Sunday, 9 April 2017
I woke at 6am in the guest bedroom of the flat owned by my best friend, John, who I met at University in the early 1970s and with whom I still share an inane sense of humour. He works, as I used to, as a solicitor but enjoys it marginally more than I did - certainly he is more suited, intellectually, to the job. John walked with me as far as Queens Square and I carried on to The Watershed where I had been invited to take part in "Feeling Images", a symposium on Photography's relationship with Illness, Mental Health and Wellbeing co-ordinated by the wonderful Shawn Sobers of University of West of England (UWE) in Bristol.
I walked up the stairs and felt good vibes wash over me - the atmosphere of the building combined with the anticipation of meeting Shawn was a good mix. As it was, I was met by Nick Bright from UWE first with a smiling face and a warm handshake. Within a few minutes, I was chatting easily to Ruth Davey whom I had not met before and who told me that she had been asked to to speak about "Look Again", her Mindfulness and Therapeutic photographic practice. She introduced me, in turn, to Jimmy Edmonds, a documentary filmmaker and the three of us chatted until Shawn entered, dressed all in black although, to be completely accurate, his suit was a dark charcoal grey but his shirt and shoes were black with his hair tucked neatly away under a cap. His infectious smile lit up the room over which he sprayed his magic dust and made everyone feel welcome - it was ever thus - no wonder he is spoken of so fondly.
I joined the queue into the auditorium and there was the lovely Jessa Fairbrother. We last met in Bristol in November last year when I came away from her studio totally inspired by our time together. She sat one seat away from me and and that allowed Jayne Taylor to sit between us as I introduced her to Jessa.
The event was a sell-out and the seats filled up quickly and the buzz of conversation died away as Shawn stood up and said a few words of welcome before asking Ruth Davey to take the stage to begin her interactive opening assisted by a cup of coffee and a glass of water. She spoke confidently and almost inevitably during the still sequence, all was quiet until a jingle on a mobile phone started but somehow its melody seemed to fit the mood.
Next up was an intriguing pairing, Patrick Graham and Heather Agyepong. Patrick went first and told of his fascinating visual essay on his father "The Things You Left Behind" He looked calm and comfortable in his belief that he had found closure on dealing with his father's abandonment of his family but I did wonder if that would always be the case bearing in mind that he had taken the concertina book of images with him when he visited his father in Portugal but could not actually bring himself to show it to him. He was followed by Heather whose project "Too Many Blackamoors" was inspired by her astonishment on hearing that the history of black people in Britain dated back some 500 years and yet Heather has very recently been treated like shit because of the colour of her skin. However, she raised a huge laugh she recounted how her father had failed to recognise his own daughter in her self portraits on display at the opening of her exhibition but when he was told, he was so proud - in stark contrast to Patrick Graham's father's attitude to his children. Nick Bright interviewed them both afterwards and posed some astute questions followed by more from members of the audience. The warm applause at the end of the Q&A session felt like an enormous group hug.
Ruth Davey then returned to speak enthusiastically about her love of nature and the need to take time and I was really impressed by her assured delivery obviously honed in the workshops she holds regularly -in fact, another one is coming soon to Bristol. Ruth was followed by Tim Shaw, a strapping young man with an open and engaging manner. Tim founded the 'Hospital Rooms' project with Niamh White and, again the questions posed by Angus Fraser and the audience were incisive and the answers given were revealing.
I nipped off quickly at the lunch break to find my friend Lin with whom I had also studied Law at university and who lives in Bristol. We quickly caught up on our respective news before we took our places in the front row ready for my own session but before that we and the rest of the audience had the privilege of witnessing the searing honesty of the next two speakers, Clare Hewitt and Sian Davey. First, Clare spoke spoke emotionally of her two projects ''Eugenie'' and ''Kamera'' the second of which is ongoing. Her photographs were absolutely beautiful (no surprise there as I knew of the quality of her work from my own shoots with her over recent times) but it was her earnest desire to connect with her subjects which I found so moving. She is completely dedicated to what she does. She looks so delicate and yet her resolve and courage have enabled her to befriend and earn the trust of the blind Eugenie and the prisoner Chuck who sits on Death Row in the States for a crime that Clare has never sought to investigate. Reeling from this, we were then put through the wringer by Sian who spoke eloquently of her empty childhood and her subsequent depression following a crazy time in her youth and then showed us an incredible array of photographs of her daughters with the back view of Alice clambering on a gate contrasting with the bold and brazen gaze of her stepdaughter Martha looking directly into Sian's camera. Another group hug followed the Q&A session as the audience demonstrated the level of love and support in the room by their applause.
Then it was my turn. Gulp. I shall leave others to comment on my presentation but what I would say is that it was lovely to look across at the smiling faces of Amanda Harman, Kathy Foote and Ameena Rojee and to be reminded of Shawn Sobers' relief that he did not have to undress on the nudist beach when he came to film me in Brighton for my project "Over the Hill". I felt proud to be on the same stage as the four of them and to look out into the audience and see Clare Hewitt, Jayne Taylor and Jocelyn Allen - all members of my family of 425 photographers who had shot me over a nine year period.
There was a coffee break and then the final pairing Rosy Martin and Tamany Baker. Rosy was delightful; she huffed and puffed at the podium and gradually revealed her unique self portraits of her parents whom she loved so much and who lived in a house full of memory. Tamany's description of her work was, on her own admission, more intellectual but no less entertaining for all that especially the story of her son's discovery in the freezer of the seemingly endless production line of their cat's presents of the mutilated bodies of a variety of wild birds and animals.
At the end, I felt pleasantly tired but invigorated by the day and the wonderful collection of artists which Shawn had chosen so wisely to entertain and inform us so brilliantly on Photography's relationship with illness, mental health and well being. I sat the balcony of my friend John's flat overlooking the waterfront sipping a gin and tonic made by his girlfriend Alison and thought, not for the first time, that life is wonderful.
Monday, 20 March 2017
|The Montefiore Hospital Hove|
In 2014, I was very pleased and proud to present an exhibition of photographs from "Over the Hill" at Create Studios (then based in New England House) as part of the Brighton Photo Fringe. It was a great success and the Private View in particular was good fun. One of the people who came that evening was Sandeep Chauhan, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon based at the Montefiore Hospital in Hove, whom I had met through mutual friends some months before.
Afterwards, he wrote to me saying that he and his wife, Rosie, had not known what to expect but he added, very kindly, that they found it inspiring and, instead of putting the photographs away in storage, he suggested a possible exhibition at Montefiore as part of the Brighton Fringe proper. We met and everything was very positive but l had to withdraw because my son was gravely ill at the time. Nevertheless, as Sandeep was so keen, l resurrected the idea a few months ago and we started discussions again about the Fringe this year.
Great progress has been made and I am pleased to say that, with the assistance of a bursary from the Brighton Lions charity, the very generous support of Montefiore itself and the provision of prints by the photographers and frames from Parkinson's UK, it is all set to happen.
The exhibition of 40 photographs from the project, the bulk of which have not been previously exhibited, will run from 5th to 26th May 2017 and will be located in the ground floor reception area of the Montefiore Hospital. Entrance is free and ideally visitors should only come between 10 am and 5 pm and, of course, should respect the fact that it is a working hospital and that patients and their relatives and friends might also be using the reception at the same time.
I am also arranging a discussion forum during May fourther details of which will be publicised in due course.
I am also arranging a discussion forum during May fourther details of which will be publicised in due course.
The exhibiting photographers are:-
Hannah Lucy Jones
Lenka Rayn H.
Anja Barte Telin
Anja Barte Telin
Saturday, 7 January 2017
|I'M YOUR MAN by Graeme Montgomery|
17th June 2016 - the end of Over the Hill. People asked at the time and have asked since why I felt that I had to end it. I began to feel that it had had its day as a project even though I was fairly certain that I would carry on collaborating with photographers. Also, there were some tiny things that tipped me over the edge and I thought yeah, I think it's time to stop this, tie a ribbon around it and put it up on to the shelf and bring it down every so often to wonder at the fantastic times I had had with such clever, imaginative and talented artists.
Initially, Graeme reached out to me or people like me when he placed the advert in Time Out. At the time, neither of us were aware of what he had started so it seemed appropriate for me to ask him this time. He was very enthusiastic about it and said that he would like to film the final shoot as well.
I was nervous and sad as I reached Farringdon Station. Then suddenly I was confronted by the familiar smiling face of Alex Bamford. Alex, who had been so kind first on my shoot with him in February 2014 on the beach at Peacehaven when he photographed me naked in the moonlight and provided a dressing gown and a hot water bottle (and slippers?) and then again a few months later when he printed the labels for the exhibition as part of The Brighton Photo Fringe. I told him where I was going and somehow it felt right for him to be a witness to the end of this journey as he and his shoot summed up all the factors that had made the project what it was. The need to go further than I had gone before, to challenge myself and to expose my body and my feelings and to be met with simple acts of kindness in return. It is difficult to understand how it feels to be told you have an illness like Parkinson's. At the time, I thought I took it in my stride but with hindsight, I have understood more.
I found myself on the bank of a fast flowing river and I had fallen into the water and was flailing about and grabbed what seemed to be a branch of an overhanging tree but it was the paddle of a small boat being held out to me by an old man who was naked - as he hauled me to safety, I saw the light of the moon on his skin, his muscles, his hair and then his eyes which held that light as he looked down on me with such love and compassion that I was overcome with emotion as I collapsed on to the hard wooden floor of the boat. I lay there for a while as we moved slowly across the water. My saviour moved the boat so well or did the river move the boat? It was difficult to say. I tried to speak but no words came to my lips. I drifted off into a sleep accompanied by a harmony of sounds - water lapping against the creaking bow, the relieved breaths of slumber replacing the desperate heaving of my lungs and the soft whistle of a tune by the man who plunged the paddle into the water first one side and then the other. I woke in the sunlight of the morning to the muffled murmurs of voices. The boat was still moving. I raised myself up on one elbow and blinked. I was alone on the boat which nudged against the bank. I stood up and saw Jane. She was crying with tears of sadness and joy. She took the branch from my hand and threw it into the water and, as she did so, we looked over to the bank on the opposite side of the river. There was no tree, only the figure of a young man carrying a paddle walking away. He stopped, looked back and waved and then turned and disappeared into the long grass. I recognised him immediately.
After saying goodbye to Alex, I had a cup of tea at a cafe and then continued on the last part of my journey. I pressed the bell of the building and pushed the door which opened onto an iron staircase which clanged like a tolling bell as my steps took me up to the studio door. A man opened it and smiled. "Graeme?" I enquired. "No" he said and stood back to let me in. I saw another friendly face. "Graeme?" As he shook his head a voice said "Tim!" It was Graeme. I burst into tears. I think it was all too much for them all and I apologised squeakily between sobs.
A few hours later, into the afternoon, Graeme took this shot.
Call me good If you want a lover
Call me bad I'll do anything you ask me to
Call me anything you want to baby And if you want another kind of love
But I know that you're sad I'll wear a mask for you
And I know I'll make you happy If you want a partner take my hand, or
With the one thing that you never had If you want to strike me down in anger
Baby, I'm your man (don't you know that?) Here I stand
Baby, I'm your man. I'm your man.
- George Michael - Leonard Cohen
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
In March 2007, I was lonely.
However, I had begun to feel a lot better physically due to the fact that I had started taking my Levadopa medication a few months before. I had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in November 2005 But I was advised by my neurologist that it would be better to hold off going on the medication so that it would last longer and be there when I really needed it. This advice was contradicted by others including neurologists at UCL Hospital in London and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA but eventually towards the end of 2006, we reached a consensus and I began with quite a low dose of Madopar until a neuro surgeon in Bristol, a friend of my sister, said the dose was "sub-therapeutic" and that I should double it. I did so and, within a week, I set off like a blazing rocket into the stratosphere.
I had more energy, more alertness, more everything and, in the process, I left Jane struggling like a beetle on its back, struggling to come to terms with living with a human dynamo after fifteen months of watching her husband gradually fold himself up into an inexpressive zombie. She could see me slowly slipping away. She was losing the old Tim; unfortunately, the new Tim was not quite the ideal replacement. At the speed I was traveling, she was losing me again.
So, there I was with all this dash and drive but I realise now, with the benefit of hindsight, that my normal pastimes, watching cricket, reading, the cinema were all in the main, solitary undertakings and that I was on the lookout of new experiences and through them, new acquaintances to replace those that I used to make on almost a daily basis in my work as a solicitor.
Then I read the advertisement in 'Time Out' by Graeme Montgomery for people to pose naked for his new book. I thought, why not? I did not have clients to consider or my reputation or that of my firm to worry about and I had no qualms about posing naked. I used to be so shy about exposing my body; I was thin, I lacked self-confidence, I was sexually inexperienced and I was afraid of everything from drugs to The Rolling Stones, from left-wing politicians to homosexuality. Gradually, with a great deal of help from living with Jane, I began to loosen up and express myself but although being a lawyer gave me more confidence, I had not really been brave enough to present the real me to the world apart from, perversely, a period of acting in my 40s. Perhaps I was still searching for me.
So, I wrote to Graeme and made an appointment to go to his studio in Clerkenwell which is where I found myself on 7th April 2007 and again on 17th June 2016.
Sunday, 6 November 2016
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/