|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 350 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.
Saturday, 22 August 2015
Thursday, 20 August 2015
|Suzanne's photo of me and "my" photographers at The Lightbox Gallery Woking 2nd February 2015|
Suzanne works as a photographer for Reuters and I met her through Joanna Burejza. Suzanne photographed me for my project in Kensington Gardens in 2011 and afterwards she approached me with the idea of her photographing me being photographed by other photographers. She had spoken to Reuters and they seemed quite interested in doing a feature about it online.
The first shoot she covered was the second shoot I had with Joanna in London which took place in a machine room at the back of a cafe where Joanna worked. I was a little nervous being photographed by two people at the same time but because she knew Joanna from old and also because she is such a pleasant person anyway, I soon relaxed as Suzanne clicked away in a very professional and discreet manner. As I have said so many times before, I love the shoots most of all and to see these photographs by Suzanne was very exciting for me. For example, to see Joanna crouching down intently to photograph me as in the picture above is strangely moving.
|Joanna and me|
Me and Joanna
MILLY ANNE VINOGRADOFF
The next shoot which Suzanne covered was with Milly at her home studio in London. Milly is very much concerned with women's issues and indeed when she heard that, in the past, I had wanted to be a woman but remain heterosexual and that therefore I was in fact a lesbian, she was delighted. You will see that this is reflected in the shots below. Again, Suzanne was very discreet and, in fact, had to leave before the end of the shoot which enabled Milly and I to have some time working only with each other.
Milly applying make up for the Femina photo
The next photographer who was covered was Liz Orton who not only produced the fantastic Box photograph but also made the contact between me and Sarfraz Manzoor which led to the feature by him in The Guardian and also on the The Culture Show. She continued to photograph me after our first shoot together in 2010 in Milford, where we used to live. I think it was the third shoot this time at a studio in North London where Suzanne was present to take the brilliant photograph shown below.Liz and me
Me and Liz's light meter
Coincidentally, I was photographed by the charming Tess Hurrell quite near the studio where Liz Orton had photographed me. Unfortunately, I had not met Tess previously and this was the only shoot where perhaps it might have been better if Suzanne had not been there because, no matter how discreet she was again (and she was), Tess and I were not able to enjoy that special intimacy that exists between Photographer and subject. But then again, I would not have these great photographs from the shoot. As it happens, Tess has now moved to Brighton and we have arranged a second shoot together so all's well that ends well.
Tess and me
Tess and me
Paul is a very successful photographer in London whose work is featured regularly in many National newspapers and their supplements and I am not surprised because he is not only extremely talented but very engaging as well. Paul was working on a commercial shoot at a very nice studio in London and fitted me in which was very generous of him and he was equally gracious in agreeing to Suzanne taking photographs on the same day. What strikes me from a lot of these pictures is that there are a lot of smiles both by me and the photographer and that shows not only what fun we have but also how nice members of the photographic race are.
Paul photographing my awful feet
Paul giving direction
I thought it was the right time to revisit the earlier years of my project and in particular to publicise Suzanne's great idea and her work in the process
Thank you, Suzanne.
Friday, 31 July 2015
|WITHIN THE HEART OF ME by Lenka Rayn H.|
I almost called this "My Blue Shirt" because this shirt, one of my favourites, was blue originally but the colour has slowly drained out of it with each wash. However, what is most important to me about this image is my face. Lenka suggested that it might be nice to meet before the shoot because she did not want me to treat me as a model when I arrived but to know me more as a person. Well, we did not manage to meet beforehand and so I was determined to feel as relaxed as possible on my arrival, as if we had met before and it is this that is reflected in my gaze.
One of Lenka's favourites
What was it that I liked about Lenka's work that moved me to invite her to photograph me? Colour. There is a self portrait on her website where Lenka is in a room crouched next to a wall painted bright red. She is wearing a top which is the same colour and the buttons are undone revealing part of a white breast. Lenka's face is without expression but her stance is dramatic like the colour. It made me smile. Like these images on this page, many of her portraits have a gorgeous bleached tone from the natural light. Revelation. Many of her portraits seem to reveal the inner nature of her subject. Often their expression is blank but the more ones looks, the more one sees. And their skin is uncovered showing bare shoulders or, in her self portraits, a bare body. Emotion lies just beneath the surface. Lenka creates the atmosphere where Colour, Revelation and Emotion combine to produce images of stunning brilliance.
On 31st July 2015, the sun was shining in a blue sky dotted with high fluffy cloud. I got off the train at Forest Hill, established my bearings and got lost! A kind person put me right and I found myself walking up the wrong street but I could see from my map that it ran parallel to the right street and that there was a footpath which joined the two. The wrong street was typical of any such thoroughfare in suburban London whereas the right street was anything but. Its surface was cobbled for a start and the noise and bustle from within the attractive artisan buildings on either side revealed the feel of a thriving artistic community. It was like a small oasis tucked away and out of sight. I rang the bell on Lenka's gate and, as we greeted each other with a kiss, I knew that this was going to be a very good shoot. Her house, which she shares with her husband (also a photographer) was painted grey and soft white and beautiful photographs decorated the walls.
We chatted as I sipped a glass of water. I took off my jacket and sat on a stool in front of a back drop already set up. We started. She approved of my shirt and I told her the story of its blueness. She did not have much direction to give me; sometimes she asked me to lift a chin (I have several) or move a little forward or back. At her request, I took off my shirt. Lenka bobbed up and down covering the windows with curtain or board to keep the bright sun at bay. For some reason, I loved it when she opened a door onto a patio and positioned her tripod on the threshold and then knelt on one knee to view the shot before clicking the shutter. She had mentioned that she might exchange her digital camera for a large format camera and, when she did, I felt I had really earned it. She used up three or four plates and then, it was over. She made me some toast with cheese and salami and I showed her some of my films on her laptop. I said goodbye and walked away from an excellent shoot with a very nice woman. I received a set of images a few days later. Her favourites are shown here and, although they did not coincide with mine, they were all so uniformly good that really, I could have chosen any one of them - as you can see.
Thursday, 23 July 2015
|ALMOST THERE by Ania Mroczkowska|
Almost there. Looking forward.
There was film a made in 1964 called "I'd rather be rich" in which the American crooner, Andy Williams, sings a song to Sandra Dee called "Almost There" whilst he is driving a car. They are happy and carefree and in love with each other and with life and why not? Life is wonderful. Certainly when there are photographers like Ania about to take photographs like this. I came across Ania's work on the Portrait Salon site and immediately said to myself ''Yep, she's the one for me!'' Her portraits were large and out there - they demanded my attention. There is a guy pulling at his beard but looking you straight in the eye, a girl parting some curtains looking intently through her glasses and a man drawing on a cigarette fixing you with his gaze through the plumes of smoke. But it is the picture of an older man with his eyes closed which really grabs me but more subtly than the others. His skin around his neck is lined and wrinkled, his bare chest flecked with brown hair which contrasts with the soft grey whisps on his head, two vaccination scars are sunk into his left arm and the glint of the gold of his wedding ring replicates the sparkle in his gentle, accepting eyes which have opened in the two pictures which follow. He has been examined by Ania's camera lovingly and carefully and it was no surprise to hear from her on the shoot that this is her father.
Ania is an interesting person. The furniture in her tidy flat which she shares with her husband is neatly set out. There is no junk. And she proceeds with the shoot methodically and calmly. We talk a lot about life and photography. She asks me to remove my shirt, to sit this way and that, to lean on a walking stick. We talk some more, about my project, about nudity and then seemingly in the blink of an eye, I am at her door saying goodbye. But in that time, her mind is whirring, sorting, shifting and examining and she produces another glorious portrait but this time it is of me. And one thing I notice in it is the little flash of light from the handle of the walking stick like a drip on the end of my middle finger and I look up to see a ping of light in my right eye and I wonder if she has noticed it too and that is why she chose this particular image. Light, harmony, detail, investigation and purity. Just some of the elements which Ania harnesses and then sets out for all to see. It was indeed an honour, Ania.
Yes, I am almost there.
Thursday, 2 July 2015
|TIME PASSES by Amanda Harman|
To begin at the beginning...........
We turn off the A27 to The Witterings and my heart begins to beat faster. We pass the block of flats where I once babysat (in about 1971) with my girlfriend at the time. She lived with her family in Grosvenor Road but, as we pass that road a few yards further down, I think not of the girlfriend but of my late sister, Janet, who died at the Hospice there in 1996. Another quarter of a mile or so, on the left is where a very nice old man called Mr Broadbridge used to live. When I was articled to Raper & Co, solicitors, in Chichester, my principal, Mr Underhill, sent me to see Mr Broadbridge about a planning application. He lived on his own in an ancient cottage surrounded by a large area of garden. He died some years ago now and the house has gone, replaced by modern light industrial buildings - the planning application was successful. Then we come to the turning to Dell Quay where we all had that last drink with Janet after she had taken communion in the hospice garden. The road swings round a bend and we head for the Birdham Straight. I am now almost breathless with memories pumping through my brain. My eyes are soaked with sadness and wonder as I drive through Birdham and past the nursery where I once worked, the Lamb Pub where my mother, working behind the bar, met her great friend Sue, past Redlands Lane where Keith Richards lives still. I am getting closer now - Malthouse Cottages, along the road where Jane and I travelled, as friends, drinking whisky from the bottle as we drove, Nunnington Farm, Gaiety Fair, Royce Way where there were once only fields and trees, The Old House at Home which we rushed to arrive at before closing time on a Sunday, the Village Green where I caught the Number 53 bus to school and where the garage and Miss Marmont's grocery store once stood and then round one bend and then the other and it comes into sight. Berry Cottage. The house where we lived from 1964. The house where I grew up, where we had buckets catching the rain dripping through the roof, where I would run down the hall and leap and pretend to head the ceiling light as I would head a goal, the house with the latches and light switches that clacked and clicked, the fire that would smoke the lounge out if the wind was in the wrong direction, the downstairs loo with the postcards stuck to the walls, the red front door, the barn where we kept the goat, the field where we kept the cow, the wall over which Barker the dalmation leaped to his death, the biscuit tin painted red by my mother and nailed to the wall to impersonate a burglar alarm, the larder, my bedroom, the cat door, the birdbath, all surge through my head as the car passes and I look and remember.
We carry on, Amanda and I, down Berry Barn Lane and we park in the drive of a dear friend who allows us to do so but whom I ask every time, to be polite. The sea is out and is almost invisible. We amble along and Amanda stops at some dunes and takes some photographs ending with this one, her favourite. My feet dig into the sand not wanting to let go of that feeling of powdery warmth. I lean forward playfully under the leaden sky and 'click' the last photograph is taken. There is one more memory. As we walk back along the path linking the beach to The Strand, a man passes us riding his bike. I look at the wheels pressing the patterns of the tyres onto the mixture of sand and chalky stone and I see the wheels of my bike. I see my feet on the pedals, I see the 13 year old boy slowly falling in love with all that life can offer. I see the past. I taste it. I inhale it.
Earlier in the day, Amanda arrived at our house in Brighton, which coincidentally, also has a leak in the roof and we chat and drink tea and I showed her snippets of the documentary I made of Berry Cottage. Amanda had favourited a tweet about my shoot with Kathy Foote and I was very impressed when I looked at the work on her website. She asked me which work of hers I was particularly taken by. Well, take your pick. The girl in blue in Rwanda, the pictures of empty spaces full of story and the section entitled Tidal Reaches which I said reminded me of my beloved West Wittering where I had lived as a child. She then replied that Wittering had played a part in her life as a child also. It was then that we decided to shoot there. We met subsequently at the the degree show of UWE Bristol which was held at The Bargehouse on the South Bank. Amanda was very friendly and I knew that we would get on well. We did. She concentrates on each photograph and knows exactly what she wants from it and gets it. She goes straight to the heart of her subject. In my case, the beating heart of life and love, of experience which informs the present, of me. She is an excellent photographer who sweeps by but then stops, takes a step back and takes a shot and then carries on to the next, pauses, considers and clicks and before you know it, there is a chronicle of time and emotion frozen by the combination of her expert eye, her innate sense of composition and her love of people and the places they inhabit.
Time passes. Listen. Time passes.
Wednesday, 1 July 2015
|MR MERRYWEATHER Q.C. by Justyna Neryng|
I wanted to be an actor from a young age but, when I was about 18, Mrs Anderson, my English teacher and the wife of the headmaster at my secondary school, asked me what career I wanted to follow. I had just recently finished reading "We, the Accused" by Ernest Raymond which was a story about a man who kills his wife and is tried for her murder. There is a long sequence in the book covering the trial and I marvelled at the description of one of the barristers; he was handsome, quick witted, articulate and eloquent. I told Mrs Anderson that I wanted to be a barrister. "That won't do" she said and when I asked why, she said that all barristers were actors and she had seen no evidence that I could act. Admittedly, I had not really done any acting apart from a memorable playing of Buttercup in HMS Pinafore when I was 12 - memorable for the flatness of my voice - but I knew that I could act and set about proving it by performing in three plays one after the other at school and then ended up as a solicitor. Eventually, I did some acting and even acquired an agent at one point but I couldn't afford to give up my day job and so I had to squeeze it into my spare time. However, playing Mr Merryweather in my films means that my wish has been granted in some small way and, when Justyna and I got together to discuss our next collaboration, Mr Merryweather seemed the perfect choice especially given her execution of the beautiful Childhood Lost series.
Whenever I visit Justyna in her flat in Hove, it reminds me of our very first shoot in 2010, a year before we moved to Brighton. We clicked then and we click now. As usual, Toby Slater-Hunt assisted her and we shot a number of photographs in different poses but, when some weeks later, we went through them on her laptop together, this one leaped off the screen. It seemed to capture the character of Mr Merryweather in so many ways. His seriousness, his flamboyance and his romanticism. The picture itself has so much to commend it - the light which brushes the right side of his coat, the way in which Justyna has highlighted the richness of the colour of the coat and the contrast with the dazzling white of the wig and ruff as well as the blood red of the ribbon around the roll of papers containing his brief. The landscape format of the photograph places him on a stage rather than squeezed into a portrait.
As usual, Justyna has created a wonderful image capturing all the facets of Mr. Merryweather's character to bring him to life and I am proud to say that this is the third photograph of hers to be included in the project.
MR MERRYWEATHER VIDEOS:
Thursday, 18 June 2015
|MILO AND ME by Viveca Koh|
As is often the case with some photographers, I am afraid I cannot recall exactly how I came across Viveca's work but come across it I did and I was very impressed so I sent a message to her in August 2014 and about 9 months later Viveca was going through unread messages and came across mine. She explained in her response that, unfortunately, her DSLR had been stolen but she had been experimenting with iPhoneography and she suggested that I come up to her in South London and that we meet for lunch and she would snap away. Now, with someone else, this may not have sounded too thrilling but this was the person responsible for some wonderful images displayed on her website which showed her to be an exciting and imaginative photographic artist and so I was very keen to proceed on this basis.
I caught the train to East Croydon but forgot to bring with me not only my directions but also Viveca's mobile number but I just about remembered where she said she would be parked. As it was, she called me once I stepped on to the ancient streets of Croydon and, when I told where I was, she confirmed that I was walking in her direction. I had no idea what she looked like but I recognised her car from the scraps of information she had given me and that lay scattered about in my brain. As I approached her rather snazzy and sporty motor, she got out and hugged me hello. She looked very pretty in a long flowing summer dress. It was a beautiful June day and the portents were good. We started chatting immediately and she told me that she had decided to photograph me at her home against a plain wall and that she would stop to buy some sandwiches for lunch. I love the sound of those two words; Sandwiches and Lunch. They remind me of the time when I read The Famous Five books written by Enid Blyton. I didn't say this to Viveca at the time because the thought didn't occur to me then although, funnily enough, she offered me some Ginger Beer when we arrived at her place. Hurrah!
We proceeded to scoff our sandwiches and quaff our pop (please forgive the excess of Blytonese) and it was absolutely topping (sorry) and we began a longish discussion about my diagnosis, my project and Siamese cats, the latter subject prompted by the presence of Viveca's gorgeous little Chocolate-point cat, Milo. He was a bit shy at first but then started showing off and generally making loud yowling noises as he misbehaved in the garden room which was normally out-of-bounds. We swapped cat stories and I told Viveca of our love affair with Siamese cats which began with Indiana and carried on with Ernest, Theo and Henry.
Then we got down to business. Viveca explained that she had subscribed to an App on her iPhone called Hipstamatic which basically gave her various different lenses to produce different effects with the camera on her phone. But, even more interesting was a feature which picked a lens at random out of the many on her phone whenever it was shaken. She said that she wanted to use that feature and for me to adopt a different pose or expression every time she shook the phone. This reminded me of the scene in "Hard Day's Night" where George Harrison is being photographed by a press photographer during an informal junket where journalists and other guests were invited to interview and take pictures of the Fab Four. Viveca wanted to produce a square collage of these random portraits and we eventually agreed on 49 and so, each time she rattled her iPhone, I adopted a different expression. Of course, Milo joined in and this was my favourite of all of them.
It was all over pretty quickly but, as you know, these shoots are not all about photography - they are about communication, friendship and discovery. We talked about our respective families, the books on her shelves, her interest in the History of The First World War, Saving Private Ryan (not a great film, apart from the thrilling sequence when the troops disembark on the Normandy beaches), Lee Miller, my films and respectively Viveca's friendship and my shoot with Louise Haywood-Schiefer the latter which had taken place only a few weeks before in the same neighbourhood.
I had arrived in Croydon at 12 noon and it was almost 4pm and yet the photographs had only taken about fifteen minutes. Viveca showed me the shots on her laptop and I purred with appreciation and so did Milo as I tickled him behind his ears. Time to go and Viveca drove me back to East Croydon and we hugged goodbye. It had been a grand day. The sun was shining as I walked towards the station and picked up an Evening Standard. The train arrived within a few minutes and I turned to the Crossword over which I dribbled biro ink as I nodded off and dreamed of smugglers' caves, egg and cress sandwiches wrapped in waxy Wonderloaf paper, bells on handlebars and Victoria Sponge Cake until the train gently came to a halt in Brighton. My shoot with Viveca is another lovely memory now to go with all the others; Viveca herself is another person who, as I sat at my desk in my office some 9 years ago, I could never have imagined meeting and this photograph and the collage are reminders of a beautiful day in Gipsy Hill.
Friday, 12 June 2015
|FITZROVIA CHAPEL by Claude Savona|
One evening in 1962, when I was 11 years old, a stray dog walked into our front garden of our house in Finchley. My mother was on her way back from work as a hairdresser in Fetter Lane and, as usual, my eldest sister Janet was looking after the rest of us i.e. my twin, Sally, and my younger sister, Corinne. Anthony was away at boarding school. We were very excited about this dog. It may be because our own pet dog, Dinah, had died not long before. When my mother returned, Janet was telling her all about it in the hall as we listened over the bannister and my mother told Janet to go upstairs and get us into bed. We all charged back to our bedrooms but, as I dashed across the landing, I tripped on the threadbare carpet and fell smack against the side of my door. Janet came up to me. My nose was bleeding heavily - Janet said it seemed to be broken. My mother called a taxi and I was taken to the local A & E and they confirmed it was broken. Shortly after, I was taken to Middlesex Hospital and a surgeon said he thought it was ''worth a tweak'' by which he meant resetting it - normally they waited until a boy stopped growing at 18 before resetting it. When I was admitted for the operation, I was introduced to the Matron who happened to be a cousin of my mother's, Priscilla Cooper. Whilst I was there, on Sunday I attended Holy Communion in the hospital chapel. This chapel. Years before, my father had been treated in the hospital for his lung cancer but no avail. He died in 1953 when I was two years old. Then, years later, in 1996, my sister Janet received some disastrous laser treatment for her breast cancer, again to no avail. I remember walking past the chapel and recalling my visit there some 34 years previously.
So, why am I telling you all this? Well, Claude's idea initially was to photograph me in a hospital and he suggested The National Hospital of Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queens Square in London where I had my Deep Brain Stimulation operation but I didn't feel right about that somehow no matter how much I had enjoyed my stay there. We then discussed a museum as a possible location perhaps with a medical connection but that came to nothing. Finally, I suggested a church on the basis that Jesus was a saviour and DBS had saved me and also we could keep the medical connection if we were able to shoot in a hospital chapel. Then I had a brainwave - there was a chapel in Middlesex Hospital with which I had so many connections and so I googled Middlesex Hospital but found it had closed in December 2005 (a month after my diagnosis) and had subsequently been demolished.........apart from the Chapel! I then discovered the Chapel had been restored and was to be taken over by the Fitzrovia Trust and that the Chairman of the Trustees was a guy called Edward Turner whose email address and telephone number were on the Trust's website. This sort of personal contact information is not always made public and it indicated that Edward was an approachable person. How right I was. He answered my email immediately and then passed me on to Craig Peniston who worked for the company which had developed the site and he said they would very happy for Claude and I to work in the Chapel.
Within a couple of days, we were there. It was weird walking down Mortimer Street and for the hospital not to be there. I met Claude in the reception of the new office building which had replaced it and then we both met Craig, a tall friendly man who took us round the corner to this utterly beautiful building. Everything in it had been meticulously restored - the stunning marble walls and alter, the mosaic floor and the amazing ceiling covered in gold. I felt so privileged to be there. Claude photographed me on his film camera and, over a period of almost three hours, we tried various shots and angles. Afterwards, we had lunch and enthused over what we had achieved. Claude sent me some rough contact sheets and the photographs were universally excellent but gradually I realised that the more relaxed poses and close-ups, however good they were (and they were very good), were not right for the project. It had to be a shot which reflected the magnificence of the Chapel and its significance in my life and so this was the one. My pose is relaxed, not too formal but respectful. The Chapel looks incredible. I could not have planned the shot better and we were both very pleased with this.
Some times I am approached by photographers rather than the other way round and so it was with Claude who was recommended to me by Christina Theissen, another great photographer who had assisted Jillian Edelstein on the "Brook Shoot" and who had photographed me herself (we have not yet decided on which image of hers will be represented in the project). He was born in Malta which coincidentally is where my DBS surgeon came from. We met in a Shoreditch cafe and I found him to be an interesting companion. He is quite reserved but quite quickly sheds his diffidence and opens up, his conversation becoming more animated as he begins to express himself. I like him a lot. During the shoot, he worked carefully and methodically and welcomed any suggestions by me very readily and selflessly. And he produced a superb image as you can see.
Who would have thought that the 11 year old boy kneeling in the pew in the Chapel in 1962 nursing a recently tweaked broken nose, would return 53 years later and be photographed there, in the one part of the old Middlesex Hospital that miraculously still exists? And all because of an old stray dog.
Tuesday, 9 June 2015
|BEAST OF TWO BACKS by Vanessa Mills|
The Beast is within
It fucks me day by day
It fucks me when I work
It fucks me when I play
Yet, I play the fool
Play The Fool on the Hill
I play it day after day
For the good and for the ill
I remember, my brother,
The time that you ran away
Did you know I was blind when
I saw you perform the play?
My eyes are open now
I allow myself to stray
To leave the path prepared for me
Why? I cannot say
It is within me and without me
This game of chance and jacks
I am fucked I am free
I am the Beast of two backs
I found Vanessa through the Blog of Alex B. the model. In fact, I have nicked quite a few photographers from her blog - I hope you don't mind, Alex. They have all been excellent. Vanessa's response as very positive and her initial ideas comprised using a carousel, a swimming pool and a classic portrait. Gradually over a period of weeks, these ideas were decanted down to "a light filled portrait of me under a stream of light coming through trees" and, funnily enough, that is what we ended up with.
Vanessa booked this great studio near Cambridge (where she lives) which consisted of an old Windmill and large grounds as well as a wooded area. We mooched around to begin with and had a cup of tea and then got started. The first few shots were clothed and taken through one of the windows of the windmill. After that, I took my clothes off and they didn't go back on until the shoot was finished. The next sequence of shots were taken inside with my body lit by the natural light from another window in the windmill. I was trying to think of the name of Jan Saudek (but failed) as I described to Vanessa the photographs he had taken in front of a similar window but I'm glad that I didn't get very far because these shots by Vanessa have her own very personal stamp on them.
Then we ventured back outside and tried few shots on and near a wrought iron fence. I climbed up and grabbed the bars but wished I had the strength (and nerve) to hang with my feet dangling in a sort of crucifixional pose. We stopped at an isolated line of fruit trees and I climbed on one and tried to hang there like a human branch. We rejected the old deserted swimming pool on health grounds.
We ended up in the wooded area and dragged this cage like structure over into a pool of light and I climbed in and crouched and then stretched my back upwards against ironwork as if I was constrained by this 'thing' which was clamping me down and not allowing me to escape. A metaphor for the continuing war with my illness and the intense pleasure I derive from these various skirmishes on the battlefield. I love this image - my body has become another piece of architecture within the iron cage bathed by the soft light that is falling through the trees. The muscles of my arm show that there is life in the old dog yet. The photographs Vanessa sent to me afterwards were all excellent but with this one, above all, we achieved what we wanted. A mixture of light, beauty, body, nature, repression, freedom and fight.
I think that on that day, both Vanessa and I were battling with inner constraints and together we escaped, temporarily, from them and ran wild and free and we felt the better for it.
Thursday, 4 June 2015
|DISTANT by Nigel Maudsley|
I met Nigel on 19th August 2014 in a pub on the London Road in Brighton at a meeting convened by Brighton Photo Fringe (BPF), the name of which pub I cannot remember. But I do remember how Nigel struck me that day - he is a very sensitive man, quiet and still but with something burning deep inside him. As I was to discover on this shoot, that something was a passionate desire to express himself artistically. During that meeting in the pub, we talked about what we were both doing for the BPF and afterwards, I looked up his work on his website and it was wonderful and so I wrote to him asking if he would like to be a part of my project. After emails to and fro, we met again in Hove in November but sadly, in the intervening period, Nigel's father had died and he had become involved in dealing with his mother's need for more care. Nevertheless, he had very kindly continued to give some thought to photographing me and eventually, we were able to arrange a definite date of 4th June. The weather was perfect, warm and humid, and the sky almost completely clear. The basic idea was to photograph me as the sun was going down.
I collected Nigel from his house in Kemptown and we drove to the Marina and then had fairly long walk to the cockleshell beach where Nigel wanted to take several photographs of me both clothed and naked. There weren't that many people about and those who were there were some distance away. It wasn't easy to negotiate the slippery rocks which trailed into the sea and I thought how impossible a shoot like this would have been if I had not had my Deep Brain Stimulation surgery last year. We spent more time here than we had anticipated but that was because it was all going so well. But the greatest pleasure was getting to know Nigel better. We talked a lot about Family and Life and Death and Nigel's move to Brighton which had proved to be so successful and fulfilling.
Then we moved on and drove back into Brighton to the Nudist Beach. Unfortunately , we had missed the sunset but I think we both knew that we had got some very good shots already. By the time I dropped Nigel off at his house into the welcoming paws of his dog, we were both pretty tired. But Nigel was too excited to see what he had got and started work on the photographs straightaway and I received an initial set of images the next day. They were fabulous. I had a bit of weird Maths teacher at my primary school called Mr Haddon in the early sixties. He was a Baptist preacher in his spare time and he used to talk about the word fabulous and work himself into a real evangelistic frenzy as he gave a sermon to this class of innocent 12 year old boys about how bad the word was because it meant "out of this world" and he wrapped his Yorkshire tongue around "world" as his eyes almost popped out of his head. Sorry, back to Nigel's pictures - well, they were fabulous. This one in particular caught my eye. It felt very poignant given our talks about my illness and Nigel's deep, deep love for his father and mother. When I talked to him about how I cried on the day my mother died, he was one of the few people to understand the guttural, wrenching cry that came from deep inside me as if her presence in me was being dragged out and thrown into the air.
It is Nigel's love of life and his deep sensitivity which invest his photographs with so much emotion. But apart from this, look at the colours and contrasts which give the picture a richness which also tells of the treasure one can find in this life - all we have to do is open our eyes and see.
Our eyes help us to see, know and understand the world around us. They give us insights to the changes as we travel through our lives..... When my father died, the grief overwhelmed me. Visits to my family home, following the loss of my father, saw its reconfiguration for a new journey. I found myself in flux, a man in a child's dimensions......... Frantz Fanon (1925-1961), postcolonial theorist stated: ‘individuals without an anchor, without horizon, are colourless, stateless, rootless’.
Wednesday, 3 June 2015
|STRANGE BREW by Mia Rose|
Mia favourited a tweet relating to me on Twitter. I looked up her work. I was impressed. I asked her to photograph me. She said yes. She did photograph me. The End. Well, of course, there was much more to it than that. Her work is exceptional. I particularly liked the "Arbor" project, beautifully lit black and white images of trees showing the squirming, writhing trunks spewing up into the air like misshapen gargoyles. I thought how good it would be to be in a photograph like that and I imagined myself naked and wrapped around the trunk imitating the weirdness of its growth. I suggested that to Mia but she did not seem too keen on the idea when we actually got to the location but that maybe because it was a public place and she also felt very strongly that, by then, she had got the image she wanted. I was very happy to accept her judgement in that respect because she has a great eye and a fertile imagination and she recognises a good photograph when she takes it. It was a collaboration after all and, besides, I have been wrong about these things before.
I was very touched that Mia had taken time out of her preparations for her degree show to photograph me. She and her lovely friend, Ellie Rose, lugged huge bags of lights and other photographic equipment through the woods until we found several small wigwam type shelters which Mia thought would be perfect for the shot. I sat inside the one we chose and at first looked at the camera but Mia asked me to look away this is the image I have chosen. My eyes are engaged elsewhere and my arms pulled back as if I am a prisoner in a strange world. It has an air of mystery that is accentuated by my pose. I could see that Mia was pleased with it. But she indulged me and we looked for some different locations. We found a bench and a larger shelter and tried those too and then I also took off my T-shirt and leaned against a trunk but Mia had her shot in the bag and so we agreed that it was a wrap. We went back to Ellie Rose's soopa doopa little car and drove back (very carefully, as the car was a recent birthday present from her parents) to UWE where we had a sandwich and chatted about their future, amongst other things. One thing I have found with this project is that, often when I have worked with very young photographers, there is no obvious generation gap because any awkwardness in that respect is nullified by the fact that we have the photography to deal with. I'm not so sure this was the case with Mia at first but, by the time I left, I did feel that any nervousness on my part (and I do get nervous even after 348 photographers) and hers had dissipated and that we were getting on well.
Mia and Ellie Rose had things to do and so I suggested they drop me back to the station as I didn't want them to feel they had to entertain me when they had far more important things to get done. So, they took me back to Temple Meads and we said our goodbyes. I had missed Shawn Sobers at UWE as he was at home marking some papers but I called him from the station and said hello. It had been a good day. A very good day.
Very shortly afterwards, I received the photographs from Mia and this one was clearly the one to choose for my project for all the reasons mentioned above and I wrote to Mia to tell her so. She is an excellent photographer and clearly ambitious and hard working all of which attributes, together with her engaging personality, will stand her in good stead now that she has graduated and sets out on what I am sure will be a very successful and fulfilling career.
Monday, 1 June 2015
|ALL GUNS BLAZING by Jennifer Balcombe|
"You don't make a photograph just with a camera.
You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen,
the books you have read, the music you have heard,
the people you have loved."
- Ansel Adams
Once upon a time there was a beautiful little girl who we shall call Jennifer who grew into a beautiful young woman and fell in love with photography. When I say she was beautiful, I don't just mean lovely to look at but she had beauty in her heart. One day, her photography came to the notice of a man who, some years before, had decided that he wanted to be photographed by lots of different photographers. He started in the olden days, on the 7th day of May 2007 when he was only 56 years old and Jennifer was (and I am guessing here) about 18 years old maybe just starting to think about a career in photography. Well, what with one thing and another (and sometimes twice on Tuesday), the man happened to be writing a tweet on Twitter one day in the merry month of May 2015 and he came across a name of a photographer which the nice people who worked for Twitter thought he might be interested in because they knew he wanted to be photographed.
Now it happened that the man whose name was oh, I don't know, Tim, was very interested in the work shown on the website of this photographer. The first portrait he saw was of a girl smoking a Camel cigarette. The face of the girl glowed in the soft light and the blue of the cigarette packet contrasted with the smooth colour of her skin and she was looking at the camera as if she really connected with the photographer. He decided then and there that he wanted to be photographed by this person. So he started to write an email "Hi Jennifer...." Yes, for it was the Jennifer of whom I have already spoken. She replied to the email the very next day and she said she was honoured to be asked by Tim to photograph him but Tim wrote back saying that the honour and privilege was all his which it was because as Tim had discovered she was a jewel in the world of photography because her photographs are like beautifully cut diamonds which glitter as they catch the light. For Tim, clicking on to her website that day was like he had found a secret chest full of treasure which he just wanted to dive into and swim around in like on a sunny day, he would have swirled around in the sea and seen the sun twinkle through the water as he laughed with joy.
Jennifer asked Tim if he wanted to meet first for a chat or to go straight to the shoot "all guns blazing". Tim rather liked the sound of guns blazing and so it was that, on the first day of June 2015, Tim found himself in a street in Hampstead outside the door of the building where Jennifer lived. He pressed the bell and the door buzzed and opened like a magic door. He walked in and he heard Jennifer calling out to him in excitement from the stairs. They said hello and Jennifer showed him into a room where a small set had been prepared with a simple black back drop. They talked as if they had known each other before which they sort of had in that Tim was born and had lived in North London until he was 13 and Jennifer was like the girls he had known at school and so there was an immediate empathy. Guns blazed and Jennifer took her photographs. Then another piece of magic happened. Jennifer had borrowed a film camera from a friend, Elena, so that, in addition to the digital photographs, she could also photograph Tim on film like in the olden days but older olden days that those which I mentioned before. However, the camera jammed and so Jennifer had to call Elena and ask her to come over to help unjam the camera. As they had to wait for Elena, they were able to spend more time together and catch up on the last 25 years during which they had lived their lives but had not known each other.
Jennifer also had another film camera and again magic was in the air; instead of immediately looking into the back of the camera after each shot as she had done with her digital camera, this time each time after clicking the shutter she looked at Tim and when she did, she smiled and when she smiled, Tim smiled. And when Tim left, some time later and he had hugged Jennifer goodbye, he smiled again and he hop-skippity jumped down the street like a person does when he feels really happy. But the magic had not ended because the very next day some photographs arrived on Tim's computer and there he was in these beautiful pictures taken by the girl with beauty in her heart called Jennifer.
|And do you know? This sounds like a fairy story doesn't it? Well, it's not - there really is a man called Tim who was photographed in this way by a woman called Jennifer and there are wonderful photographs to prove it. Look, can you see them sparkle like jewels? Are they not beautiful?|
Saturday, 30 May 2015
The room was hot from the sun which had begun to break through the scudding grey clouds which had followed me into London. Poppy asked if I was warm enough as she abandoned her camera briefly to lean over the setee to open the door leading out into the garden where the pale and the dark of the stripes on the lawn glistened as the rain from the recent shower drained through the rich green of the grass into the earth below. I welcomed the puff of cool air from the open door; not so the honey bee which flew into the room, confused by the sudden change of atmosphere. Poppy did not hesitate; she picked up a glass and some paper and stepped onto a chair but the bee escaped this first rescue attempt, buzzing, not with menace but with exasperation and fear. Again, Poppy did not pause and, as I watched her, it was as if everything went into slow motion and I felt that familiar tinge of envy as her young limbs climbed onto the furniture, sure of their balance, confident of their strength as she caught the bee in the glass and then set it free outside. Having Parkinson's Disease makes me appreciate my body and its abilities so much more but at the same time the combination of ageing and illness makes me aware of my mortality and I grieve but,
life carries on
The bee could have only been there for a few seconds, the time it takes for a tear to build in the eye and roll down a cheek. A thought brushed through my mind - how proud her mother and father would be to see their daughter save that little frightened creature and how proud I am of my own children when they show their compassion by such a simple, selfless act. Meeting vibrant young people like Poppy informs me. It confirms that the present and the future is in good hands.
Life carries on
In the people I meet
In everyone that's out on the street
In all the dogs and cats
In the flies and rats
In the rot and the rust
In the ashes and the dust
Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on
In the people I meet
In everyone that's out on the street
In all the dogs and cats
In the flies and rats
In the rot and the rust
In the ashes and the dust
Life carries on and on and on and on
Life carries on and on and on
- Peter Gabriel
Friday, 29 May 2015
|The photograph I wanted to take|
Yes, this was the photograph I wanted to take when I saw all the polaroids laid out on Tina's worktop after the she had finished the shoot but I forgot and so I am very pleased that Tina thought along the same lines and did so. When I had my exhibition in Brighton as part of the Photo Fringe in October 2014, a guy who came to the exhibition left a copy of the Photomonth brochure with me and, in fact, put a cross next to his name but I have lost the magazine now and so I don't his name which is a shame because he seemed like a nice person and I am particularly grateful that he introduced me to Tina's work which is exceptional. There was a link to Tina's work and, when I saw it, I was hooked.
I sent her a message asking if she would photograph me and she replied agreeing to this but asked what parts of he work appealed to me because she had not really done much portraiture. What she didn't know was that it wasn't purely portraiture I was after. I wanted to be in a photograph taken by her. I liked the way her mind worked. In particular, I liked her series "My Mother's House" as I very much identified with this having made a documentary about my own mother's house a few years ago.
Tina is going to work on these images and I shall report on the the final picture in due course.
Tina is going to work on these images and I shall report on the the final picture in due course.
I love polaroids - they are like magic.
Thursday, 28 May 2015
|THE LITTLE BOY by Agnes Yu Hsin Su|
My mother was called Agnes - Geraldine Agnes Andrews. It is an old-fashioned name. When I met Agnes Yu Hsin Su, she did not appear to be part of the present. She was of a different time. A different place. In fact, I wonder if all that took place on that day did happen or did I fall asleep in the long grass and dream it? I met her for the first time on the concours at Brighton Railway Station. She was looking around, like me, awkwardly. We both raised a hand in acknowledgement and we came together and, as we greeted each other with a formal handshake, we were at one.
We drove to the Seven Sisters Country Park on the other side of Seaford. Oh, what memories. I had been to Seaford many times before - for the Hoffman Process and before that, to visit my younger sister at her new home which she shared with her new husband, a man with a mission which, unfortunately, did not include my sister. We left the car under some trees and crossed the busy road into the park. The sea and the cliffs were some way off but Agnes began to look for some long grass. We had been talking to each other since Brighton; two people who had not met before and who were unlikely to meet again locked in a conversational embrace which now and again included the serene silence of friendship.
We stopped alongside a large open area next to the path and she asked me to lie on my back at first and then on my side and then to close my eyes and allow myself to drift away in thought and deed. She went up on to the hill above me and the sound of her feet brushing the grass faded as she moved further away or was I falling asleep? I heard the other visitors strolling by, their chat and laughter muted as if they were in another room. Then, click, beside me. Agnes had come back or maybe she had never gone away. I opened an eye and through the fresh green stalks of meadow grass, I saw her kneeling very close, looking at me intently. It was one of the few times that I would have liked to photograph my photographer. I closed my eye and I felt her circle my body.
I was drifting into slumber when she asked me to stand up.
The wind was brisk and Agnes was fascinated by the sea foam which was blowing on to the bank of the inlet which snaked into the park - it looked like a special effect in an old and not very good British film with a small snow budget. I feared Agnes was going to ask me to lie in it but she merely asked me to stand near it for the final shots. She was satisfied with what she had got and, although she had also intended to photograph me inside a favourite cafe, we both knew that we had some good photographs and, anyway, it was getting close to the time by which she had to return to London. We bought some ice creams and ate them before crossing the road to the car. We arrived in Brighton and we hugged goodbye like brothers, brothers in arms, and then she turned to walk into the station and I turned towards my car.
Had it happened? It must have done because who could have taken these beautiful pictures?
No-one but Agnes.