|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.
Sunday, 19 June 2016
Saturday, 18 June 2016
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
Sunday, 12 June 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.
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.
Monday, 30 May 2016
|INSOMNIAC IN SILK by Richard Nicholson|
What or who caused me to meet Richard? Was it Jane who had seen the advertisement for the sale of the contents of a house in Fournier Street and arranged for us to go to the sale that day thus prompting me to jump ship (or rather the Tube) at Temple on the return journey in order to look round the Photo London exhibition at Somerset House? Or was it her sister who was going to go with Jane but didn't so I did? Or was it Imogen Freeland who mentioned that she was going to Photo London which, until then, I didn't know was on? Or was I always going to meet him? Whatever - meet him I did as I rushed round Photo London looking at as much as I could in the hour I had set aside for this (never again - the rushing, not Photo London). Richard was at the end of one of the "wings"of the exhibition area sitting next to five wonderful prints of his, three of old cinema projection rooms and two of old darkrooms, all of which are now barely used. He introduced himself and told me something of his project. He knew about mine but I told him of my children's and my love of the cinema and of the story of the Odeon 1 sign which l had picked up following the demolition of the old Guildford Odeon in 1997.
I liked talking to him and, when I got home, I looked up more of his work on his website and wrote suggesting that l could try to squeeze him in before the last shoot, particularly if he was willing to come down to Brighton which it turned out he was. He wrote saying that he would bring a camera, tripod and some battery-powered lights with the intention of working with the same aesthetic he was developing in his 'projection' pictures. This would involve pushing me far back in the frame, allowing the space, and the object it contains, to take over. He said that Michael Fried discusses this in the context of Jeff Walls' work in his book "Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before". This also meant that he was interested in having his subject absorbed in something (rather than looking into the camera) and, when he came down, the cricket was on TV and he said how much he had liked Ben Roberts photograph of me listening to the cricket on the radio. This all sounded good to me ("You just keep doing the thinking, Butch - that's what you're good at").
I collected him from the station and we had a cup of tea and initially watched a slideshow of all the images I had so far received. We talked a lot whilst he fiddled with his lighting and I told him that I had never, at any time, tired of watching the photographers fiddle, either with lights or objects in the shot or the dials on the camera. It was all part of the enjoyment of the shoot - apart from anything else, it showed their commitment to the shoot. His aim was to show me concentrating on the cricket in the middle of the night and, although this shot is a fiction, in that it was the afternoon, it is an honest representation of so many things. I used to be much more nocturnal before my DBS surgery and the silk dressing gown was a present from my brother when I was in hospital for the DBS. When I used to wake up during the night, if I didn't write poetry, I would certainly have watched the cricket on TV if England were playing in Australia.
Richard sent this the next day - it was the most natural pose he said. He also added that photographing me was a great way to spend a bank holiday and I certainly felt the same way about being photographed by him. I love this photograph - the light, the position of the door, the cushion on the right in the foreground, my father's Neville Cardus book on the table and my left hand on my thigh, half in shadow. What a stroke of luck going to Photo London that day.
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
|LOOK THROUGH ANY WINDOW by Graham Nash|
So, this guy, a Scottish soldier called Robert the Bruce, took shelter in a cave and pondered how on earth he was going to defeat the English and, as he sat there, he saw a spider trying to make a web. Time and time again, the spider would try to attach a web to the wall of the cave but it kept falling until, eventually, it succeeded. Robert was so inspired by the tenacity and patience shown by this spider that he went into his next battle with the English at a place called Bannockburn with fresh hope and won the day. "If at first you don't succeed, try, and try and try again". I have sent tweets to Graham Nash, I have tried to contact his agents but no luck. Last night, after the concert had ended at the Union Chapel, I approached a man who appeared to be his head roadie and tried falteringly to explain about "Over the Hill" but he said Graham was busy entertaining his guests but suggested that I come to Guildford the next day and try again. I did. Guildford turned out to be my Bannockburn but without the carnage.
Just as Graham got off his tour bus with his lovely girlfriend on his arm, I went up to him and asked if I could have a few minutes of his time. He looked a bit mystified but I managed to make some sense as I told him about "Over the Hill". He said "That is a great project!" I asked him if he would photograph me but he didn't quite understand my request "So, you want me to photograph you??" he said. "Yes!" I replied. He looked almost relieved. "Of course I will!" he responded. I gave him my camera and he suggested I stand in front of his tour bus. I did and he clicked five times. Then I asked if I could have a picture of us both together. He agreed readily and his girlfriend, who said she was a photographer also, took the camera whilst I put my arm around my new mate - Graham Nash, Photographer, Artist, Musician, Composer, all time nice guy.
I got home just now and downloaded the pictures on to my computer and it was then I saw Graham's reflection in the window of the bus. It was as if he was he was looking through the window at me. And do you know what you see when you look through any window? Smiling faces all around. Well, in this case, my smiling face. I shook his hand and congratulated him on his performance last night. He said that he was going to do a couple of different songs tonight and he looked at me out of the corner of his eye and said " 'Cos I've written a lot of good songs, you know" I know you have Graham and you have taken a lot of good photographs. He asked me which was my favourite song of his. "Our House " I said straightaway and, as I said it, I recalled how beautiful it sounded when the audience joined in and sang it with him last night. I said goodbye and, as I sat in my car to call Jane to tell her, I wept. Why? Oh I don't know - because life can be so bloody wonderful sometimes. Ask the spider.
POSTSCRIPT - Jane's brother-in-law called, slightly pissed, late on the night of Graham Nash's concert in Guildford to say that he had had just spoken to his brother who had been at the concert and who said that Graham Nash had told the audience at the end that he had met a guy called Tim Andrews that afternoon who had Parkinson's Disease and who had asked him to take his photograph and that he had asked him which of his songs was his favourite and had received the answer "Our House". "This one's for you, Tim" he said.
I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today
Staring at the fire for hours and hours while I listen to you
Play your love songs all night long for me, only for me
Come to me now and rest your head for just five minutes, everything is good
Such a cozy room, the windows are illuminated by the
Sunshine through them, fiery gems for you, only for you
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy 'cause of you
And our la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
Our house is a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy 'cause of you
And our I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase that you bought today
|GRAHAM NASH with Shayne Fontayne|
But he is not only (only!) a musician but a great artist and his photographs are filled with the same wit, romance, despondency and hope as drive his songwriting. And I am off to Guildford today armed with a letter which I shall deliver to his dressing room and hope that he might, just might, read it and that he might, just might, photograph me. I don't want to be a pain and so I would rather he didn't if he felt that I was but......wish me luck.
Dear Graham, 25th May 2016
I am outside.
I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005 and so you could say I have been an outsider for 11 years. But that would not be correct.
In 2007, I answered an advert in Time Out from Graeme Montgomery a photographer looking for people to photograph for a book of ‘real’ nudes as opposed to professional models. I thought “Why not?” I had retired from my job as a lawyer and so I no longer had a reputation to consider.
Well, to cut a very long story short, eventually I started approaching photographers explaining that I wanted to continue on the path of being photographed by different people during the course of my illness.
Since 2007, I have been photographed by 405 photographers, some amateur, some student but mostly professional including Rankin, Mike McCartney, Grayson Perry, Jillian Edelstein, Steve Bloom and Jill Furmanovsky and it has been wonderful. I have raised funds for the charity, Parkinson’s UK and awareness of the disease by holding 9 exhibitions and appearing on The Culture Show on BBC TV and being featured in many Newspapers and photographic journals.
I have loved your music since the days of the Hollies, through the times with CSN & Y and then last night when I watched your superlative performance at the Union Chapel. I also think you are a wonderful photographic artist. I live in Brighton and I have travelled here today to ask you a question.
Will you please photograph me?
I am outside.
Friday, 20 May 2016
|POUR ME ANOTHER by Jill Furmanovsky|
Jill likes a smile. It reassures her. I think I smiled in this shoot almost as much as in all the other shoots put together - partly because Jill wanted me to but mainly because I was having a good time. Jill has a studio in Kentish Town and collected me from the Tube station and took me there in her car. Although she had told me beforehand that she was a shy person and wanted to meet me in advance of the shoot in order to get to know me, we had not yet met but I felt in tune with her the moment she approached me outside the station - she was smiling. I like a smile. It reassures me.
Her studio felt very comfortable and it was dotted with all sorts of interesting stuff - a collection of old vintage cameras, various photographic books, photographs of bands including a wonderful collage of pictures of Oasis in rehearsal. In fact, it was a photograph of that band in the Guardian Weekend magazine which caught my eye and prompted me to write to Jill. She is a child of the 60s/70s and took her first rock picture in 1967, of Paul McCartney, with an instamatic camera. Soon after starting her course at the Central School of Art, she went to see "Yes"in concert at the Rainbow and somehow blagged her way to the front of the audience pretending to be a professional photographer and ended up taking a whole roll of film and then, with a further bit of blagging, she got offered a shoot by another photographer and, not only that, she was offered and accepted a job as the Rainbow's official photographer - not bad going for a shy person, eh? She has never looked back since. She worked with some of the biggest names in Rock music including the Rolling Stones, Madness, Pink Floyd, U2, the Pretenders and Rod Stewart. I told her that I was at University in London in the early 70s and we talked about the NME and people like Nick Kent and Charles Shaar Murray. She told me little snippets of stories about Mick Jagger, the Gallagher brothers, Madness and Chrissie Hynde but she never betrayed any confidences.
Initially, she took some close-ups and at one point, she showed me her famous photograph of Charlie Watts, and continued with even more close shots of that kind. Her other idea was to to recreate one of Jane's paintings - I was a bit nervous about this because, although it was flattering that Jill liked Jane's images, I did not wish to appear to be stepping into Jane's domain uninvited and I told her of my misgivings. However, we agreed that we would have a go at using aspects of her work to inspire us and Jill produced two peacock feathers similar to those in Jane's painting, "Dumbstruck" and suggested that I pressed these to my bosom with a pillow as in Jane's picture "The Things We Love". People often ask if Jane has ever painted a picture of me - I suppose there might be a possible reference to me in some in that I am a part of her life and my illness has affected her quite drastically but whether it is Jane's intention to specifically document this in any picture, I have no idea. I rather doubt it.
Jill called a halt and, after giving me her signed copy of her book, "The Moment", she returned me to the Underground and I was able to ponder on my few hours with one the foremost rock photographers of our generation. I received some photographs fairly soon after the shoot and, although, I had the feeling that I would choose a close-up similar the one featuring Charlie Watts, I found myself increasingly drawn to those inspired by Jane's paintings. They had a dynamism about them plus the smile, of course, or maybe due to the smile. I was spoilt for choice because they were all magnificent. I looked through them again and kept stopping at this one. I was the right choice. I was reassured. After all, we all like a smile. Don't we?
Monday, 16 May 2016
|SACRIFICE by Ameena Rojee|
.......and then Ameena and I moved to the other end of the crypt to the small chapel lit by the beautiful dappled light pouring through the stained glass window. Ameena asked me to stop at the entrance with the black cloth wrapped around me and I stood there like Jennifer Jones in the film Salome, although Jennifer Jones never appeared in Salome but, if she had......
I cannot recall who decided that I should lie on the ground in front of the altar but I do know that we were of one mind in this respect. Ameena arranged the cloth about me and I waited. She asked me to move a little to the left - click - and then to the right - click. Silence for a while as Ameena looked at what she had taken. "Close your eyes" - click - "Open them" - click - "Look up" - click. More silence as I heard her move the dials back and forth (I have never ceased to love hearing that noise). "Can you move your right arm behind you?" I do the best I can - click - "Leave the other hand where it is - it looks great" -click - "Right leg up and left leg straight" - click - "Now your legs the other way round". As I lie there waiting for the next click or direction, I begin to feel cold and my mind wanders ahead to handing the keys in at the vicarage opposite. I wonder how the photographs will look - it feels right being naked in this place; there is a curious innocence about it. And why not? Why should the naked body automatically suggest otherwise? It is a difficult subject - there are as many arguments as there are people discussing them.
It was getting late and we had done all we could and Ameena called a halt. We both felt completely satisfied. We had done this place justice. I was shivering as I pulled on my underpants and Ameena started to pack things away. I suggested to her that we took a picture of both of us on the timer, maybe under the cloth facing each other. She set the camera up on the tripod as I stood waiting with half the cloth over me and then she dashed forward and we both laughed as she disappeared under the other half just in time. We tried two more and that was it.
We packed everything away and re-instated what we had moved and then blinked as we stepped outside into the welcome warmth of the sun. We chatted briefly to Henry the vicar and handed the keys back to him. We were both in need of a little smackerel of something so we stopped at an expensive looking cafe/restaurant at the edge of the canal and had a snack and a drink and talked about the day and Ameena's forthcoming road trip across the States. She said that she would have time to send me some photographs before her departure and so she did. And they did not disappoint. There were so many good images that I began to look at them in two sections and realised that I would have to chose one from each.
This was my and Ameena's choice from the chapel. The kaleidoscope of light on my body and on the tiled floor together with the beautiful gold of the reredos, the white altar cloth embroidered in crimson and the green and gold twists of the column at the side combine to create a picture of such richness. Ameena described it as decadent and there is a wanton feel to it but I remembered how I felt as I lay there and so.....oh I don't know, maybe it is decadent now I look at it. Either way, it is a gorgeous image of light and colour and that hand........
|RUSH HOUR by James O. Jenkins|
For me, and I guess for many people, the name of James O. Jenkins will be associated forever with Portrait Salon which James founded with Carole Evans in 2011 as a response to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize. Its aim is to showcase the best of the rejected images from the Taylor Wessing prize. Strangely, I had never met James even though I have worked with many photographers whom he knows well and probably I have attended many exhibitions where he has been present, not least the Portrait Salon exhibition in 2015 at the Embassy Tea Rooms. But I quite like the idea that we had been in many rooms at the same time over the years but never met. However, equally strangely, when I did meet him that day on London Bridge, I felt that we had met before - his face lit up by a lovely smile, seemed very familiar. So what, you might say. So nothing really but these things interest me.
I first wrote to James in May 2013 - 3 years, 156 photographers, a Baby (his, not mine), a brain operation (mine, not his) and 54 emails later, we met at 8am on London Bridge for the shoot. It had always been James' idea to photograph me on the bridge in the rush hour only with me not rushing. Originally, we conceived the idea of a much more crowded bridge and perhaps trying out Waterloo Bridge as well and from a more elevated position (him, not me) but I think this shot as it is works better as a portrait with a bit of space around me. I look as if I am wearing fancy dress but Jane remembers when her father used to dress like this in the 1950s and 1960s as did all the other commuters who rushed across this bridge at this hour of the day.
I like being photographed but the best part of the morning was when James and I went for a coffee and a croissant and had a good long chat about matters photographic. He is such a nice guy and it was an easy and relaxing conversation. Eventually, it was time to go and I said goodbye to photographer number 404 and walked back to the Underground over an almost empty London Bridge. I received the images fairly quickly and they were all excellent but we both agreed on this one.
A nice morning, a nice shoot, a good chat, a lovely guy (him, not me) and a very satisfied model (me, not him).
|HIDDEN by Ameena Rojee|
It all started in November 2013 when I was invited by Shawn Sobers, a senior lecturer in Photography and Media at the University of the West of England (UWE), to speak to his students about my project. Ameena was one of those students. She then started to follow me on Twitter and after receiving a few tweets from her, I decided to look at her work on her website and there was one self portrait in particular which shone out. It was like honey and it had deep, beautiful dark tones and I thought "Yep!" and wrote to her in April 2014 asking if she would be interested in photographing me. She replied saying that I had made a miserable and rainy day much better. I am so surprised when people say such nice things because I am so honoured that they will even consider photographing me for one moment. I mean, they have produced all this brilliant work and all I have done is sit/stand/lie/run/dance in front of a camera a number of times. Anyway, so the answer was yes and yet, even though we were both so keen, it took two years to get the shoot together. In the meantime, I went along to the Private View of the UWE Degree Show in London and there I met Shawn of course but I also met Ameena who was absolutely charming and we chatted briefly about working together and she said that she would send me a moodboard which she did - twice! There then followed a lot of ideas being sent backwards and forwards until I sent her some photos of a church crypt where I had been part of a group shoot. I adored the natural light which poured through the windows and Ameena felt the same and so shooting there became our aim. But then..........silence..........broken only by a short period of correspondence when Ameena kindly invited me to be interviewed online for the printspace which would be included in a regular guest spot for the World Photography Organisation. That all went well and then..........more silence....................I got tied up with other things and then one day I went to see the new Tarantino film "The Hateful Eight" which I did not like at all and I tweeted my views. Ameena 'liked' my tweet and I remembered that I had not followed up the idea about the church crypt by contacting the vicar. I said that I would do so but then..........even more silence.........until Ameena 'liked' another tweet and this time I picked up the telephone and did what I should have done months before - I called the vicar and set up a shoot and, within a few days, I was standing outside the church watching Ameena crossing the road towards me and we greeted each other enthusiastically. I had already obtained the key and so had a look at the crypt and reminded myself how brilliant it was for the shoot and Ameena was suitably impressed as I showed her around.
One of her early ideas involved using a translucent black cloth. She had brought a cloth with her but it wasn't translucent but it turned out to be just what we wanted. We started shooting in the chamber lit only by the light coming through the clear window. I undressed and she placed the cloth over my head and I faced the light and then turned away. There were some lights down there and although these provided a variation to the tone of the photographs, Ameena preferred the natural light.
We then tried various other poses, with and without the cloth, until eventually we moved into the small chapel at the other end of the crypt but that is another story because for only the fourth time in nine years, I decided to choose two photographs from the same shoot for my project because they were both so good. I love this one - particularly the light on the cloth highlighting the folds of material and the fact that my head is slightly bowed in awe.....of what? The wonder of friendship, the coming together of an old man and a young woman in companionship and collaboration in the pursuit of an artistic vision which has provided me and Ameena with such joy and fulfilment. I am going to miss these feelings so much but it has to end. The time is right. But I tell you what - I am so glad that Ameena waited so patiently for our afternoon in the light for this is a beautiful photograph taken by someone who is assured and confident, talented and perceptive. Not hidden away but revealed as an artist of great stature - and perseverance!
Saturday, 14 May 2016
|UN PORTRAIT by Nicola Laborie|
Don't worry - I am not going to subject you to a blogpost in French, especially my French. This was, in terms of organisation, arranged quite quickly even though I first contacted Nicolas in October 2015 after coming across his work via Twitter. There were only a few emails between us but I had this distinct feeling that it was all going to come together because we both really wanted it to and every email seemed an important and significant step forward.
I found Nicolas' website when his name came up on Twitter - I am always a sucker for the Wet Plate Collodion method but the work on his website was particularly beautiful and well, modern. So I wrote to him and he responded and immediately we tried to arrange a date to meet but it didn't happen and before I knew it, we were in May and I had announced that my project was to end. Nicolas was one of the people I pursued in order to squeeze him in before the end and at last we arranged a day when he had an hour to spare - and I was late! I arrived outside his studio, panting and sweating and called him as I wasn't sure I had got the right entrance. He said he would come down. This guy appeared wearing what looked like a butcher's apron which was blotchy with all the collodion, silver nitrate and whatever else he had been getting messy with that morning. He beamed as he walked towards me and I felt very welcome. He took me up to his studio which, like many photographers' studios, was an organised mess. I put my bag on his sofa and noticed the pictures of old Hollywood stars on the wall as I did so.
So, in the end, we had about 45 minutes not helped by a plate which kept sticking. But Nicolas knows his stuff and worked quickly and methodically, scuttling to and fro with an infra-red torch on his head, and we got this shot done and I was so pleased with it. Apart from the wonder of seeing it suddenly appear, I was very moved by it for some reason - I think it is something to do with the method of producing the photograph - each one is totally unique and has the stamp of the photographer on it and the little imperfections were there that day and then apart from all that - there I am with downturned mouth, my DBS scar just visible and a little quiff of hair on my otherwise bald pate.
We were running out of time but Nicolas agreed to do a couple more including a nude which worked well and we both liked the fact that, in the process, my head was obliterated thereby emphasising the nakedness. Yes, I know there is this question of the difference between being nude or naked and what the two words mean but it doesn't concern me - I am either dressed or undressed and if it the latter, then I am nude, naked, bare, unclothed, whatever.
The time was up and Nicholas showed me downstairs where we said a fond farewell and c'est ca! All over in less than an hour. So, voilà! Un Portrait by Nicolas Laborie. Merci beaucoup, Nicolas!
Sunday, 8 May 2016
|MY RIGHT FOOT by Imogen Freeland|
Now, do you know what this foot has done during the last 65 years? No? Well then I shall tell you. I was always predominately right-footed when I played football unlike the great Glenn Hoddle of Tottenham Hotspur and England who could play sublime football with either foot. I had Polio when I was 7 and it was thought that it only affected the muscle in my right thumb but I loved playing so much that I think, in a small way, it probably affected the whole of the right side of my body. I scored a lovely goal in the University Five-a-side match in about 1973. I was standing on the edge of the penalty area and I called for the ball and smacked it straight into the goal. With my right foot.
Before that I kicked a dent in the door of the sitting room at Berry Cottage, our childhood home in West Wittering. We had no money and my mother, who was terribly romantic, bought a Great Dane from the local Dog Rescue Unit. I couldn't believe how she could do this when we hardly had enough to live on. I didn't understand that, sometimes, we have to fulfil our fantasies and who the hell was I to make a big deal about it? Anyway, it left a dent after I kicked the door. With my right foot.
Two more things. The first relates to my right shin rather than my foot but, as my shin is in this photograph, it has relevance. On 26th September 2011, I was photographed by the great Kirsty Mitchell for her Wonderland project. After the first shot, we moved to a new location. Stupidly, I carried a box of stuff as we set off through the woods and because of this, banged my right leg on a thick branch and a huge lump appeared under my stocking. Eventually, after some weeks, it went down but it never completely disappeared. You can just see it in this photograph. And, finally, I got Cellulitis in my right foot in December 2015 - it was not fun. So nothing very exciting about all that but what is exciting about this picture is that it was taken by Imogen Freeland who spent a few hours at my home photographing me.
I had never met Imi before but we got on very well. She asked me to undress from the start and we moved from one room to another. The photographs are very stark and bright. Your eyes have nowhere to hide. My body is presented in such a way that challenges the viewer to answer the question - what is a body? A conduit, a casing that houses......me, my essence, my brain, my beliefs, my memories and my fears. This photograph is beautiful. It shows a part of me that is slowly disintegrating but still boasts a resilience, lines from the past and a faltering strength. It speaks for my whole body. It has almost had enough... but not quite. For, as long as I have that urge to run up and kick a ball that comes bouncing my way, I shall keep going. That urge. That urge is me.
I came across Imogen''s work in March 2016. It was intrusive, honest, raw, beautiful. Perhaps at last, I had found what I had been searching for? Someone whose work I could dive into, let it wash over me, drown in. As I answered the door, I wasn't sure. As I made her a cup of tea, I wondered. As I showed her around the house, I hesitated. As I removed my clothes, I blinked. Then she took the first photograph. Yes, this could be it - yes, I think so. Then she photographed my right foot.
Thursday, 5 May 2016
Wednesday, 4 May 2016
|THE KING OF LIMBS by Joe Wright|
There is something very sensual about this photograph and I am not talking about my body but the fact that my naked body is lying on this huge branch of this incredible oak tree, aptly named "The King of Limbs" and which has been growing for 1,000 years. You can see the path of that growth in the lines of the bark interrupted by the knots and burls. When I first set eyes on that tree that day, it looked from a distance as if it had expired. The branches were splayed out on the ground like the legs of a spider but as I moved towards it, I saw the new growth, sprouting buds of bright green and then realised that the sap was still rising in those flaccid limbs. This spider was very much still alive.
I first heard of Joe on Twitter - he was one of a quartet of Landscape photographers the others being Rob Hudson, Steve Segasby and Al Brydon, all of whom I had worked with before (the four of them have now formed a collective called "Inside the Outside") However, I had not yet made Joe's acquaintance and neither had I had a chance of looking at his work online although he regularly joined in conversations on Twitter with his comrades. I announced the end of my project and posted a tweet about it and Joe sent me a direct message asking if there was any possibility of working with me. I had loved working with Rob, Steve and Al and so I was immediately inclined to say yes but took a peek at his work online and swooned. His love of history and of nature was obvious in his succulent photography and so I replied "Let's do it!" I arranged to meet him at Swindon station and there I was approached by a man with a friendly smile. He seemed much shorter than I had imagined from Al Brydon's description but, when he walked straight past me, I realised that it wasn't Joe. I came out of the exit and saw someone wave from inside his car across the forecourt. I thought I am not going to be fooled again but, this time, the guy uncoiled himself from his car and a very tall Joe Wright appeared and greeted me.
We drove for some time out of Swindon and Joe talked of his life in the country, his day job and where we were going. I talked of my life by the sea and the ending of my project and the time passed by very pleasantly until we arrived at Severnake Forest. It was enormous and apparently full of incredibly ancient oaks and other trees. We parked and Joe put on his multi pocketed ex-army belt which led into a brief story of his military career. At first, we set off on foot along established paths but then, in between breathless (me) chats about this and that, last year's growth of dark orange leaves of fern fizzed and dead wood cracked as we stepped into more overgrown areas and Joe led the way towards the tree by which he intended to photograph me. I cannot remember the name of the tree but its original trunk had been huge - I guess about five foot in diameter, maybe more - although there were only now two large wings of bark jutting up out of the earth but thick branches were lying around the decimated trunk and had new growth unfurling on more healthy dark brown shoots. The tree was in a clearing made especially to enable the tree to suck as much light as it could into its aged body. At first I stood as directed by Joe in my jeans and trainers and shirt but I thought that I could not be in a place like this and be photographed in my clothes. We had not discussed this beforehand but Joe knew that some of his friends had photographed me unclothed before and so I thought he would not be fazed by this suggestion and he wasn't. I stood behind the trunk and then offered to curl up on the ground in the nest formed by the remains of the trunk not realising what dangers lurked in its squishy floor.
At this point, Joe produced two bars of chocolate from one of the many pockets in his belt and we had a break as Joe told me something of the past history of the forest as well as his ongoing project about the Lost Forest of Bradon which involved an investigation of Bradon Forest by retracing and walking its ancient boundaries now straddled by more recent residential and commercial development as well as parts of the M4 Motorway all of which seemed a far cry from where we were standing at that moment. I was fascinated and quite moved because Joe told his story in a very modest manner but with justifiable pride. He was becoming another very enjoyable companion in a long line of such in my project.
Eventually, we made our way towards The King of Limbs. It stood or rather lay at the end of a broad stretch of grass like an exhibit at the end of a long corridor in a museum. It was beautiful and, as soon as I saw the long undulating branch which pointed back towards the aisle of green, I wanted to lie on it and stretch out and do you know what? I did! And here is the proof. When I saw the photograph, I loved it for its simple sensual beauty. I hesitated about choosing it because, as Jane pointed out, I have been photographed stretched out before but this is different. I am dwarfed by the enormity of the branch and the contrast between my pale skin and the dark brown of the bark accentuates my smallness. I used to resent the fact that trees would outlive me but no more. After we finished this shot, I agreed merrily to curl up in the tree's core again oblivious of the hidden dangers.
Joe took me back to Swindon Station and, as the train made its way eastwards and I watched the houses slowly disappear I thought of a time one thousand years ago when Canute became the King of all England and a small green shoot appeared in the corner of a vast forest in Wiltshire and another king was born. The next day I noticed a small speck on my left foot. I picked it off and looked at it under a magnifying glass and saw a tick waving at me. I found two more and removed them. As a precaution, I made an appointment with my GP who shivered when I told her. "Ooh" she said with a curled lip, "I don't like ticks" as she looked at my back and in my hair for more. She prescribed a single dose of antibiotic as a precautionary measure and so far (touch wood or maybe not), there is no evidence of infection but maybe it is a good thing that my days of lying naked on trees are coming to an end. But then, look at this great photograph.
Tuesday, 3 May 2016
|TIM TAKES A BOW by Ben Smith|
I am not normally comfortable having my photograph taken in public in front of lots of people but on this day, it was fine, partly due to having had a good long chat with Ben beforehand and partly due to the fact that Ben was standing very close to me and we were very much in the same zone, cut off from everyone else. It helped that we positioned ourselves right outside Oxford Circus Tube Station where everyone was rushing past and in and out of the station itself, not stopping to look at this guy taking a bow.
The people from Twitter recommended Ben as someone I might wish to follow and I looked up his work and found that I was smiling whilst I was looking and even talking to myself. Every photograph tells a story and makes you chuckle at the same time. It seemed to me that Ben would make an interesting picture and so he did. We arranged the shoot very quickly and met in a cafe off Carnaby Street, a place where weirdly, I had never been to before. We left London in 1964 but I was only 13 then and, by the time I returned to go to London University in 1971, the Swinging Sixties were over. I was always lagging behind in the fashion and music scene. When the Beatles grew moustaches, I was still at school and so I grew mine after they had broken up. I started wearing bell bottoms late and I was still wearing them when everyone else had discarded theirs or taken the bells out of the bottoms. I got into Leonard Cohen years after his heyday and never got into Dylan or the Stones at all until they (and I) were old. Never mind, I have kept my fair isle sleeveless jumper so I can wear it when "Magical Mystery Tour" is finally accepted as the masterpiece it has always been to me. Yep, I am so out of fashion that I am almost in fashion...but not quite.
Anyway, back to Ben. He asked me if there were any places in London which meant a lot to me and I gave him a long list which did not contain the exit from Oxford Street Tube Station but I have come out of that entrance many times over the years - for example, when I went to see "The Great American Backstage Musical" at the Regent Theatre in about 1974, when I went to see "WR Mysteries of the Organism" at the Academy Cinema in 1971 and then later when Jane and I were interviewed on an obscure BBC TV news channel about our joint exhibition at Farley Farm in 2013 which was roundabout the same time I wangled my way into Nadav Kander's Private View of his "Bodies" exhibition. Yes, the same Mr Kander who has now missed the chance of photographing me. Look at me, off on a tangential journey down Memory Lane again.
So Ben and I met in this cafe. He was immediately warm and welcoming in his manner and we had a good old gossip about the photographers we both knew. Ben is the kind of chap that it is easy to bow in front of in a busy London Street. Just look at the expression on my face - see? That's what Ben is like. He said that he had asked someone to assist and after about twenty minutes' natter, a lovely girl called Jess Heale arrived. We chatted some more about what we were going to do and then set off for the station where we set up and I started bowing and Ben started clicking and Jess held the reflector and urged people to keep walking past so that their movement contrasted with my static pose. I suppose we were there for about 45 minutes, maybe more with me bowing to Ben in front of gawping passengers in buses and taxis and shoppers rushing by on the street. We then made our way down to the Photographers' Gallery and Ben took some plain shots outside.
We then all had a snack for lunch and more chat about photography and what Jess was up to following her graduation from Westminster University the year before and that was it. We hugged and said goodbye. Very soon afterwards, Ben sent me three versions of the bow and we both agreed on this one. I love it - it has colour, movement, a dash of poignancy, more than a dash of wit and, as such, it has Ben Smith written all over it. As my namesake, Eamon Andrews, would have said "Tim Andrews, Lawyer, Actor, Model, fashion Icon - This is Your Life!"
Postscript: Ben suggests in his blog on his website that he kind of fucked the photograph up by not using a flash to fix me more sharply. It is a great image for all the reasons mentioned above. It is what it is. It was once to suggested to Paul that it might have been better if some of the songs on The Beatles' White Album had been jettisoned to make an even more brilliant single album to which he replied "But it's the White Album!"