Monday, 27 November 2017
"WANTED", the film made by Graeme Montgomery of the last last shoot of "Over the Hill", won the award for Best Short Documentary at the UK Film Festival Awards last night!
Before the evening of the first public showing of the film on 23rd November, only a few people had seen it and, indeed, I had not watched it for quite some time. It was going to be interesting to be witness to the audience reaction to it and particularly to watch it almost a year and a half after I had brought the project to a close.
I found my way to the Close-up Film Centre in Sclater Street, East London which is an arthouse cinema and resource centre for for film culture and history and an excellent library of rare and classic films. I had never been there before but it had some delicious looking books and DVDs on the shelves. Murray Woodfield, the Director of the Festival, came up and said hello and we chatted briefly about the schedule for the evening and he asked kindly about my condition. I was worried that I wouldn't recognise Graeme when he arrived but he acknowledged me immediately and we chatted with each other and with Murray before we were ushered through to the small cinema to view the various films on the programme - ours was the last to be shown. We took our seats in the middle of the front row and I explained to Graeme that these were always our preferred seats me I took my children to the cinema in the old days. Just before Murray kicked the evening off with a short introduction, Graeme introduced me to Leon Haxby who composed the excellent music in the film and who was there with his father.
The standard of all the films was excellent. One of my favourites was "After Life" a documentary from New Zealand by Nick Mayow and Prisca Bouchet which examined the routine and camaraderie and the undoubted sensitivity of the staff of an Auckland funeral parlour. "Ecstasy", a beautifully acted short feature,was enthusiastically received by the audience who repeated their ecstatic applause when the director Kitty Frobenius was introduced by Murray at the end. The Penultimate film was an incredibly sad, yet inspiring, documentary "Limit of Freedom" by Joe Gist and Aidan Joseph, told the story of a group of Nepalese street children and the efforts made to wean them off a life of glue sniffing and other abuses.
Then came "Wanted".
Having seen such wonderful work beforehand, I wondered how it would stand up in comparison. Well, I needn't have worried. Graeme has produced a brilliant coda to the project which he unwittingly started ten years ago and with it he has provided me with the silk ribbon to tie around the box marked "Over the Hill: the completed project". I can now, finally, place that box on a shelf but every so often I shall take it down, blow away the dust, untie the bow and dip into it and remind myself of the times I spent with 425 men and women who contributed to a strange, exhilarating and surprising journey.
|The original advert|
As the film ended, there was warm applause and Graeme placed an appreciative hand on my shoulder. I could have cried but I didn't. I showed a lot of emotion in the film but one thing which surprised both Graeme and myself was the amount of laughter from the audience certainly in the first few minutes. There were some amusing parts particularly when I described my obsession first with Gumtree then Flickr and then Twitter in my relentless search for photographers. Graeme thought that it was mostly embarrassed laughter and maybe he was right because I don't think the audience were expecting what they got in the end i.e. the story of my project. Graeme's presence is very strong but then I know how much he is responsible for. The silhouetted sequence at the beginning stands out as does the pause on Number One, his first shot in the project, which then heralds the parade of over 400 images which follow. He really did set the template for all the shoots which followed his, by being genuinely interested in the person he was photographing and engendering in me the same interest and curiosity in the photographers and how they went about their work.
We had a drink afterwards and chatted some more. He is such a nice man. And he is very good at what he does. We walked towards Shoreditch and then hugged goodbye. A guy was busking at the top of the stairs in the train station. I asked him to play something for me - he didn't have a Beatles song but he had a blues number by the Stones and sung that instead, accompanied by his base drum and slide guitar. I wanted to dance but I didn't. I gave him something and carried on up the stairs. I fell asleep on the train to Brighton and, when I got home, I told my wife what I have told you.
Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the Awards ceremony last night but Graeme did and he told me the good news.
Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the Awards ceremony last night but Graeme did and he told me the good news.
Graeme, thank you. You are a prince.
Monday, 22 May 2017
Well, just one week to go and it has been fun. I have recently taken some friends and my twin sister, Sally to the exhibition and they have all enjoyed it. As you can see from the composite picture above, there is such a variety of images and means of approaching the same subject - me. But not only that, each photograph is excellent. Each time I put a photograph up I held it in front of me and thought, "this is a great photograph!" and then, once they were all up, I thought "Wow!" A question that has been asked of me a lot over the last few weeks is "How do you feel seeing so many photographs of yourself?" It is strange but I feel quite separate from them - obviously, my face is familiar to me but it is almost like looking at someone else. However, when I look at them all, I feel a great sense of pride that I have managed to bring all these superb artists together and I find it incredibly moving that they have each worked so hard to produce an amazing image.
The other question often asked is "Which is your favourite?" Well, I can now reveal the one I like best - it is (drum roll) the one top left by Mike McCartney. I love him, I loved the shoot and I love the picture with Peter Pan in the background. Yep, that's the one! Although, I quite like the Rankin one next to it. What a day that was - nice chap and good fun and a great shot. Sorry, Mike it's the Rankin. Mm, actually, can I change my mind because Steve Bloom's pic (3rd from left, top row) is bloody good and it got into the final exhibition at the Taylor Wessing Prize in the National Portrait Gallery. No. it has to be Steve's - yes, that is it. And yet, and yet, I have always had a soft spot for the next one, "Beautiful Decay" by the lovely Danielle Tunstall - oh, Steve, I am sure you will understand that and accept that this is a fantastic shot taken by someone who, at the time, had only owned a camera for two years and had to wait for the kids to go to sleep before she could work on her images and she is the sweetest person as well. Congratulations! The number one! But, no, how can I choose that and ignore the next one with the dinosaur. Clayton, so generous with is time and so imaginative in creating his final image. I LOVE this. How could I have chosen anything else? There we are - I feel so much better having chosen the one.
Look, I must apologise but what about Tanya Simpson's shot of me in the sea on Portobello beach in Scotland or Jeronimo Sanz' manipulated image of my self portraits or Henrietta Bowden-Jones' photo or Jim Stephenson's brilliantly funny one of me rolled up in the backdrop? Yes, "Cadbury's Dairy Milk" by Robert Ludlow. Yes! No! I've made my mind up - it's definitely Cat Lane's "Under the Pier" well, either that or me on the railway line photographed by the gorgeous Jacqui Booth but then there is Hannah Lucy Jones' polaroid. No, enough of this, my favourite is....Kathy Foote's underwater shot - full of colour and light! But for goodness' sake, it has to be Nigel Maudsley's beautiful "Distant" but even he might agree that "Fitzrovia Chapel" by Claude Savona should be chosen given the connections to my family. Ok, Erika Szostak's "No Expectations" featuring the incredible make up by Elloise Willetts. At last! Well, I'm glad that's sorted.......except Viveca Koh's shot of me and her cat, Milo, will always be my number one. Amanda Harman I...er.. have to tell you that my favourite photo in this show is yours! It is the one of me on the beach at West Wittering, my childhood home - next to the best one of all by Lenka Rayn H. However, talking of beaches, Max Langran took that excellent shot of me "Early One Morning" - that eclipses everything else, Max - well done - if it wasn't for Steve Segasby's pic, you would have been my favourite but even Steve would stand aside for the gorilla suit by Jay Brooks or "Comfort " by the lovely Gemma Day or "Three Colours Tim" by Amit Lennon........or maybe the superb B & W study by Daniel Regan? No, forget it - I have just looked again at "Limpid Flight" by Elaine Perks but how would her colleague Tess Hurrell feel? Doesn't matter because I have just realised that "Eloquence" by Tess is my special one. Thanks Tess.
What am I thanking Tess for? It is magnificent image but, talking of hands, look at "Jamais" by Itziar Olaberria - it wins, hands down! if it wasn't for the photo taken by Strat Mastoris on the beach - you know, the one of me reading the Guardian but, come on, Cathy Pyle's "Light and Dark" take a bow, my favourite photograph in the show! Take a Bow? Hang on - Ben Smith - how can I ignore this? Well, I have to because of Katariina Jarvinen's silky smooth "Silent Moment". But what about the noise coming from The Wet Plate Collodion method applied by the handsome Nicolas Laborie??
Well, no more noise than is coming from under the black cloth supplied by Ameena Rojee - you cannot hide class can you, Matt Finn? A class act. And that is what in my mind speaks so loudly from Michela Griffith and Denise Myers or is it Dave Wares? Some sunset, Dave - you win or you would have but for "Control" by Anja Barte Telin & Moa Thörneby. So, where were we? Oh yes, Mike McCar......I can't choose a favourite and do you know why? Because they are all my favourites and I have loved every minute of every shoot.
Thank you, Montefiore (Sandeep, Gavin and Tom). Thank you Keely Harrison for the great publicity - see especially the feature on BBC TV - https://vimeo.com/218429539. Thank you Alex Bamford for the labels, Julia Horbaschk for chairing the discussion on 14th May, my wife for her support and forbearance, Parkinson's UK for the frames and Parkinson's Disease itself, without which NONE of this would have happened. Amen.
Monday, 15 May 2017
Today was a grand day.
It started early – I woke up at about 3am and then turned over and tried to sleep but I only dozed and then became fully awake when I thought I heard someone other than me breathing in the room.
I got up and watched the repeat of “Match of the Day” from the night before. It was a little taste of what was to come later, the match against Manchester United - the last ever game at the old Tottenham ground at White Hart Lane. My beloved Tottenham.
My wife wasn’t feeling well and so she couldn't come to the Forum Discussion event at the Montefiore Hospital as part of the exhibition of “Over the Hill”. In the meantime, I ironed a shirt and got ready to go. It had rained during the night and early morning but, as I stepped out of the house, it was sunny and everything felt fresh and clean and washed as I drove to the Hospital. I parked outside and was about to cross the road when I was tooted by Julia Horbaschk and her husband, Mark in their flash black 4x4 which they had been given as a courtesy car whilst their own car was being repaired.
I love Julia. She can be wonderfully loud and outspoken at times but it all comes from a good place as she is a very warm, gentle and caring person and very funny too. Mark is a very lucky man and I am proud to call them my friends. I entered the reception area of the hospital and the photographs looked good – some of the frames and labels were slightly wonky but, for some reason, I did not want to straighten them up.
|Julia, me and Katariina|
I was met by the lovely Tom Collins, who has been so helpful in preparing and hanging the exhibition, and he had already started moving the sofas to clear the space for the discussion. We gradually got everything set up and Nicolas Laborie arrived looking very handsome followed by Cathy Pyle, looking very beautiful. Gavin Weal, the hospital’s commercial manager, stopped by to say a quick hello. He had not intended to do so but I suppose he couldn’t help himself. He looks after the place very well.
The discussion went very well. Not all the people who had booked came but that meant it was an intimate chat and between I guess about 16 or so people. Each of the photographers spoke about their experience of working with me and it was then that I began to feel awkward but nicely awkward. I felt that a fuss was being made about me and yet it was the work of the photographers which made the project what it was. We ended the discussion with the slideshow of the images set to Madness’ song “House of Fun” and everyone applauded. It had been a lovely couple of hours and in some way, validated my decision to end the project. I said earlier that I wanted to put it into a box, tie ribbon around it and put it up on to a shelf and then bring it down every so often to wonder at the lovely times I had had with these people. And today was just such an experience. I opened the box and the magic created by the project burst out and sprinkled over the audience like fairy dust. People said some very kind things but I could not have done it without them.
|Me and Viveca|
Viveca Koh had come and thought that I had not recognised her but I had and she joined us at the pub later with Katariina Jarvinen, Julia, Mark and the Wares family (Dave’s photograph is in the show). We had a drink and chatted about this and that and then went out separate ways. I returned to my car with Viveca and she gave me the warmest and huggiest of hugs. I drove home feeling wonderful.
Then I sat down to watch Spurs and, as usual, they put me through the ringer. They played pretty well but almost let United come back from the dead but, in the end, they hung on. . The noise made by the crowd was deafening and then, at the end, the pitch was invaded and it took some time for the fans to be persuaded back to their seats. Then, as the rain poured down, they announced a long line of former players, Berbatov, Hoddle, Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks, Tony Galvin, Terry Dyson and Terry Medwin (both of whom I have interviewed) Martin Chivers, Alan Gilzean, the Allens (Les, his son Clive and his nephew Paul), Pat Jennings, Erik Thorsvedt, Gary Mabbutt, Mike England, Phil Beal, Ardiles and Villa, Cliff Jones, Jimmy Robertson, Joe Kinnear, Alan Neilsen, John Pratt, Mark Falco, Justin Edinburgh, Micky Hazard, and loads more. I called my wife into the room as a tenor began to sing ”Glory, Glory, Hallejuliah” and the crowd joined in as tears ran down my face (as they are doing now as I write this) and I said my own goodbye to this wonderful ground, where I have had so many happy times..
But the day wasn’t over yet. It finished with a speech at the Bafta TV Award ceremony given by Joanna Lumley who was awarded the fellowship. She had been preceded by some lovely contributions by Michael McIntire (who seems to have a genuinely nice and happy soul), Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Sarah Lancashire, who in her speech thanked her fellow nominee, Claire Foy, for giving her the best ten years underneath the duvet. But it was what Lumley said and the way she said it which made my day. She brought the whole audience together in her arms and said “I love you”
And, as my character, Alice from Paris says, “When people ask me what is the greatest thing in life, ‘Love’ is the answer”.
Yes, it was a grand day.
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 my wife. 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 my wife 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 my wife, 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 describing your tremors as you posed ......... 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 my wife 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 424 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"