|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.
Thursday, 10 November 2016
Sunday, 6 November 2016
Saturday, 29 October 2016
Yesterday, I received the following letter :-
I moved a little over two months ago and while packing boxes came across this print from the session with you in Milford. I'm afraid it has taken me rather longer than intended to get it in the post to you.
It happens to be a cyanotype contact print from the original 5x4'' negative. A one-off. I was given the paper around the time I was working on the project where I photographed you, and I was just playing around. Cyanotypes are usually only good for photograms (Think Anna Atkins.) I think this was a few hour's exposure on the small light box I had at the time, and was developed and fixed in plain water.
I'd forgotten about the various shots we took, and I think the kitchen was a great venue. While I was setting up the camera I recall your wife Jane describing your tremors as you posed , and I think there was talk of your daughter being in a play of some kind. But I may have all of that wrong. Anyway, the blue print on light paper is quite compelling, I think. It has a vague quality , not unlike my memory.
I hope you enjoy it, and add it as a footnote to your collection. I remain privileged to have been a part of it all.
With very best wishes,
Mark Russell photographed me in May 2007 and he was the second photographer to do so. He had advertised in Time Out for people to take part in a project where he was photographing people in their homes and, as with the first photograph by Graeme Montgomery, I had no idea that I was in the first stages of my project, "Over the Hill".
It is difficult to express my feelings about this letter. It is so beautifully composed but from my brief contact with Mark at the time and since, he has revealed himself to be a warm and sensitive human being with a great deal of love in his heart. I showed this to Jane and she was equally touched and said that we must frame the print and put it up with all the other special pictures we have dotted around the house. For it is special. This last nine years of Over the Hill has been so momentous for me. I have met so may lovely people; people that I would never normally have met in a million years and they have made me very, very happy.
Privilege. It is a gift of something that we feel is enjoyed by only rich people or those in influential positions of power and authority but, in fact, we are all privileged to have the gift of life (however long) and the opportunity to meet and relate to other human beings. When I was a lawyer, I felt privileged to be privy to the knowledge about my clients' personal affairs and to be asked to deal with them. I also feel deeply privileged to have known and worked with Mark and all the other 423 photographers.
Saturday, 18 June 2016
Every amount, no matter how small will help Sol - I realise that times are hard financially for everyone and that there are many deserving causes which require funds but if you can see your way to making a donation, this could lead to Sol getting her life back.
Please see - https://www.gofundme.com/savesolarixx - and make your donation there.
Thank you reading this far!
|Me and Sol|
Thursday, 16 June 2016
|TIM ANDREWS, FINALLY by Ben Hopper|
"Why do we cover our bodies but display our faces?" asked Ben Hopper on his website in the introduction to his project, "Naked Girls with Masks" - well, I guess there are several answers to that question and most of them will not be concerned with the issue of self censorship discussed by Ben at the time when he referred to his series as a form of "bold bodily communication, a parody of the self censorship which we all succumb to everyday". The photographs in this collection are beautifully shot and it was this clarity that I hoped would be applied to any picture taken by Ben if we ever managed to arrange a shoot. And I wanted to be naked wearing a mask too.
I first wrote to Ben in 2010 and he confirmed his interest but explained that he was insanely busy and it was a question of fitting me in at some time. I thought I would leave it a while and then contact him again. I didn't intend to leave it for five years but you know what, readers? I did! In 2015, I saw that he was embarking on a series, "Naked Men with Masks" and so I dropped him a line asking if he might include me. He was again very enthusiastic in his response and over the next few months, we tried to fix a date. Then I announced the end of "Over the Hill" and this really concentrated our minds and the day before the final shoot, I found myself with the very personable Ben Hopper in his London studio. His joy at taking photographs is infectious and he is very uncomplicated in his work and his attitude to nudity. We discussed people's concerns about nudity and Ben's viewpoint is so refreshing - so, people are photographed naked? So what? It was very liberating working with Ben because of this and also due to the fact that we were locked away in a cosy studio where we could do whatever we liked.
We tried various masks but this was the one he felt worked best of all. It sees me standing tall, unabashed and unembarrassed; it is beautifully clear and it says "So? I am naked. So what?" A fitting statement from the final photographer in my project. The next day is the end and will be with Graeme Montgomery who was the very first in May 2007.
WEBSITE : http://www.therealbenhopper.com/
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
|CLOSE TO THE EDGE by Wendy Pye|
The water was cool and almost still apart from a gentle ripple which washed over its surface like the breeze on my face. The sky was blue behind the cumulus clouds which moved slowly past the low evening sun and that was the reflection I saw as I stepped tentatively on to the wooden jetty. I got as close to the edge as I dared; I wanted to go right to the edge but the fear of losing my balance was too great. I looked up into the sun as it suddenly blazed out from behind a cloud as Wendy's almost orgasmic shouts from the bank to my left told me that the pictures were already excellent. She moved around me and shot from the back and then from the bank on the right. A young boy or girl (I couldn't tell which) was sitting on the grassy hill immediately opposite fondling his dog but then jumped up and ran up the incline and out of sight, his faithful pet scampering after him; it was as if it was too hard to bear for him to watch this naked man being painted by the glorious evening light. He must have wondered - why? I'm not sure I quite know the answer - there is a need to express myself in this way whether clothed or not. To say that this me. Maybe it is simply exhibitionism but I don't feel that. When I did my acting in the 1990s, I wanted to express myself on the stage. I wanted to become different people, get inside their heads and just be them. This project is not an act - it is me and perhaps finally, I have got inside my own head and begun to understand what is going on in there and who I am.
Once the child and his dog had left, we were completely alone apart from the creatures responsible for the odd 'gloop' as they flipped up for air or a crunchy snack. Bees and dragonflies whirled in the air and gerridae skated over the water haphazardly as I brushed my skin in an attempt to avoid any ticks setting up home in my body as they had done a few weeks earlier. It felt as if Wendy and I were locked away in our natural studio and that we could do whatever we wanted; like playing with my friends in Dollis Brook when I was little and giving absolutely no thought to anything else apart from our games. Wendy asked if I could crouch near the edge or lie down but the nearest I got to this was going on my hands and knees and shuffling as close as I could to the lip of the platform. But, once in that position, I stretched out like a praying mantis and tensed my body and looked up and down and straight ahead and, all the time, I felt a cold fear of falling into the water. It was wonderful.
Eventually, we stopped. Although we both wanted more, we had feasted to the extent that our senses were replete with the sounds of the insects charging about and the birds sending out their final messages of the day, the deep rough smells of nature and the breeze on our skin. We walked away from the lake completely satisfied. It was a coming together of a brilliant photographer, a beautiful location, the unique light from the sun and a man on an incredible journey in his attempt to get as close as he can to the edge.
Monday, 13 June 2016
|TIM by Jenny Lewis|
I had already announced the end of the "Over the Hill" project and on a bright June day, the journey up to East London, even for a shoot with someone as talented as Jenny Lewis, confirmed to me that I had made the right decision. It was a slog but......but.....as I approached her house, I began to feel that tingle of anticipation and, by the time I reached her front door, it was back to normal - what was she going to be like? What shots did she have in mind? I was full of excitement. Jenny opened the door with a huge smile and I sensed that she was looking forward to the shoot as I much as I was. We had a drink and we chatted about various things, how long she had lived in this beautiful house, my project, her work and then she took me into a front room and explained that she had photographed someone there recently and the light on the subject's figure was great and so she wanted to try that again. I was up for that and I think we tried a few with my shirt on and then with it off. It was only a short time before she announced that she had got what she wanted and here it is. A great portrait blessed with the gloriously natural glow of light from the window; my face is relaxed and my demeanour is assured and both speak of how quickly and how well we had got on together.
I first saw Jenny's work in The Sunday Times Magazine in February 2015 and, if that wasn't enough, I then looked at some of her other work on her website and the common thread in all these fantastic pictures is her genuine love of people. I cannot speak for all photographers but I do consider this love to be a very important attribute because it means that the person holding the camera is not portraying just the subject's outside appearance but digs deeper and one finds the portrait infused with so many more layers that form the the subject's character, his relationship with himself and other people and his fears, beliefs, hopes and loves.
Now and again, but not very often, I receive just one photograph from the photographer and, when I do, I am not at all frustrated by not being able to look at and consider other shots. I have such faith in these wonderful practitioners of this incredible art that I am fully satisfied with the one. And so it was in this case. Jenny sent me this great image and that was it. And look at it - a complete portrait. The lighting, my stance, my expression coaxed from me by Jenny with no hint of nervousness or playacting. It is a real and genuine image created by a woman at the peak of her powers. And I almost missed her - after the initial flurry of emails, we lost contact but, fortunately, Jenny had not forgotten and when she read some something about me, she wrote to me and we managed the squeeze in the shoot before the curtain came down for good. Phew! It would have been very unfortunate not only to miss the chance of working with someone of her deserved stature but also, having met her, someone so warm, engaging and likeable. I chose the title ''Silent Echo'' for this image but Jenny likes to keep such simple and sometimes that is entirely appropriate.- Henri Cartier-Bresson
“As time passes by and you look at portraits, the people come back to you like a silent echo"
“As time passes by and you look at portraits, the people come back to you like a silent echo"
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.
Wednesday, 8 June 2016
|A THOUGHT FOR LILY by Laurie Fletcher|
It is September 2015 and I am clearing out a box of old magazines including some photography journals and I see a photograph by Laurie. No, I cannot remember which journal or which photograph but I look up her website and find some wonderful work on there. I email her and my message disappears into her trash somehow but it is retrieved, rinsed through, hung up to dry, neatly ironed and read and replied to about 4 weeks later. It is a sort of yes in that she says that her normal method of working is to get to know the subject first and suggests we meet.
And meet we jolly well do.......eight months later when I arrive at her house for the shoot, nine days before "Over the Hill" is scheduled to end, we having corresponded fairly regularly in between bouts of illness on each side. We have a chat and a drink and then get straight down to it in her sitting room with some beautiful lillies. It is a very leisurely shoot and it makes me wonder at the wisdom of my decision to bring it to an end because it is the communication that I love so much, the communication with people I would never normally have associated with, really nice people like Laurie.
And then I receive this glorious photograph amongst many such images. Everything works - my expression, which is not empty but replete with thought, the cuff of my blue shirt, the sort of shirt which I would have worn every day to the office, the lillies out of focus but dominating the composition of the picture and their colour contrasting beautifully with the soft blue of my clothing, the green stalks and my pink skin. Su - bloody- perb. No surprise there - just take a look at the website and more jewels shining there.
The title? Obvious in some ways but reflecting on a very special person to me who I have lost but I hope will knock on my door again one day. One day soon.
Tuesday, 7 June 2016
|UNDER THE TABLE by Christopher Bethell|
The things these photographers ask me to do! Actually, I think that this was my idea but only after Mr Bethell had asked me to lie on the sofa under the cushions - so he started it. I first came across Chris when he sent in a selfie for Stuart Pilkington after Stuart had suffered his stroke and when I saw the selfie of him and his girlfriend, Bekky, with big grins on their faces, it struck me that he seemed to be a very nice fellow and so he is. I made a conscious decision not to use the selfies as a directory of possible photographers for my project but Chris wrote to me asking if he could photograph me as well as interview me for Vice.com, an online magazine. I looked at his work, liked what I saw and also Chris was highly recommended by Clare Hewitt and so the answer was yes but. The "but" was the fact that we only had a few days left before the end of "Over the Hill". We scurried back and forth in email land trying to fix a date and also decide on what we would do ( never at any stage was lying under a table mentioned) and, after ditching the idea of hauling a mobile studio around Brighton, we ended up shooting at my house on 7th June, ten days before the last shot.
On the day, Chris arrived at the door laden with camera equipment and smiles and accompanied by his friend Kevin who was going to assist him. I cannot for the life of me remember what we did first but during our time together we had lunch, Chris conducted the interview, we all looked at some of my silly films and Chris photographed me. I changed into a suit for the photographs and we did some on a bed and the bulk in our sitting room and I chose this one from a number of excellent shots. We had done some on the sofa already and a few from behind a curtain. Chris asked me to adopt a similar expression of suspicion and that, combined with my physical position makes for a strangely weird portrait. What else does it say? Down but not out? Help?!? Yes, I am lying under a table but so what? No, I think it is just an excellent photograph by a very talented photographer of a guy who is prepared to do almost anything in front of a camera. Simple as that.
Chris and Kevin packed up and said goodbye and, as I closed the front door, I felt sad and hopeful at the same time. Sad because this was the last shoot in my home in a project which has been a thrilling journey of exploration and discovery to which Chris has contributed not just a photograph but his companionship and friendship for the day. In these times of religious and political divisions and of isolationism and nationalism and any other ism you care to choose, the coming together of three people to make a photographic image may not sound much but it is precisely this sort of day that gives me hope for the future. But, if World War III should break out, I shall just hide under the table, After all, I have been there before.
Monday, 6 June 2016
|MAXIMUS MURUS by Lindsay Wakelin|
I sat on the train blinking. I have this problem opening my eyes particularly when I am tired - yes, I know everyone does and it is called feeling sleepy - but this is different; it is a known side effect of Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. Where was I? Oh, yes, sitting on the train to Colchester, blinking. I tried to do the Idiot's Crossword in the Guardian but I couldn't keep my eyes open so I gave up and put my paper away and settled down to ponder with my eyes closed. I thought of the first time I had been photographed by Lindsay, wearing a white tuxedo and holding a brain in one hand and a heart in the other. I thought of other Essex connections - the time I travelled to Chelmsford to see David Gower's last first class innings and he held my umbrella while I scrabbled about in my bag for his autobiography which he agreed to sign. The town of Coggeshall to where a girlfriend, Oonagh Clapham, went to live and work after my short relationship with her when we both worked at Chichester Festival Theatre together in the summer of 1973 - I loved her and wrote to her a number of times, hoping that she felt the same but she didn't. We met in London some years later and I took her to see a play and I think we may have had dinner together but nothing had changed except that she wore make up and had had her hair styled, neither of which she would have done in the free and easy days at Chichester. I never saw her again.
I caught the connection to Hythe where Lindsay was waiting for me. She didn't look any different to my memory of her. Blond hair and friendly smile but there was something else. Confidence. Yes, that was it. When she photographed me the first time in 2010, she rather played second fiddle to her friend, James Reynard who was also photographing me that day and she deferred to him for advice now and then but this time, she was assured and certain of what she wanted. She has her own studio in Hythe and we walked there together in the sunshine and chatted and reminisced all the while.
Her original idea for the shoot was me having eggs broken on my head and feathers raining down but there were no eggs. I cannot remember why but we did the feathers anyway which was good fun and, when it was over, we swept them all up and shook the remaining feathers off the floor covering through the door which opened out on to the River Colne below. The next idea was centred around the concept of Fragility and for this Lindsay wanted me to be tied up in bubble wrap and so I took everything off except my pants and Lindsay did the wrapping and then asked me to pop down onto a chair and pop I did.
That was it but Lindsay had either had another thought previously or decided on the spur of the moment to use a fur collar and she asked me to strip off and put it on my head. It felt and looked daft and so I played daft and we shot those as well and those were the images I was drawn to when Lindsay sent a selection through a short while later. And the confidence shines through all these images as well as her passion for Photography. Lindsay is a lovely person to spend an afternoon with - the feathers, bubble wrap and furry thing on my head were bonuses.
If there is one thing I am going to miss it is enjoyment of shooting in a studio locked away from everyone and going for it like Lindsay and I did here. Ho hum.
Commercial photography: lindsaywakelinphotography.com Family Photography: thefamilyphotographer.co.uk Wedding photography: loveinthelens.co.uk Female portraiture: Boudoirvous.co.uk Studio for rent: colchesterphotostudio.co.uk/ Lindsay's Blog: https://lindsaywakelin.co.uk/
Sunday, 5 June 2016
|GET DRESSED by Holly Wren|
Sometimes, photographers have been daunted by both the number of photographers who have preceded them or by the variety of ideas expressed in them. I don't know if that applied to Holly but her original idea was to make me up as a clown and get me to stand at a bus stop in my suit and carrying a briefcase very early in the morning. Well, dear readers, she did exactly that although the bus stop was ditched as none came up to her expectations. After the shoot, I waited, she pondered, I waited some more and she pondered some more but eventually, she had to accept that none of the shots satisfied her; it simply had not worked so she came back for more and this time, although she had some ideas whirring around in her head, she began to think outside the box but, at the same time, stuck with what she is extremely good at and that is taking portraits in her subject's environment.
We ended up with this brilliant shot taken in our sitting room which has been used on innumerable shoots (ditto the setee) - so how is this different to the others? Well, it is absolutely unique. It has a clarity in every aspect - the colour, the lines, the underlying thoughts (both hers and mine) and the composition. All superb. By the way, this is not to suggest that all previous images taken in this room are not as good - they were all wonderful but all different. The uniqueness also applies to the rest of the shoot in which we had great fun and Holly took what she thought were the least flattering portraits ever. I haven't seen them but I know what I did and I can imagine that she was correct! But this is a seriously good image and we were both very pleased with it.
I saw Holly's name mentioned in a photography journal in 2014 and looked up her work on her website and loved it. At first sight, quite conventional portraiture but it had something extra - a confidence and a clarity that shone like a beacon and gripped me. It took a long time for us to get together but I knew that I must include her in my project before it ended and how right I was. Holly is one of the nicest people I have met on this journey and an excellent photographer too. The perfect combination.
Saturday, 4 June 2016
|SWEET DREAMS by Vanja Karas|
It was in October 2014, five months after my DBS surgery, that I went on the London Independent Photography website and I came across the stunning work of Vanja Karas and what I saw there enticed me onto Vanja's own website. Just reading her CV will stun you - there really isn't much that she hasn't done already. She is a true artist always looking, examining, emoting and drinking in new experiences, thoughts and ideas. She began her creative career in theatre directing and from there moved on to work in a range of other visual arts media including film, video, multimedia, graphic design, print, textile design, site specific installations and conceptual art. All I wanted her to do was photograph me for God's sake!
And photograph me she did bringing all her creative instincts into play and producing an incredible set of images. We met some time after my initial contact, in the beautiful domed cafe at the V & A in London. She was very enthusiastic and we talked of the possibility of me being photographed in the cafe and in other buildings in London but then we lost touch until she discovered that my project was coming to a close and she contacted me again. Fortunately, we managed to fit a shoot in at my home. Vanja came down on the train in the late afternoon as she wanted the low light. I showed her around and she chose a few places as locations. It was a beautifully strange shoot in that we seemed to move from room to room as if we were floating on a raft on a stream of feelings and thoughts which ran slowly and silently through the house. As the day wore on, the light changed and I felt increasingly sleepy - not tired but that wonderful repose when you are with someone with whom you are completely comfortable and you just.........drop into slumber. I closed my eyes and then came to briefly as I heard the click of Vanja's camera as the lens brushed over my nakedness. I apologised for nodding off and I remember Vanja saying softly that it didn't matter and, again, I fell into a swoon of sleep only to be lifted out by another click.
This continued as we moved into another room. Vanja asked me to lie on the bed and close my eyes and I heard the sound of the crunching of the sheets as she rearranged them around me. Then silence. I could hear my breathing and the coarse screams of the seagulls which quietened as, yet again, I trembled on the edge of a doze only to be brought back again by a click or a rustle of sheet against my skin.
And then it was over. Vanja packed up all her equipment and said a quick hello/goodbye to Jane who by then had returned from a day's work in her studio. I took Vanja back to Brighton Station and we hugged like two old friends and I drove back home and thought to myself how wonderful this project has been. People like Vanja drift into my life and we spend a quite intense few hours with each other as they search for a particular shot. I am completely in their hands but each of us has complete trust in the other as we give ourselves over to the shoot, come what may. Needless to say, I adore these photographs. They are rich with colour and light and shadow. They say so much. They speak of dreams and fantasy and heavenly music. When Vanja realised that there was not much time to fit in shoot with me she wrote saying "It would be so great if we could squeeze something before you wrap up the project even if it is something very spontaneous. We could meet for a coffee and I can just take some snaps". Some snaps?!?
Sweet dreams till sunbeams find you
Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you
But in your dreams whatever they be
Dream a little dream of me
|UP CLOSE by Ryoko Uyama|
This photograph was taken on 4th June 2016 but this was not the first time I had worked with Ryoko. She assisted Pal Hansen on his shoot with me on 27th January 2011 which was also the day on which Pal and I were filmed for the feature on "The Culture Show" for BBC TV. Ryoko and I were recently re-introduced to each other by Gemma Day who photographed me in 2015. Louise Haywood-Schiefer, who also photographed me in 2015 and who used to assist both Pal and Gemma (but not necessarily at the same time) introduced Ryoko to Gemma and then Gemma re-introduced Ryoko to me. Geddit?? Ryoko must either have been very shy and reserved that day in 2011 or I must have been too tied up with all the shooting because I don't remember her being quite the bundle of energy that I met at Brighton Pier five years later.
left to right: Ryoko, Pal, three BBC crew members and me in 2011.
We met at 9am and it was as if we had been friends for life. We got on very well straightaway and set for the nudist beach as she wanted to photograph me unclothed. It was all very quick and first of all, she asked me to walk up and down as her intention was to do a composite of images of me walking past the camera. She also photographed me in the sea and then finally there was this close up. It is a beautiful shot. Everything appears to be perfectly normal but then when I examined it closely, I saw the faint lumps on top of my skull where the electrodes were inserted, the slightly greater droop of my left eyelid, the two small parallel creases on the left side of my chin, the drop of my right shoulder (or is it the tension in my left which makes it higher than the right?) and the line of the cable running down the left side of my neck towards the battery pack of my Multi Program(me) Neuro Stimulator in my left breast which is just out of view. All as a consequence of Parkinson's Disease. But a quick look just reveals a head shot of a 65 year old man.
It may not have been Ryoko's intention to show all these elements but what she has done is taken such an incredible forensic study of my face that these indications are there for all to see if they look closely enough and yet the tone and focusing do not immediately suggest such detail. There must be more technical terms to describe what I am trying to say and so forgive me for not knowing them.
What else? It is a serious picture and yet I am smiling. My expression says a lot about my feelings that morning. I am enjoying what I am doing and the company I am keeping. I am relaxed in that company and yet my eyes are searching for Ryoko's reassurance that I am doing what she wants me to do in front of the camera. This photograph says a great deal about the skill of a professional photographer who knows what she wants and how to catch it. It is simply superb.
Spot the Giant
29th May 2016
Gemma kindly introduced me to you, my name is Ryoko and indeed I have met you when I have assisted Pal Hansen at your shoot.
I remember you mentioned that you were looking for a photographer at the shoot then
but I didn’t want to offend Pal saying “ME!”
Looking forward to hearing from you.
All the best
Friday, 3 June 2016
|PEEKABOO! by Wendy Lee-Warne|
Wendy photographed me at the London College of Communication in November 2015 and she was such a joy to work with that it was almost inevitable that we would have another shoot; it felt that we had unfinished business. Why is she a joy? Well, she is so enthusiastic and up for anything. She smiles a lot and that is infectious. Because we had shot in the studio previously, she wanted this shoot in the open air and ideally on the beach and, as the previous shoot had eventually ended with some nude shots, we decided on the beach at Southwick in case this happened again and happen it did.
The light was perfect, dull and cloudy but the mood was the opposite, bright and sunny. We met at Brighton Station and we drove to the beach and chatted and laughed on the way and laughed and chatted on the sand and we tried some different shots including some on my hands and knees and it was one of those we both liked.
I feel very honoured to have worked with Wendy. When I first saw her work, it was very varied in style and content. She takes a great interest in her subjects and I felt that it would be fun to be with her and it was. However, there was also a tinge of sadness as the final shoot in two weeks' time was now on the horizon. Sad also because of the many happy shoots on this beach before with Julia Horbaschk, Sheryl Tait, Mike South, Itziar Olaberria, Charlie Clift, Eleanor Hones, Holly Oliver and Poulomi Basu.
|IN THE ARCHIVE by Antony Penrose|
"Who would you still like to be photographed by?""Living or dead?"
"Well, many years ago and we're talking 1980s or even 1970s here, I saw a photograph of hers in a Sunday Newspaper supplement called "The Picnic" and it fascinated me."
"What was it that you liked particularly?"
" Well, first of all it was a great photograph. The composition was perfect and each of the five people in the picture were doing something slightly different. Also, I was intrigued by the hedonistic lifestyle of the picnickers. It was a way of being that I hankered after but I was too uptight to dare put my toe in that water. It was that picture that first got me interested in photography."
"So, Lee Miller it is but she died some time ago so, who else?"
"Well, the next best person"
"Her son, Antony Penrose"
Soon after I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, I was on the computer at home and thought that I could search for Lee Miller. Up until that time, I hadn't really used the computer much and although we had one at work, I had only used it for work-related matters. So, I typed in "Lee Miller" and was directed to her archive website. There, all laid out, especially for me, were all her wonderful photographs and loads of information about her but what really caught my eye was the fact that one could visit Farley Farm, her home in East Sussex. Within minutes, I had booked two tickets and Jane and I travelled down to the village of Muddles Green a few months later and it was there that we first met Lee's son, Antony Penrose. We got there early and so first had a drink in the pub, "The Six Bells" which features in a few of her photographs. We then carried on a few yards up the road and parked near the house. We congregated with the other visitors in the hall with the beautiful flagstone floor and I began to get a sense of the history of the place. Antony introduced himself and his daughter, Ami and also his former Nanny, Patsy, and we were taken for a tour around the house which was riveting and then, at the end, we had a cup of tea and a chat with Antony. I came away from there even more in love with Lee and her work than ever before and also with the realisation that Antony was as much a fan as I was.
I returned to Farley Farm for another tour with my darling niece, Olivia, and then, a few years later, Jane and I attended a talk given by Antony at Charterhouse School. We were invited to the dinner afterwards and Jane sat next to Antony and they chatted about her work. We then swapped places and I told him about "Over the Hill" and also took his photograph as part of another project where I was photographing someone different every day for a year. We kept in touch and he began to take a close interest in Jane's work and in 2011, asked us if we might be interested in holding a joint exhibition at Farley Farm Gallery...............I was so excited. The exhibition took place in the summer of 2013 and it was such a lovely experience for both of us. Since then we have remained in contact and, when I was asked recently which photographer would I still like to be photographed by, I thought about my answer and realised that, if I was going to finish the project, I had to ensure that Antony was going to be one of the photographers.
He readily accepted the invitation and so on 3rd June 2016, almost exactly three years after exhibiting there, I drove along the familiar roads to Farley Farm and parked under the trees outside the house. As I walked up to the front door I felt the hairs on my body tingle both with anticipation and the strange fearful rush of a confusion of emotions that hit you when you re-enter a world of magic and love. Tony came down to the hallway and greeted me warmly. We chatted briefly and then he led me to the building which housed the archive. His idea was to photograph me looking through a drawer of negatives. A drawer of negatives of photographs taken by Lee Miller. A drawer of negatives of photographs taken by Lee Miller at Farley Farm where she lived and where she died. Gulp. It was cold as we entered the store, the temperature kept at a certain level to preserve the photographs and Tony pulled open a drawer full of envelopes marked with the details of their contents. I remarked on the neat labels and Tony explained that it was the handwriting of his first wife, Suzanna. It was a poignant moment because, before Suzanna died of cancer not long after the death of Lee Miller, she had discovered the store of thousands of negatives in the attic and then with Tony began to create the archive. If that wasn't enough, Tony pointed out a box on the shelf behind me containing some Nazi artefacts purloined by his mother when she accompanied the American troops into Germany at the end of the War; on top of the box was a Rolleiflex camera.
After taking a number of shots in the archive, we returned to the house and sat and chatted in the kitchen over a cup of coffee and I then bade Antony goodbye and walked to my car, each step made meaningful because this was ground walked on by Lee Miller. Yes, yes, I know this sounds like heroine worship but I can't help it. Her work means so much to me and to have become acquainted with her son, walked around her home, sat in her kitchen, exhibited in her gallery is the nearest I have come to knowing her and understanding a little of what made her tick. Nevertheless, I like Tony for himself, very much indeed. He is a very easy going companion and his voice has a lovely drawl which immediately relaxes whoever he is speaking to either one to one or when giving a talk about his parents and their art. He doesn't intellectualise his discussions of their work but rather expresses his emotional response to it which is very attractive and pleasing. It was typical of his good nature that he accepted so enthusiastically my invitation to become part of "Over the Hill" and I am very, very proud to have a photograph taken by Antony Penrose, Photographer, Artist, Curator, Archivist, Writer, Playwright and Speaker.
Thursday, 2 June 2016
|WHO ARE YOU? by Denise Myers|
Yes, who the bloody hell do you think you are? Waltzing about the UK (or should it be K?) being photographed by all and sundry? Then blathering on about it on your blog, Over the Hill this and Over the Hill that and it all started by accident - so bloody what if it did? Who cares? Hang on, let's listen for the answer.....
So what have you got to say for yourself?? Eh? Come on, Mr Blogitall, answer that!
Who am I? I am Tim Andrews and I don't see why I have to answer but I will. I am expressing myself in the only way I know how. I am laying myself open to ridicule and censure particularly when I remove my clothes but you ask 'Who cares?'. I do. I have spent a long time being the person other people want me to be and I was happy doing that and, indeed, I still am happy doing that. But when I step in front of the camera, I am completely myself and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have been able to do that - that is what I care about.
So. What is the answer? The answer to the question - who are you? I am all the people who one sees photographed in this project. I am not acting. I am each of those people. But what if the question is asked of the photographer? I suggested this title to Denise and this was her response.....
"Go for it... It's sort of apt as part of the shoot was getting to know each other a bit better. As someone who came to you saying, 'But I haven't done any portraiture for a long time' the 'Who are you?' about myself seems about right. Teacher masquerading as photographer? Conceptual landscape photographer winging it as a portrait photographer?...........You have shown so many different aspects of yourself throughout the 'Over the Hill' project... Which aspects are real, which are constructed or improvised as a result of the situation with the photographer and the location? Who are you? Who do you want to be at this moment?.............The title is playful in itself. Go for it."
I was introduced to Denise's work through Twitter although she had previously submitted a selfie as part of the Selfie for Stu get well soon thingy for Stuart Pilkington. I wrote to her in November 2015 asking her to photograph me and, she responded immediately saying that she would even though she had not done any portraiture for some time. However, as she was working as a full-time teacher, it would have to wait until the Easter holidays. Suddenly, Easter had come and gone and I had made the decision to bring my project to an end so we both scrabbled around looking for dates and eventually decided to do a shoot in Finchley where I was born but then the final shoot was delayed so we thought again because the Finchley shoot was going to be squeezed in after another. We decided to do ourselves a favour and meet at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. She had wanted us to shoot in a place which had connections - we used to take the children to Polesden Lacey a lot when they were little (they are big now) and so it was perfect and did not entail either of us having to slog up to town.
Well, we had a lovely fun time on the day as these photographs show. It was a bit chilly and we had a hot drink to start off with. Then we wandered round and mucked about and talked and then mucked about a little more. We finished off with another hot drink and a quick visit to our respective lavatories and that was it. It was a special day with Denise because there was no pressure to achieve a particular shot. The images came from our connection with each other, naturally and easily, and as for the photographs, well, they worked really well.
The reason I chose the one I did was because it is dynamic, it questions and there is an element of play acting which I have always done and it is laced with fun. There are not many people whom one could meet for the first time and have such an enjoyable time and Denise is one of them and here are the photographs to prove it. But when she took her photographs, Denise was being serious and that is why her work is seriously good and that is why I contacted her in the first place.
Who are you?