saw the light of the moon on his skin, his muscles, his hair and then his eyes which held that light as he looked down on me with such love and compassion that I was overcome with emotion as I collapsed on to the hard wooden floor of the boat. I lay there for a while as we moved slowly across the water. My saviour moved the boat so well or did the river move the boat? It was difficult to say. I tried to speak but no words came to my lips. I drifted off into a sleep accompanied by a harmony of sounds - water lapping against the creaking bow, the relieved breaths of slumber replacing the desperate heaving of my lungs and the soft whistle of a tune by the man who plunged the paddle into the water first one side and then the other. I woke in the sunlight of the morning to the muffled murmurs of voices. The boat was still moving. I raised myself up on one elbow and blinked. I was alone on the boat which nudged against the bank. I stood up and saw Jane. She was crying with tears of sadness and joy. She took the branch from my hand and threw it into the water and, as she did so, we looked over to the bank on the opposite side of the river. There was no tree, only the figure of a young man carrying a paddle walking away. He stopped, looked back and waved and then turned and disappeared into the long grass. I recognised him immediately.

After saying goodbye to Alex, I had a cup of tea at a cafe and then continued on the last part of my journey. I pressed the bell of the building and pushed the door which opened onto an iron staircase which clanged like a tolling bell as my steps took me up to the studio door. A man opened it and smiled. "Graeme?" I enquired. "No" he said and stood back to let me in. I saw another friendly face. "Graeme?" As he shook his head a voice said "Tim!" It was Graeme. I burst into tears. I think it was all too much for them all and I apologised squeakily between sobs. 

A few hours later, into the afternoon, Graeme took this shot.

Call me good                                                            If you want a lover 
Call me bad                                                              I'll do anything you ask me to
Call me anything you want to baby                         And if you want another kind of love
But I know that you're sad                                       I'll wear a mask for you
And I know I'll make you happy                               If you want a partner take my hand, or
With the one thing that you never had                     If you want to strike me down in anger

Baby, I'm your man (don't you know that?)             Here I stand
Baby, I'm your man.                                                 I'm your man.

                               - George Michael                                            - Leonard Cohen


Wednesday, 14 December 2016

GRAEME MONTGOMERY - THE FINAL SHOOT PART ONE


In March 2007, I was lonely.

However, I had begun to feel a lot better physically due to the fact that I had started taking my Levadopa medication a few months before. I had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in November 2005 But I was advised by my neurologist that it would be better to hold off going on the medication so that it would last longer and be there when I really needed it. This advice was contradicted by others including neurologists at UCL Hospital in London and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA but eventually towards the end of 2006, we reached a consensus and I began with quite a low dose of Madopar until a neuro surgeon in Bristol, a friend of my sister, said the dose was "sub-therapeutic" and that I should double it. I did so and, within a week, I set off like a blazing rocket into the stratosphere.

I had more energy, more alertness, more everything and, in the process, I left Jane struggling like a beetle on its back, struggling to come to terms with living with a human dynamo after fifteen months of watching her husband gradually fold himself up into an inexpressive zombie. She could see me slowly slipping away. She was losing the old Tim; unfortunately, the new Tim was not quite the ideal replacement. At the speed I was traveling, she was losing me again.

So, there I was with all this dash and drive but I realise now, with the benefit of hindsight, that my normal pastimes, watching cricket, reading, the cinema were all in the main, solitary undertakings and that I was on the lookout of new experiences and through them, new acquaintances to replace  those that I used to make on almost a daily basis in my work as a solicitor.

Then I read the advertisement in 'Time Out' by Graeme Montgomery for people to pose naked for his new book. I thought, why not? I did not have clients to consider or my reputation or that of my firm to worry about and I had no qualms about posing naked. I used to be so shy about exposing my body; I was thin, I lacked self-confidence, I was sexually inexperienced and I was afraid of everything from drugs to The Rolling Stones, from left-wing politicians to homosexuality. Gradually, with a great deal of help from living with Jane, I  began to loosen up and express myself but although being a lawyer gave me more confidence, I had not really been brave enough to present the real me to the world apart from, perversely, a period of acting in my 40s. Perhaps I was still searching for me. 

So, I wrote to Graeme and made an appointment to go to his studio in Clerkenwell which is where I found myself on 7th April 2007 and again on 17th June 2016.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

LOUIS CONNELLY

Louis

It was with a great deal of sadness that I heard recently of the death of Louis Connelly following a motor cycle crash in Peru. Louis was a student at the London College of Fashion when I wrote to him asking if he would photograph as part of my project. First of all, we met in the cafe at the Curzon Cinema in Shaftesbury Avenue where this photograph was taken. It really sums up his character so well; he had a lovely sunny disposition and a beautiful smile to match. The shoot took place on 5th December 2008 (he was the 32nd photographer to photograph me) at a studio in London and he brought along a make up artist and a style assistant who made me up as a biker. Louis took the photographs on a large format camera and they were wonderful. The shoot was great fun and one of his photographs subsequently appeared in the Guardian Weekend Magazine alongside a feature about my project. Louis was very proud of this.





We kept in touch on and off over the next seven years or so and I heard that he had photographed my niece, Naomi, who plays the cello. I never saw him again but the memory of that happy shoot shall stay with me forever. He was a lovely man and an extremely talented photographer who will not be forgotten by those who knew him.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

MARK RUSSELL



Yesterday, I received the following letter :-

Dear Tim

I moved a little over two months ago and while packing boxes came across this print from the session with you in Milford. I'm afraid it has taken me rather longer than intended to get it in the post to you.

It happens to be a cyanotype contact print from the original 5x4'' negative. A one-off. I was given the paper around the time I was working on the project where I photographed you, and I was just playing around. Cyanotypes are usually only good for photograms (Think Anna Atkins.) I think this was a few hour's exposure on the small light box I had at the time, and was developed and fixed in plain water.

I'd forgotten about the various shots we took, and I think the kitchen was a great venue. While I was setting up the camera I recall your wife Jane describing your tremors as you posed , and I think there was talk of your daughter being in a play of some kind. But I may have all of that wrong. Anyway, the blue print on light paper is quite compelling, I think. It has a vague quality , not unlike my memory.

I hope you enjoy it, and add it as a footnote to your collection. I remain privileged to have been a part of it all.

With very best wishes,

Mark

Mark Russell photographed me in May 2007 and he was the second photographer to do so. He had advertised in Time Out for people to take part in a project where he was photographing people in their homes and, as with the first photograph by Graeme Montgomery, I had no idea that I was in the first stages of my project, "Over the Hill".

It is difficult to express my feelings about this letter. It is so beautifully composed but from my brief contact with Mark at the time and since, he has revealed himself to be a warm and sensitive human being with a great deal of love in his heart. I showed this to Jane and she was equally touched and said that we must frame the print and put it up with all the other special pictures we have dotted around the house. For it is special. This last nine years of Over the Hill has been so momentous for me. I have met so may lovely people; people that I would never normally have met in a million years and they have made me very, very happy. 

Privilege. It is a gift of something that we feel is enjoyed by only rich people or those in influential positions of power and authority but, in fact, we are all privileged to have the gift of life (however long) and the opportunity to meet and relate to other human beings. When I was a lawyer, I felt privileged to be privy to the knowledge about my clients' personal affairs and to be asked to deal with them. I also feel deeply privileged to have known and worked with Mark and all the other 423 photographers.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

SOLARIXX - A Sad Story

THERE IS NO  FREEDOM WITHOUT SACRIFICE by Solarixx

Sol is from Argentina and she came over to England and this was the photograph she took of me. She is a lovely person but, unfortunately, she has now fallen on very hard times having contracted Lymes Disease which went undiagnosed for some years. Her very good friend Julian Holtom is helping her to try to raise enough money to pay for treatment in the USA. This is what he has said:

Marisol (or Sol her friends), an animal lover, artist and mother. As her two children grew up, she found had more time, and began to express herself through photography. Through this art from, she made friends across the world, and in the summer of 2012 she went to England, both to visit friends and to take part in the Tim Andrews project.  What should have been a dream trip was to become the start of the nightmare, one she’s still living through today…
While visiting England, she spent a lot of time in the North, and during one of many visits to the countryside to take photos, she was bitten by a tick. At the time, she thought nothing of it, and only a couple of weeks later returned home. Shortly after she started to feel unwell but ignored it thinking it was only a cold due to the change in climate. As time went on, her health never quite recovered, and in fact, it slowly declined month after month.
Despite living with these hellish symptoms, and with her health deteriorating day on day, she doggedly continued her research. She suspected Lyme from the outset, but had been told there was no such thing in the UK, largely believed due to government misinformation. However many recent high profile case have shown this not to be the case, and it’s believed there are around 3000 cases of Lyme every year in the UK. 
By the middle of 2015 she finally had tests done, to make sure this was the disease at the root of all that had happened to her. Unfortunately there are no LLMD Lyme literate doctors in Argentina , so Lyme isn’t tested for in her country and they don’t consider it a problem, so she had to get testing elsewhere. Her research came up with continued recommendations to use Armin labs in Germany. The tests themselves were expensive, and it took all of her family pulling together to raise sufficient funds to pay for them. Even then, she was beset with more hurdles - government red tape in order to get her blood samples out of the country and a very short time frame for which the blood samples were viable.  After much form filling and passing time, this was finally given the all clear and her blood went to the lab.
A week later, the lab sent back their report. Sol had Lyme… She also had a coinfection called Coxsackie-Virus. Finally a definitive answer and proof that her illness is real, and confirmation of what she’d always suspected.
Sadly Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed, presenting an ever confusing set of symptoms, and by the time it is correctly identified, the appropriate treatment is no longer viable and the damage is done. For Sol, this journey to discover what had destroyed her health, has taken almost 3 years. Over that time, possible diagnoses have been; ME, Fibromyalgia, anorexia, Vitamin D3 & B12 deficiencies and even depression. She’s emptied her bank accounts and that of her family paying for treatment protocols for them all, and unfortunately, none worked.
As Lyme had run unchecked for so long, it has wreaked havoc with her body’s immune system. Ultimately this led to further complications such as Erythromelalgia, which makes her feel like her feet are being held over a roaring fire. She also developed POTS, which is exacerbated even more due to the fact she’s bedridden for 22 hours a day. She suffers from constant chronic pain and has to attend hospital regularly for IV meds to help manage them, which themselves cause further complications with her health. 
A once vibrant soul, who had such love for life, family, friends and creating art, feels as if she has nothing now; an empty husk only filled with constant pain. Which denies her even the simplest of life’s pleasures, and now requires support to perform even the most basic of daily routines... she can’t even go to the bathroom unaided, 
So, where does this leave Sol now? Well, there is potentially some light as the end of the tunnel; there are some treatments available in the US, but of course the US health system is largely privatised so all costs need to be met by the patient, and they’re not cheap. Also, Sol needs a constant carer to help her, so travel and accommodation would need to cover this also.
The clinic she wants to attend is in Washington DC, and treatment costs approximately £60,000, so we’re looking to raise this sum to help her get the treatment she needs.
All expenditures will be accounted for and made public, and should there be any unused funds raised they will be donated to a Lyme research charity.
So please, help Sol get her life back. All she wants is a life free of constant agonising pain.
Every amount, no matter how small will help Sol - I realise that times are hard financially for everyone and that there are many deserving causes which require funds but if you can see your way to making a donation, this could lead to Sol getting her life back.

Please see - https://www.gofundme.com/savesolarixx - and make your donation there.


Thank you reading this far!



Me and Sol

Thursday, 16 June 2016

TIM ANDREWS, FINALLY by Ben Hopper

TIM ANDREWS, FINALLY by Ben Hopper
"Why do we cover our bodies but display our faces?" asked Ben Hopper on his website in the introduction to his project, "Naked Girls with Masks" - well, I guess there are several answers to that question and most of them will not be concerned with the issue of self censorship discussed by Ben at the time when he referred to his series as a form of "bold bodily communication, a parody of the self censorship which we all succumb to everyday". The photographs in this collection are beautifully shot and it was this clarity that I hoped would be applied to any picture taken by Ben if we ever managed to arrange a shoot. And I wanted to be naked wearing a mask too.

I first wrote to Ben in 2010 and he confirmed his interest but explained that he was insanely busy and it was a question of fitting me in at some time. I thought I would leave it a while and then contact him again. I didn't intend to leave it for five years but you know what, readers? I did! In 2015, I saw that he was embarking on a series, "Naked Men with Masks" and so I dropped him a line asking if he might include me. He was again very enthusiastic in his response and over the next few months, we tried to fix a date. Then I announced the end of "Over the Hill" and this really concentrated our minds and the day before the final shoot, I found myself with the very personable Ben Hopper in his London studio. His joy at taking photographs is infectious and he is very uncomplicated in his work and his attitude to nudity. We discussed people's concerns about nudity and Ben's viewpoint is so refreshing - so, people are photographed naked? So what? It was very liberating working with Ben because of this and also due to the fact that we were locked away in a cosy studio where we could do whatever we liked. 

We tried various masks but this was the one he felt worked best of all. It sees me standing tall, unabashed and unembarrassed; it is beautifully clear and it says "So? I am naked. So what?" A fitting statement from the final photographer in my project. The next day is the end and will be with Graeme Montgomery who was the very first in May 2007.


OVER THE HILL - an appreciation

NUMBER ONE by Graeme Montgomery

Over 200,000 pageviews on my blog, over 400 photographers, 9 exhibitions, several articles and features in The Big Issue, Photography Monthly, The Guildford Magazine, The Times, The British Journal of Photography, The Guardian Weekend magazine, The Daily Telegraph and The  Parkinson magazine, a feature on The Culture Show on BBC TV. But it is not about numbers. It is about Photography and what it can achieve. It is about the talent, goodwill, artistry, hard work, generosity and patience of each one of the photographers who photographed me for nothing. 11 photographers photographed me but never sent any pictures to me afterwards but so what? I would be amazed if everyone had. These people have lives to lead, work to do and money to earn to support their chosen career. And what about me? What have I got out of this project? A reason to be, to keep on going, a self-belief, the joy of meeting these people and working with them. As Robert De Niro says in The Deerhunter "This is this, is this"  THIS is what it has mean to me. Love, respect, communication, liberation, a means by which I could at last express myself. I know some people think I am weird to have gone off and done this, that I am an exhibitionist. I understand how they should think that but they are wrong. I have done it as a means of self expression.

Spike Milligan was once asked why he carried on writing, what was he doing it for. All he said was "me". He wasn't weird, he wasn't showing off, he wasn't an exhibitionist, he just wanted to express himself.

I have asked over 400 photographers to photograph me and they have done. I have had a ball. It has been such fun. I have laughed with Jayne Dennis and Claudine Quinn, I have cried with Brian David Stevens and Justyna Neyring. I have allowed Jennifer Balcombe to lean her head on my shoulder, I have asked Valentina Quintano to photograph me thinking of Jane, I have danced in front of Alicia Clarke and Shawn Sobers, I have conquered my fear of playing with silk with Mohir, I have photographed myself in front of Simon Roberts, I have painted "SPAZ"on the wall of Lisa Wormsley's flat, I have lain like a lion in the long grass in a park near Antonio Olmos's home, l have lain on rocks for Al Brydon and Jacqui Booth and Christina Theissen, I have lain naked in churches for Jillian Edelstein and Ameena Rojee, I have been painted with light by Steve Bloom and Jack Kerruish, I have worn a pig's nose for Rankin, I have hung dead fish around my neck for Linda Lieberman and on my back for Valentina Lari, I have swum under water for Emma Critchley, Tee Chandler, Valda Bailey, Kathy Foote and Emma Davies. I have stood on beaches in front of Julia Horbaschk, Sheryl Tait, Sara Gaynor, Charlie Clift, Ellie Hones, Mike South and Itziar Olaberria, I have danced on the steps of St Paul's for Charlotte Steeples and bowed in front of Oxford Circus Tube Station for Ben Smith, I have been photographed as a clown by Tiff Oben, Robyn Minogue, Izaskun Gonzalez and Holly Wren, I have walked along the South Bank wearing a box on my head for Liz Orton, I have been painted blue all over (Karen Knorr) and on my hands and feet (Polly Penrose), Poppy French has photographed me in a kimono with a helium balloon. I have danced on the fourth plinth in front of Linda Johnson, Paul Rider, Mohir, Dana Mendonca and Patricia Pastore. I have sat quietly on a chair and allowed photographers to take simple portraits. I have climbed into quarries, walked into woods, swum in the sea, lain in the grass, clambered up trees and banks, lain on a railway track, hung brambles around my neck, covered myself with Beatles records, smiled, smirked, raised my eyebrow, my hat, my arm, my leg, stretched, squirmed, bathed in red jelly, poured milk over my head, covered myself with dirt, had Deep Brain Stimulation surgery, run naked on several beaches and so much more. 

It has been bloody wonderful.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

CLOSE TO THE EDGE by Wendy Pye

CLOSE TO THE EDGE by Wendy Pye

The water was cool and almost still apart from a gentle ripple which washed over its surface like the breeze on my face. The sky was blue behind the cumulus clouds which moved slowly past the low evening sun and that was the reflection I saw as I stepped tentatively on to the wooden jetty. I got as close to the edge as I dared; I wanted to go right to the edge but the fear of losing my balance was too great. I looked up into the sun as it suddenly blazed out from behind a cloud as Wendy's almost orgasmic shouts from the bank to my left told me that the pictures were already excellent. She moved around me and shot from the back and then from the bank on the right. A young boy or girl (I couldn't tell which) was sitting on the grassy hill immediately opposite fondling his dog but then jumped up and ran up the incline and out of sight, his faithful pet scampering after him; it was as if it was too hard to bear for him to watch this naked man being painted by the glorious evening light. He must have wondered - why? I'm not sure I quite know the answer - there is a need to express myself in this way whether clothed or not. To say that this me. Maybe it is simply exhibitionism but I don't feel that. When I did my acting in the 1990s, I wanted to express myself on the stage. I wanted to become different people, get inside their heads and just be them. This project is not an act - it is me and perhaps finally, I have got inside my own head and begun to understand what is going on in there and who I am.


Once the child and his dog had left, we were completely alone apart from the creatures responsible for the odd 'gloop' as they flipped up for air or a crunchy snack. Bees and dragonflies whirled in the air and gerridae skated over the water haphazardly as I brushed my skin in an attempt to avoid any ticks setting up home in my body as they had done a few weeks earlier. It felt as if Wendy and I were locked away in our natural studio and that we could do whatever we wanted; like playing with my friends in Dollis Brook when I was little and giving absolutely no thought to anything else apart from our games. Wendy asked if I could crouch near the edge or lie down but the nearest I got to this was going on my hands and knees and shuffling as close as I could to the lip of the platform. But, once in that position, I stretched out like a praying mantis and tensed my body and looked up and down and straight ahead and, all the time, I felt a cold fear of falling into the water. It was wonderful. 


Eventually, we stopped. Although we both wanted more, we had feasted to the extent that our senses were replete with the sounds of the insects charging about and the birds sending out their final messages of the day, the deep rough smells of nature and the breeze on our skin. We walked away from the lake completely satisfied. It was a coming together of a brilliant photographer, a beautiful location, the unique light from the sun and a man on an incredible journey in his attempt to get as close as he can to the edge.


Monday, 13 June 2016

TIM by Jenny Lewis

TIM by Jenny Lewis 
I had already announced the end of the "Over the Hill" project and on a bright June day, the journey up to East London, even for a shoot with someone as talented as Jenny Lewis, confirmed to me that I had made the right decision. It was a slog but......but.....as I approached her house, I began to feel that tingle of anticipation and, by the time I reached her front door, it was back to normal - what was she going to be like? What shots did she have in mind? I was full of excitement. Jenny opened the door with a huge smile and I sensed that she was looking forward to the shoot as I much as I was. We had a drink and we chatted about various things, how long she had lived in this beautiful house, my project, her work  and then she took me into a front room and explained that she had photographed someone there recently and the light on the subject's figure was great and so she wanted to try that again. I was up for that and I think we tried a few with my shirt on and then with it off. It was only a short time before she announced that she had got what she wanted and here it is. A great portrait blessed with the gloriously natural glow of light from the window; my face is relaxed and my demeanour is assured and both speak of how quickly and how well we had got on together.

I first saw Jenny's work in The Sunday Times Magazine in February 2015 and, if that wasn't enough, I then looked at some of her other work on her website and the common thread in all these fantastic pictures is her genuine love of people. I cannot speak for all photographers but I do consider this love to be a very important attribute because it means that the person holding the camera is not portraying just the subject's outside appearance but digs deeper and one finds the portrait infused with so many more layers that form the the subject's character, his relationship with himself and other people and his fears, beliefs, hopes and loves.

Now and again, but not very often, I receive just one photograph from the photographer and, when I do, I am not at all frustrated by not being able to look at and consider other shots. I have such faith in these wonderful practitioners of this incredible art that I am fully satisfied with the one. And so it was in this case. Jenny sent me this great image and that was it. And look at it - a complete portrait. The lighting, my stance, my expression coaxed from me by Jenny with no hint of nervousness or playacting. It is a real and genuine image created by a woman at the peak of her powers. And I almost missed her - after the initial flurry of emails, we lost contact but, fortunately, Jenny had not forgotten and when she read some something about me, she wrote to me and we managed the squeeze in the shoot before the curtain came down for good. Phew! It would have been very unfortunate not only to miss the chance of working with someone of her deserved stature but also, having met her, someone so warm, engaging and likeable. I chose the title ''Silent Echo'' for this image but Jenny likes to keep such simple and sometimes that is entirely appropriate.

“As time passes by and you look at portraits, the people come back to you like a silent echo"
                                                                                                                 - Henri Cartier-Bresson
WEBSITE:http://jennylewis.net



Sunday, 12 June 2016

CRITICAL VOICES 2016

BLUE by Liz Atkin
I had the great pleasure of taking part in this day of heart-rending stories of survival, reflection, healing, resolution, exploration, joy, discovery and loss. I am a bear of little brain and not at all qualified to discuss and analyse what I saw and heard and so I shall leave it for others to do so in a far more erudite way than I can manage here but I would like to try my best to describe what I experienced. 

For me, it was a day of emotion. It began with Tulsi Vagjiani telling us of the day she lost her family in a plane crash which left her with horrific burns. She was bullied as a consequence of the state of her scarred skin and I thought of what must have gone through the minds of those bullies to make them do such a thing. I suffered very minor bullying  at my Secondary school which then prompted the bullying (in a small way) of my youngest sister. I have no recollection of me bullying her - none at all. It is as if it was carried out by someone completely separate of me.

Tulsi Vagjiani
The photographer, Emma Barnard, was then joined by Consultant Stephanie Strachan and medical student, Katharine Stambollouian and they talked of their collaboration on a visual arts-based project designed to promote empathy in medical students to better prepare them for dealing with patients in their future career. It was fascinating hearing how they had dealt with the introduction of art into medical education and the challenges faced by both them and the healthcare professionals in the process. What moved me particularly was how supportive they were of each other - it was a truly collaborative project.

Then we had Antonia Attwood (who had recently filmed me as part of my project) and Monica Suswin talking about their respective experiences of dealing with severe depression. Monica had written extensively about it and read out some beautiful prose and poetry which she had written. Antonia showed the astonishing films she had made about her mother's debilitating condition and explained so movingly that, as a consequence of making these films with her mother, she had come to know her mother so much better than she would otherwise have done. You do not wish such suffering to befall anyone but, if it brings such positive results, then in a weird way, you are thankful. It brought to mind my relationship with my late sister, Janet, who suffered terribly from breast cancer but, as a consequence, I saw far more of her in the two years before her death and I experienced depths of emotion that I have never felt before or since.

Anyone reading this might begin to feel glad to have missed out an all these tales of depression and misery but hearing of these people coping with and, in some cases, leaving behind such dark days was incredibly inspiring and uplifting. 

Daniel Regan was on his own as sadly, Alice Evans (another of my photographers) was not able to attend. As ever, Daniel was very engaging as he talked of the misdiagnosis of his own chronic mental illness and subsequent recovery by reference to some excellent photographs including many self portraits. Daniel photographed me earlier this year and is a lovely, gentle soul with a sparky wit.

After lunch it was my turn but the artist, Lucy Lyons, an extremely accomplished and relaxed speaker, spoke first about Drawing. Sound simple doesn't it but some of her work was incredibly detailed and I loved the way she talked of her examination of the human body. She draws beautifully and even her handwriting looks like a work of art. She sketched and wrote about everyone who spoke on the day. As for me, I shall leave it for others to judge my performance. All I shall say is that I was incredibly nervous and that brought out all my current symptoms i.e. the rolling gait, the slurred speech and the temporary memory lapses (Yes, Tim, those creepy crawly insects you find in restaurants are called C-O-C-K-R-O-A-C-H-E-S). I also overran but, having asked the gorgeous Julia Horbaschk (who very kindly drove me over there) to tell me when I had been speaking for 16 minutes, I somehow missed seeing her finger pointing (three times) at her watch. However, I got some laughs and the slideshow of all the images at the end worked well but I'm not sure that I shall be giving any talks or speeches about Over the Hill or over anything else in the foreseeable future. 

David Gilbert, a very nice guy with an open, loving demeanour and face to match then read out some of his poems which were full of perceptive wit and pathos. 

We then witnessed an extremely interesting conversation on Skype between Graham Shaw, the organiser of Critical Voices, and Margaret Hannah, a Consultant in Public Health Medicine and currently Deputy Director of Public Health in NHS Fife. Unfortunately, at this point my early rise at 5am caught up with me but I heard enough to know that the citizens of Fife are mighty lucky to have such a personable and intelligent Deputy Director of their Public Health System.

Finally, we had Heart to Heart Theatre Group showing a piece written and directed by Mel and Joe Ball respectively and very well acted by Peter Dewhurst which posed the question who, why and what we are. The day was then rounded off by poems read by David Gilbert and Graham Shaw followed by a quick beer in the Old Opera House (now Wetherspoons) and then home.

It was a day I was dreading because I felt so ill-prepared but I found that my own poor showing was more than compensated not only by the incredible photographs in my project but also by the wonderful words spoken and images shown by the other participants and inspired by the darkness and the light of their diverse experiences. Also, I met Celine Marchbank again and Bronwen Hyde for the first time having corresponded with her by email over a period of time. All lovely, intelligent, talented people but, above all, I would like to mention Graham Shaw - a man with a big heart and kind eyes, a warm handshake and a soft comforting voice. David Gilbert led the fully deserved applause for him at the end and Graham acknowledged it with humility and grace. So, thank you all who contributed to a great day at the Trinity Theatre in Tunbridge Wells. 

WEBSITE: http://www.criticalvoices.org.uk

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

A THOUGHT FOR LILY by Laurie Fetcher

A THOUGHT FOR LILY by Laurie Fletcher

It is September 2015 and I am clearing out a box of old magazines including some photography journals and I see a photograph by Laurie. No, I cannot remember which journal or which photograph but I look up her website and find some wonderful work on there. I email her and my message disappears into her trash somehow but it is retrieved, rinsed through, hung up to dry, neatly ironed and read and replied to about 4 weeks later. It is a sort of yes in that she says that her normal method of working is to get to know the subject first and suggests we meet.


And meet we jolly well do.......eight months later when I arrive at her house for the shoot, nine days before "Over the Hill" is scheduled to end, we having corresponded fairly regularly in between bouts of illness on each side. We have a chat and a drink and then get straight down to it in her sitting room with some beautiful lillies. It is a very leisurely shoot and it makes me wonder at the wisdom of my decision to bring it to an end because it is the communication that I love so much, the communication with people I would never normally have associated with, really nice people like Laurie.


And then I receive this glorious photograph  amongst many such images. Everything works - my expression, which is not empty but replete with thought, the cuff of my blue shirt, the sort of shirt which I would have worn every day to the office, the lillies out of focus but dominating the composition of the picture and their colour contrasting beautifully with the soft blue of my clothing, the green stalks and my pink skin. Su - bloody- perb. No surprise there - just take a look at the website and more jewels shining there.

The title? Obvious in some ways but reflecting on a very special person to me who I have lost but I hope will knock on my door again one day. One day soon.

WEBSITE: http://lauriefletcher.com

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

UNDER THE TABLE by Christopher Bethell

UNDER THE TABLE by Christopher Bethell
The things these photographers ask me to do! Actually, I think that this was my idea but only after Mr Bethell had asked me to lie on the sofa under the cushions - so he started it. I first came across Chris when he sent in a selfie for Stuart Pilkington after Stuart had suffered his stroke and when I saw the selfie of  him and his girlfriend, Bekky, with big grins on their faces, it struck me that he seemed to be a very nice fellow and so he is. I made a conscious decision not to use the selfies as a directory of possible photographers for my project but Chris wrote to me asking if he could photograph me as well as interview me for Vice.com, an online magazine. I looked at his work, liked what I saw and also Chris was highly recommended by Clare Hewitt and so the answer was yes but. The "but" was the fact that we only had a few days left before the end of "Over the Hill". We scurried back and forth in email land trying to fix a date and also decide on what we would do ( never at any stage was lying under a table mentioned) and, after ditching the idea of hauling a mobile studio around Brighton, we ended up shooting at my house on 7th June, ten days before the last shot.


On the day, Chris arrived at the door laden with camera equipment and smiles and accompanied by his friend Kevin who was going to assist him. I cannot for the life of me remember what we did first but during our time together we had lunch, Chris conducted the interview, we all looked at some of my silly films and Chris photographed me. I changed into a suit for the photographs and we did some on a bed and the bulk in our sitting room and I chose this one from a number of excellent shots. We had done some on the sofa already and a few from behind a curtain. Chris asked me to adopt a similar expression of suspicion and that, combined with my physical position makes for a strangely weird portrait. What else does it say? Down but not out? Help?!? Yes, I am lying under a table but so what? No, I think it is just an excellent photograph by a very talented photographer of a guy who is prepared to do almost anything in front of a camera. Simple as that.


Chris and Kevin packed up and said goodbye and, as I closed the front door, I felt sad and hopeful at the same time. Sad because this was the last shoot in my home in a project which has been a thrilling journey of exploration and discovery to which Chris has contributed not just a photograph but his companionship and friendship for the day. In these times of religious and political divisions and of isolationism and nationalism and any other ism you care to choose, the coming together of three people to make a photographic image may not sound much but it is precisely this sort of day that gives me hope for the future. But, if World War III should break out, I shall just hide under the table, After all, I have been there before.

Monday, 6 June 2016

MAXIMUS MURUS by Lindsay Wakelin

MAXIMUS MURUS by Lindsay Wakelin

I sat on the train blinking. I have this problem opening my eyes particularly when I am tired - yes, I know everyone does and it is called feeling sleepy - but this is different; it is a known side effect of Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. Where was I? Oh, yes, sitting on the train to Colchester, blinking. I tried to do the Idiot's Crossword in the Guardian but I couldn't keep my eyes open so I gave up and put my paper away and settled down to ponder with my eyes closed. I thought of the first time I had been photographed by Lindsay, wearing a white tuxedo and holding a brain in one hand and a heart in the other. I thought of other Essex connections - the time I travelled to Chelmsford to see David Gower's last first class innings and he held my umbrella while I scrabbled about in my bag for his autobiography which he agreed to sign. The town of Coggeshall to where a girlfriend, Oonagh Clapham, went to live and work after my short relationship with her when we both worked at Chichester Festival Theatre together in the summer of 1973 - I loved her and wrote to her a number of times, hoping that she felt the same but she didn't. We met in London some years later and I took her to see a play and I think we may have had dinner together but nothing had changed except that she wore make up and had had her hair styled, neither of which she would have done in the free and easy days at  Chichester. I never saw her again. 


I caught the connection to Hythe where Lindsay was waiting for me. She didn't look any different to my memory of her. Blond hair and friendly smile but there was something else. Confidence. Yes, that was it. When she photographed me the first time in 2010, she rather played second fiddle to her friend,  James Reynard who was also photographing me that day  and she deferred to him for advice now and then but this time, she was assured and certain of what she wanted. She has her own studio in Hythe and we walked there together in the sunshine and chatted and reminisced all the while.


Her original idea for the shoot was me having eggs broken on my head and feathers raining down but there were no eggs. I cannot remember why but we did the feathers anyway which was good fun and, when it was over, we swept them all up and shook the remaining feathers off the floor covering through the door which opened out on to the River Colne below. The next idea was centred around the concept of Fragility and for this Lindsay wanted me to be tied up in bubble wrap and so I took everything off except my pants and Lindsay did the wrapping and then asked me to pop down onto a chair and pop I did. 


That was it but Lindsay had either had another thought previously or decided on the spur of the moment to use a fur collar and she asked me to strip off and put it on my head. It felt and looked daft and so I played daft and we shot those as well and those were the images I was drawn to when Lindsay sent a selection through a short while later. And the confidence shines through all these images as well as her passion for Photography. Lindsay is a lovely person to spend an afternoon with - the feathers, bubble wrap and furry thing on my head were bonuses.

If there is one thing I am going to miss it is enjoyment of shooting in a studio locked away from everyone and going for it like Lindsay and I did here. Ho hum.


WEBSITES
Commercial photography: lindsaywakelinphotography.com
Family Photography: thefamilyphotographer.co.uk 
Wedding photography: loveinthelens.co.uk
Female portraiture:  Boudoirvous.co.uk
Studio for rent: colchesterphotostudio.co.uk/ 
Lindsay's Blog: https://lindsaywakelin.co.uk/


Sunday, 5 June 2016

GET DRESSED by Holly Wren

GET DRESSED by Holly Wren







Sometimes, photographers have been daunted by both the number of photographers who have preceded them or by the variety of ideas expressed in them. I don't know if that applied to Holly but her original idea was to make me up as a clown and get me to stand at a bus stop in my suit and carrying a briefcase very early in the morning. Well, dear readers, she did exactly that although the bus stop was ditched as none came up to her expectations. After the shoot, I waited, she pondered, I waited some more and she pondered some more but eventually, she had to accept that none of the shots satisfied her; it simply had not worked so she came back for more and this time, although she had some ideas whirring around in her head, she began to think outside the box but, at the same time, stuck with what she is extremely good at and that is taking portraits in her subject's environment.

Et voila!

We ended up with this brilliant shot taken in our sitting room which has been used on innumerable shoots (ditto the setee) - so how is this different to the others? Well, it is absolutely unique. It has a clarity in every aspect -  the colour, the lines, the underlying thoughts (both hers and mine) and the composition. All superb. By the way, this is not to suggest that all previous images taken in this room are not as good - they were all wonderful but all different. The uniqueness also applies to the rest of the shoot in which we had great fun and Holly took what she thought were the least flattering portraits ever. I haven't seen them but I know what I did and I can imagine that she was correct! But this is a seriously good image and we were both very pleased with it.

I saw Holly's name mentioned in a photography journal in 2014 and looked up her work on her website and loved it. At first sight, quite conventional portraiture but it had something extra - a confidence and a clarity that shone like a beacon and gripped me. It took a long time for us to get together but I knew that I must include her in my project before it ended and how right I was. Holly is one of the nicest people I have met on this journey and an excellent photographer too. The perfect combination.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

SWEET DREAMS by Vanja Karas

SWEET DREAMS  by Vanja Karas


It was in October 2014, five months after my DBS surgery, that I went on the London Independent Photography website and I came across the stunning work of Vanja Karas and what I saw there enticed me onto Vanja's own website. Just reading her CV will stun you - there really isn't much that she hasn't done already. She is a true artist always looking, examining, emoting and drinking in new experiences, thoughts and ideas. She began her creative career in theatre directing and from there moved on to work in a range of other visual arts media including film, video, multimedia, graphic design, print, textile design, site specific installations and conceptual art. All I wanted her to do was photograph me for God's sake!




And photograph me she did bringing all her creative instincts into play and producing an incredible set of images. We met some time after my initial contact, in the beautiful domed cafe at the V & A in London. She was very enthusiastic and we talked of the possibility of me being photographed in the cafe and in other buildings in London but then we lost touch until she discovered that my project was coming to a close and she contacted me again. Fortunately, we managed to fit a shoot in at my home. Vanja came down on the train in the late afternoon as she wanted the low light. I showed her around and she chose a few places as locations. It was a beautifully strange shoot in that we seemed to move from room to room as if we were floating on a raft on a stream of feelings and thoughts which ran slowly and silently through the house. As the day wore on, the light changed and I felt increasingly sleepy - not tired but that wonderful repose when you are with someone with whom you are completely comfortable and you just.........drop into slumber. I closed my eyes and then came to briefly as I heard the click of Vanja's camera as the lens brushed over my nakedness. I apologised for nodding off and I remember Vanja saying softly that it didn't matter and, again, I fell into a swoon of sleep only to be lifted out by another click.




This continued as we moved into another room. Vanja asked me to lie on the bed and close my eyes and I heard the sound of the crunching of the sheets as she rearranged them around me. Then silence. I could hear my breathing and the coarse screams of the seagulls which quietened as, yet again, I trembled on the edge of a doze only to be brought back again by a click or a rustle of sheet against my skin. 




And then it was over. Vanja packed up all her equipment and said a quick hello/goodbye to Jane who by then had returned from a day's work in her studio. I took Vanja back to Brighton Station and we hugged like two old friends and I drove back home and thought to myself how wonderful this project has been. People like Vanja drift into my life and we spend a quite intense few hours with each other as they search for a particular shot. I am completely in their hands but each of us has complete trust in the other as we give ourselves over to the shoot, come what may. Needless to say, I adore these photographs. They are rich with colour and light and shadow. They say so much. They speak of dreams and fantasy and heavenly music. When Vanja realised that there was not much time to fit in shoot with me she wrote saying "It would be so great if we could squeeze something before you wrap up the project even if it is something very spontaneous. We could meet for a coffee and I can just take some snaps". Some snaps?!?  

Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me

                                      - The Mamas and Papas
WEBSITE: http://vanjakaras.com/


UP CLOSE by Ryoko Uyama

UP CLOSE by Ryoko Uyama

This photograph was taken on 4th June 2016 but this was not the first time I had worked with Ryoko. She assisted Pal Hansen on his shoot with me on 27th January 2011 which was also the day on which Pal and I were filmed for the feature on "The Culture Show" for BBC TV. Ryoko and I were recently re-introduced to each other by Gemma Day who photographed me in 2015. Louise Haywood-Schiefer, who also photographed me in 2015 and who used to assist both Pal and Gemma (but not necessarily at the same time) introduced Ryoko to Gemma and then Gemma re-introduced Ryoko to me. Geddit?? Ryoko must either have been very shy and reserved that day in 2011 or I must have been too tied up with all the shooting because I don't remember her being quite the bundle of energy that I met at Brighton Pier five years later.

left to right: Ryoko, Pal, three BBC crew members and me in 2011.

We met at 9am and it was as if we had been friends for life. We got on very well straightaway and set for the nudist beach as she wanted to photograph me unclothed. It was all very quick and first of all, she asked me to walk up and down as her intention was to do a composite of images of me walking past the camera. She also photographed me in the sea and then finally there was this close up. It is a beautiful shot. Everything appears to be perfectly normal but then when I examined it closely, I saw the faint lumps on top of my skull where the electrodes were inserted, the slightly greater droop of my left eyelid, the two small parallel creases on the left side of my chin, the drop of my right shoulder (or is it the tension in my left which makes it higher than the right?) and the line of the cable running down the left side of my neck towards the battery pack of my Multi Program(me) Neuro Stimulator in my left breast which is just out of view. All as a consequence of Parkinson's Disease. But a quick look just reveals a head shot of a 65 year old man. 




It may not have been Ryoko's intention to show all these elements but what she has done is taken such an incredible forensic study of my face that these indications are there for all to see if they look closely enough and yet the tone and focusing do not immediately suggest such detail. There must be more technical terms to describe what I am trying to say and so forgive me for not knowing them. 


What else? It is a serious picture and yet I am smiling. My expression says a lot about my feelings that morning. I am enjoying what I am doing and the company I am keeping. I am relaxed in that company and yet my eyes are searching for Ryoko's reassurance that I am doing what she wants me to do in front of the camera. This photograph says a great deal about the skill of a professional photographer who knows what she wants and how to catch it. It is simply superb.
Spot the Giant 

29th May 2016
"Dear Tim
Gemma kindly introduced me to you, my name is Ryoko and indeed I have met you when I have assisted Pal Hansen at your shoot.
I remember you mentioned that you were looking for a photographer at the shoot then
but I didn’t want to offend Pal saying “ME!” 
Looking forward to hearing from you.
All the best
Ryoko"